Day Two has come to a close at the Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain and the first race of the 2023 season is growing ever so close.
There were some more glimpses into the potential of each team with their new machinery this year, but so many questions remain – all to be answered when the season starts in Bahrain and the drivers push their cars to the limit.
Spectators enjoyed plenty of action on track today, from the second red flag of the weekend to Ferrari’s performance boost, Red Bull’s car changes and an update on Lance Stroll who remains absent in Bahrain.
We finally got word from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz after his early morning test run in Bahrain on Friday, and it seems the Spaniard is quite happy with his SF-23 saying it feels ‘like an evolution this year.’
“(It’s been) smooth, very smooth,” he said.
“To be honest, I’m quite happy with how we’ve been able to run, the quantity of tests that we’ve managed to do over these first few days, exploring the limits of the setup, trying to put the car in different places and learning a lot from it, which is a target that I had from last year that I know we couldn’t do, and this year so far I’m managing to do it.
“It feels like an evolution of last year. It feels very similar to drive and there hasn’t been major changes going on in the car or the concept, so trying to improve the good pace that we had last year and obviously now putting our focus on our weaknesses of last year”.
Despite pushing the car t gather as much data as possible before the season opener, we Sainz confirmed we won’t see any real indication of where the team is until next Saturday.
“Whenever I jump in the car I push, but realistically the last tenth, or the last bit of pushing, you don’t bring it until Qualy with adrenaline and everything, but tomorrow, hopefully little by little I will start building the pace”.
Carlos topped the timesheet in Friday’s opening session at pre-season testing as Ferrari came back swinging after a dominant Thursday run from Red Bull.
Sainz’s time of 1:32.486 took almost half a second out of Max Verstappen’s leading effort from Day One in the desert, showing some great potential for a Ferrari fight this season.
Still no sign of Lance Stroll
Aston Martin confirmed today that there will be no sign of Lance until next weekend at the earliest, which means Felipe Drugovich may get his first spin in an F1 race at the season opener.
It remains likely that the F2 champion remains will stand in for Lance Stroll at next weekend’s Grand Prix, as details remain limited on the Canadian’s recovery and return to the paddock after sustaining a wrist injury in a cycling accident.
Fernando Alonso, who clocked up an impressive run of laps on Day Two in Bahrain, will be given a rest tomorrow morning after a full Friday in the car.
Verstappen remains out front
Today, Verstappen remained out front for most of the later testing session under floodlights and seemed to be going for low-fuel runs after lunch.
He went 0.6s faster than Carlos Sainz with the new fastest time of testing, just hours after the Ferrari stormed to the top of the timesheets.
It was a 1:31.863 for the reigning world champion, which was just a tenth off the quickest time of this test last year.
It remains hard to tell what the real potential of any team is just yet, however, the Red Bull completed this lap on the same C3 tyre as the Ferrari, too – but we don’t know fuel loads of either.
Red Bull screens up
Although it was another impressive day for the Charging Bulls, this afternoon the team had their screens up in the pits – which would suggest there was some major work going on.
According to new regulations, teams may only place screens in front of their garages if they’re taking the floor off the car – likely to remove the Power Unit or the gearbox.
Despite this, Verstappen kept his time at the top when the clock ran out.
Red Flag for Mercedes
Our second red flag of pre-season testing came in the second session of Day Two in Bahrain, after the Mercedes in the hands of George Russell stopped out on track.
A message on his dashboard read: ‘Hydraulic failure’ – which is not what the team would have wanted while running the most representative times of the day.
Mercedes later confirmed that George Russell did suffer a hydraulic failure, and the team also said it is ‘highly unlikely’ the car would be back on track today – they were correct, no sign of Russell in the closing minutes.