Defending champion Max Verstappen topped the timesheet as pre-season testing for the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship got underway in Bahrain. The Red Bull driver narrowly beat Fernando Alonso who got his Aston Martin career off to a swift start. Third place went to Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
Verstappen set good pace across a marathon day at the wheel of his new RB19. The Dutchman was the only driver to run for the full day and by the time the chequered flag flew under lights in the early evening the champion had posted a total of 157 laps of the Sakhir Circuit, almost 850km. Verstappen’s best time of the day came midway through the afternoon session when he stopped at the clock at 1:32.837.
It looked like his time would go unchallenged, but Alonso, who switched to Aston Martin from Alpine at the end of last year, bolted on a set of C3 soft tyres and promptly got to within three hundredths of a second of the Red Bull driver.
The lap gave Aston Martin something to smile about at the end of an eventful day. In the morning, Felipe Drogovich, standing in for Lance Stroll, brought out the only red flag of the day when he suffered a sensor issue. Alonso also suffered a setback in the afternoon when he shipped floor damage that restricted him to the garage for a spell.
Third place on the timesheet went to Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz as the Scuderia enjoyed a strong first day. The Spanish driver got through 72 during his stint at the wheel of the Italian squad’s SF-23 car and posted a best time of 1:33.253, four tenths off Verstappen.
Sainz’s team-mate Charles Leclerc finished fourth, just over a hundredth of a second behind the Spaniard and another solid outing gave Ferrari a day one total of 136 laps.
Behind Leclerc, Lando Norris took fifth spot for McLaren, six tenths of a second behind Verstappen. The British squad had a tough opening outing, however, with Norris losing time due an issue with a wheel fairing. New team-mate and 2023 debutant Oscar Piastri finished 18th on his first pre-season test day with the team, two seconds adrift of Verstappen.
Lewis Hamilton finished sixth for Mercedes, while team-mate George Russell, who ran in the morning, ended the day in P9. Alex Albon took seventh for Williams thanks to a best lap of 1:33.671 set in the morning, while his new team-mate Logan Sargeant finished 10th.
Zhou Guanyu ended the day in eighth place for Alfa Romeo. F1 returnee Nico Hulkenberg took P11 for Haas ahead of the second Alfa Romeo of Valterri Bottas and Nyck de Vries took P13 for AlphaTauri. The Dutch driver was separated from team-mate Yuki Tsunoda by Aston Martin’s Drugovich, while Alpine recorded a total of 113 laps as Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon finished 16th and 17th respectively.
Formula 1 Pre-Season Test, Bahrain – Day One
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 157 1:32.837
2 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 60 1:32.866 0.029
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 72 1:33.253 0.416
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 64 1:33.267 0.430
5 Lando Norris McLaren 40 1:33.462 0.625
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 83 1:33.508 0.671
7 Alex Albon Williams 74 1:33.671 0.834
8 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 67 1:33.723 0.886
9 George Russell Mercedes 69 1:34.174 1.337
10 Logan Sargeant Williams 75 1:34.324 1.487
11 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 51 1:34.424 1.587
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 71 1:34.558 1.721
13 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 85 1:34.559 1.722
14 Felipe Drugovich Aston Martin 40 1:34.564 1.727
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 46 1:34.671 1.834
16 Pierre Gasly Alpine 60 1:34.822 1.985
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine 53 1:34.871 2.034
18 Oscar Piastri McLaren 52 1:34.888 2.051
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas 57 1:35.087 2.250