Connect with us

Formula 1

Key Takeaways from F1 Pre-Season Testing 2023 in Bahrain



Key Takeaways from F1 Pre-Season Testing 2023 in Bahrain

After three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain, two key observations stand out: one team is clearly ahead of the others, and another team appears to have the potential to move up from the midfield. While there are still some unanswered questions, our time at the Sakhir circuit has provided valuable insights, enabling us to learn a great deal, much like the teams themselves. Our journalists have compiled a list of 10 takeaways from the testing, including indications of the teams’ pecking order and analysis of some of the less reliable test runs.

Mercedes had an unusual testing period, with progress made on the final day but remains behind Red Bull.


Mercedes experienced a somewhat unusual three-day period during pre-season testing in Bahrain. The team began well on Thursday, but struggled on Friday, before showing signs of improvement on the final day, which resulted in Mercedes settling into a somewhat ambiguous position in the pecking order. At this point, the Mercedes car does not appear to be capable of surpassing Red Bull, or at least not yet. Moreover, its hold on third place is also uncertain. Although progress was made on the final day, it remains inconclusive.

Due to having only three days of pre-season running, Mercedes is now in a more disadvantageous position than most. Nonetheless, the team’s trackside engineering director, Andrew Shovlin, acknowledged that the team has gained a more comprehensive understanding of where they need to concentrate their efforts, thanks to having achieved a decent car balance. This could partly be due to re-optimizing the car around the modified 2023 Pirelli tires. By the final day, the car appeared to be performing better, with Hamilton able to push it during the performance runs, despite occasional struggles with traction. Furthermore, the car is no longer exhibiting any porpoising problem.

Ferrari did not generate much excitement with its on-track performance but remained confident in its car.

During pre-season testing in Bahrain, Ferrari did not generate much excitement with its on-track performance. Nevertheless, the team maintained a sense of quiet confidence in the capabilities of its car. While completing low-fuel laps on the final day of testing when the track was slower, Ferrari managed to come within two tenths of a second of Red Bull’s lap time. However, its long run pace was not as remarkable as Red Bull’s.

Ferrari considers the pre-season testing to have been highly productive, as the team focused on exploring the car’s setup and validating its reliability. Although there were some unsuccessful experiments (which resulted in the least encouraging performance), Ferrari feels that the car’s performance is sufficient within the appropriate setup window. While the car’s traits are not significantly different, Charles Leclerc noted that it performs slightly better on the straights and is somewhat more challenging in the corners. This trade-off was made to counteract Red Bull’s advantage in straight-line speed from last year. It is expected that Ferrari will be Red Bull’s closest competitor, but it is uncertain how close they will be.

Red Bull had an impressive pre-season test with a fast and stable car.


Red Bull had an excellent pre-season test, characterized by a lack of noteworthy events or controversies. The team’s car demonstrated impressive speed during both short and long runs, maintained excellent stability on the track, and completed a substantial number of laps without incident. Even the unveiling of the previously secretive Red Bull RB19 on the first day of testing failed to generate significant buzz, as the car appeared to be a natural evolution of the highly successful RB18 from the previous season, rather than introducing any groundbreaking new features.

Red Bull has made significant and determined enhancements to all aspects of their car, including the weight, resulting in a vehicle that builds upon last year’s incredible achievements. Although the advantage in pace over Ferrari did not appear to be substantial, it was adequate, especially during long runs where Red Bull seemed to have the upper hand in managing the tires. These factors ultimately confirm that Red Bull, along with Max Verstappen, are the clear favorites heading into the season, as anticipated.

Aston Martin is cautiously optimistic and has the potential to be a serious rival to Mercedes and Ferrari.

Aston Martin is maintaining a level-headed approach towards its pre-season testing, despite widespread speculation that the team could emerge as a frontrunner and leave the midfield behind. During Fernando Alonso’s runs, the Aston Martin car demonstrated pace equal to that of Mercedes on a single lap, and even better during race simulations. In particular, the car’s superior tire degradation made it seem like a strong contender against Ferrari. Although the team is cautious about being too optimistic, many people believe that Aston Martin could emerge as a serious rival to Mercedes.

While Fernando Alonso’s lap time on the soft C4 tire was not particularly impressive, he managed to nearly match Lewis Hamilton’s best time on the C3 tire. Furthermore, taking into account the one-second difference between the C3 and C4 tires, Alonso would have been either ahead of or on par with Hamilton’s times. Throughout all three days of testing, the AMR23 appeared to be competitive on the track, regardless of the conditions or the type of tire being used. It is possible that fuel loads and engine modes could be affecting the overall picture, but there is substantial evidence to support the notion that Aston Martin’s competitiveness is genuine.

The new floor height rule did not significantly reduce car performance, with most teams recording faster lap times.

The implementation of the new floor height rule was expected to reduce car performance by approximately half a second. However, the teams seem to have already regained and, in some cases, even exceeded that performance level. Seven out of 10 teams participating in the testing have recorded faster lap times than they did in qualifying in Bahrain last year. The teams that did not improve their lap times were Ferrari (possibly holding back performance), Alpine (definitely holding back performance), and McLaren (also holding back performance, but experiencing some issues as well). It is uncertain whether lap times will continue to decrease this year. Several teams ended the 2022 season with significantly faster cars than they started with, which makes the most relevant pace gain relative to the last race of 2022 rather than the first. However, if one can make any deductions from this subset of testing data, it is that Aston Martin and AlphaTauri appear to be in much better shape for the beginning of this season.

Alpine had a disappointing showing on paper, but the team is quietly confident that its performance has not regressed.


Although Alpine appeared to have a disappointing showing on paper during pre-season testing, with the slowest lap time among the 10 teams and the second-lowest number of laps completed, team principal Otmar Szafnauer remains “quietly confident” that the team’s performance has not significantly regressed. The team, in general, shares this confidence, as the test appeared to go better than what the lap times and lap count might suggest.

Although Alpine appeared to have a slower lap time than Aston Martin on paper during pre-season testing, the team appeared much stronger on long-run pace, placing them among the strongest traditional midfield group of teams. It would be surprising if these two teams are too far apart in the upcoming weekend, given their very different approaches during the test. Alpine has an upgrade planned for next weekend, which technical director Matt Harman hinted would be a visible change, although he did not reveal any additional details. Both drivers, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, expressed positivity about the car’s performance and feel, despite encountering a few issues, some of which were attributed to the setup changes taking longer than expected due to a lack of familiarity with the new car, particularly the redesigned pushrod rear suspension. Overall, it was a positive pre-season test for Alpine.

Alfa Romeo had a positive testing period with impressive on-track performance.

Alfa Romeo appeared to be somewhat overestimated by its third-place position on the overall timesheets during pre-season testing, but not to the extent that one might expect. The team’s role in the upper-midfield decreased as last season progressed, making it an unlikely candidate to start the new season strongly. Nonetheless, the testing went well for Alfa Romeo. While a Ferrari power unit-related issue caused Valtteri Bottas to stop on the final day of testing, the C43 managed to complete 402 laps over the three days, which Bottas described as “plenty.”

During pre-season testing, what stood out about the Alfa Romeo was its impressive on-track performance. The car was not exceptionally fast, but it had a brisk and consistent balance, enabling drivers to attack. From a trackside perspective on the final day of testing, it appeared to be a pleasure to drive and instilled genuine confidence. When asked to comment on these observations, Valtteri Bottas confirmed that there were no significant limitations with the car and that the set-up felt quite nice throughout the three-day period. He noted that the car’s fast-corner instability issues from last year have been improved, and this was also confirmed by Zhou Guanyu. These factors make Alfa Romeo a dark horse in the midfield as they head into the Bahrain GP weekend.

McLaren had a problematic pre-season test, and the team is starting the season at a disadvantage.


The pre-season testing for McLaren was not particularly successful, and there were some parallels with the situation from 12 months ago. The team encountered limited running due to an unusual reliability problem and the car appeared to be struggling. On the final day, the team was also forced to make running repairs to the wheel brows, which resulted in lost mileage. This followed a time loss on Thursday to reinforce the bodywork.


Compared to its rivals, McLaren’s car is behind in terms of track time, and it continues to appear problematic when it is running. On the final day of testing, there was a dramatic example of this when Oscar Piastri spun out, but even in the hands of Lando Norris, the car did not seem to be a contender for the midfield. Unfortunately, as was discovered during the middle of the testing period, McLaren’s limitations are inherently linked to the launch specification of the car, which did not meet some of its development targets. The team does not have an update to address this for several more weeks. It appears that McLaren is, once again, starting the season at a disadvantage. However, the silver lining is that the team is in better shape than it was last year.

Porpoising is no longer a significant limitation for the teams, but it is still present.

During the testing period, drivers consistently reported that porpoising was not a problem with the cars. However, viewers watching the coverage were often confused by this assertion, as there was clear visual evidence that cars were porpoising at times. It is important to note that the porpoising phenomenon will not truly disappear as long as ground effect cars of this type exist because the laws of physics are unchanged. One of the objectives for teams during testing was to identify the point at which porpoising was triggered, allowing them to determine the best way to run the car in terms of setup. As a result, cars occasionally experienced porpoising.

When drivers and teams say that porpoising is not a problem, they are stating that it is no longer the major limitation that it was in the previous year. The teams have a better understanding of how to set up the cars to avoid triggering porpoising, although it is still possible to do so if the cars are pushed too close to their limits. This limit is subject to change depending on the track configuration, making it essential to understand when the porpoising effect might occur. Overall, porpoising is not as significant a problem as it was last year when teams had to run their cars well outside their intended parameters to manage the issue.

Nico Hulkenberg has made a strong impression at Haas and appears to be up to speed despite being away from F1 for three seasons.


During the pre-season testing, Haas team boss Guenther Steiner made an intriguing comment about Nico Hulkenberg, stating that it felt like he had already been with the team for an entire season. This statement was noteworthy because Steiner is not one to offer compliments easily, and he appeared to be going out of his way to stress this point.

Building upon Steiner’s comment, it seems that Hulkenberg has not missed a beat in his return to F1, despite being away for three full seasons. In many ways, it feels like he never left the sport.


Nico Hulkenberg has made a strong impression since joining Haas, quickly fitting in with the team and demonstrating that he is fit and up to speed following a winter of preparation. On the track, he appears sharp, while off the track, he has been impressing his new team.

Moreover, Hulkenberg appears to be relaxed in a positive way, with the time away from the sport having shifted his perspective somewhat but also motivating him to return. While he acknowledges that he is still in the honeymoon period and that the relationship has yet to be stress-tested, it has been a good start for a driver whom some believe was not worth replacing Mick Schumacher for.

Key Takeaways from F1 Pre-Season Testing 2023 in Bahrain Key Takeaways from F1 Pre-Season Testing 2023 in Bahrain Key Takeaways from F1 Pre-Season Testing 2023 in Bahrain Key Takeaways from F1 Pre-Season Testing 2023 in Bahrain Key Takeaways from F1 Pre-Season Testing 2023 in Bahrain Key Takeaways from F1 Pre-Season Testing 2023 in Bahrain

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.