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Formula 1

Gary Anderson's verdict on each team's F1 testing pace

by Gary Anderson
9 min read

It’s always difficult to know what Formula 1 teams are up to in testing as fuel loads, tyres, power modes, DRS use or even time of day and wind direction can have a major influence on the fastest laptimes.

But that doesn’t stop me from having a shot at what I think might just happen next weekend when it all begins for real with the Bahrain Grand Prix.

To do that I have taken each driver’s fastest time and converted that laptime into a percentage. The fastest we call the datum, then each driver has their offset to that datum - again as a percentage.

I have done the same again for each team. For this, I have taken the fastest driver for each team - I use the philosophy that if one driver can do a laptime, the other one should be able to do it too.

To try to equalise out what we do know, the times have been modified to what they would be if each drivers had used the C3 medium compound for their fastest lap.

My offset for calculating this is:

C3 from C4 +0.5s, C3 from C5 +0.8s
C3 from C2 -0.5s, C3 from C1 -1.0s

The logic behind this offset is that it is difficult to get the softer tyres to last a complete lap but the harder tyres don’t have that problem, they are just a little slower overall.

So this is where I think we stand. It doesn’t take into account fuel as I would just be guessing, but I will reference what I think the fuel load might have been in each team’s summary.

This is in the overall order of the teams’ performance, using the fastest driver’s time from each team to define that order. The driver’s performance position is denoted next to each driver.

I’ve made clear where I think the adjusted test times order is a little bit different to where teams really will be when it matters next weekend.

1 - Ferrari

1m30.421s (car datum)

1 - Carlos Sainz 1m30.421s (driver datum)
4 - Charles Leclerc 1m30.832s (+0.457%)

From day one, the car looked stable, with no big vices, and both drivers were always up there one way or another.

Its long runs were fairly reasonable and during those, it seemed to make good use of the hard tyres.

Ferrari finished last year strongly and seems to have carried that momentum through into this new season. It needs to be sure to tidy up some of its strategy mistakes that have let it down in the past.

Do I think it is really ahead of Red Bull? No, but I think it will be close.

Ferrari clearly did try to set a time rather than hiding its pace via high fuel but I don't think it was running on the sniff of an oily rag fuel-wise - probably something more like 25kg.

That's a good six tenths of a second to come in qualifying trim.

2 - Red Bull

1m30.679s (+0.285%)

2 - Sergio Perez 1m30.679s (+0.287%)
3 - Max Verstappen 1m30.755s (

Everyone thought initially that Red Bull was going to make the rest of the grid look like Formula 2 cars, but as time passed the other teams got better and Red Bull didn’t seem to progress quite as much.

Initially the car had a fair amount of understeer but that was quickly eradicated and it was business as usual, though it could be an underlying problem just waiting to rear its ugly head.

However I do think Red Bull will be back where it ended up last year, but the gap will be eroded just that little bit. I’m pretty sure it never ran less than 30kg of fuel so there’s more to come, but it will need to keep an eye on the rear-view mirror.

3 - Mercedes

1m30.868s (+0.497%)

5 - George Russell 1m30.868s (+0.497%)
7 - Lewis Hamilton 1m31.066s (+0.717%)

This year’s car is very different to last year’s version both mechanically and aerodynamically.

Even the engineers are saying it’s a whole new learning curve and the test showed that Mercedes is still learning about it.

Out on track it looked fine: fairly sharp on turn-in and sometimes a little nervous on the throttle, but nothing crazy.

I don’t think Mercedes has a Red Bull or Ferrari beater just yet, but I think what it has now will be more responsive to developments.

Overall I think it is third-best at the moment but it will be close with McLaren.

4 - McLaren

1m31.030s (+0.677%)

6 - Oscar Piastri 1m31.030s (+0.677%)
10 - Lando Norris 1m31.256s (

Again, the car looks stable and with no big issues. Both drivers seemed to be heading in the same direction with it; actually, it was almost impossible to guess which driver was in the car on track, so that always bodes well for development direction.

McLaren is confident that it has a good and positive development direction and that what it currently has is good enough to be a challenger for podium positions.

I would put it nip-and-tuck with Mercedes for third or fourth-best, and it has two drivers that can be there to block out others.

5 - Sauber

1m31.147s (+0.807%)

8 Zhou Guanyu 1m31.147s (+0.807%)
17 Valtteri Bottas 1m32.227s (+2.008%)

On the track, the car looked like it lacked a bit of grip - nothing desperate but it just seemed to use up more road than some of the others.

After the first morning Sauber seemed to get on top of the balance and it even introduced a new underfloor for the second day.

It’s difficult to say how much better it was from late one day to early the next as the track here can change (it normally takes an hour or so to settle in), so I’m not sure I would have done an overnight change like that.

I’m pretty sure Zhou Guanyu was on fairly low fuel when he set his fast laptime at the end of the final day. It all came out of the blue, so that’s usually an indication of running a lighter car.

I think Sauber is probably going to end up in the middle of that back pack: sixth-best on a good day and eighth-best on a bad day.

6 - Aston Martin

1m31.159s (+0.821%)

9 - Fernando Alonso 1m31.159s (+0.821%)
15 - Lance Stroll 1m32.029s (+1.788%)

It’s surprising to see Aston Martin back here. On track, the car was one of the most stable and consistent so I can only put it down to fuel loads and a team that just wanted to get through the test programme without going for any glory runs.

I expect at least one of its drivers to be fairly comfortably in the top 10 but getting into the top eight might be just a bit of a push.

7 - RB

1m31.275s (+0.950%)

11 - Yuki Tsunoda 1m31.275s (+0.950%)
14 - Daniel Ricciardo 1m31.861s (+1.601%)

Last year, Yuki Tsunoda ended the test sixth fastest but come qualifying for the first race weekend he ended up 14th. He and Daniel Ricciardo will be hoping there's no repeat slump in 2024 - both have the potential to do better this year and the Bahrain qualifying will be their chance to prove it.

RB has a better car than last year so I’m pretty sure it will be mixing it at the front end of that midfield bunch but from that group, there will still be a bit of a gap to what I would class as the top five teams.

8 - Williams

1m31.484s (+1.182%)

12 - Alex Albon 1m31.484s (+1.182%)
20 - Logan Sargeant 1m33.078s (+2.955%)

I don’t think this is very far out of place for Williams. We all know that Alex Albon is very good at dragging a lap out of the car in qualifying but he still needs the car to truly perform and I don’t see any reason to believe Williams has moved forward much from last year.

It also was one of the only teams to suffer some reliability problems so it needs to get on top of that. After all, to finish first, first you have to finish.

9 - Haas

1m31.686s (+1.407%)

13 - Nico Hulkenberg 1m31.686s (+1.407%)
19 - Kevin Magnussen 1m33.053s (2.927%)

Very similar to Williams, in that there is nothing inspiring on the car. On track it looks stable and consistent, just slow.

Haas was concentrating on its tyre degradation problems and spent most of the test doing longer stints. We know that Nico Hulkenberg can - like Albon - drag a lap out of a car and that’s what he did at the end of the day here.

But to get one of its drivers into Q3 regularly this year under normal circumstances might just be expecting too much for Haas.

10 - Alpine

1m32.061s (+1.824%)

16 - Esteban Ocon 1m32.061s (+1.824%)
18 - Pierre Gasly 1m32.805s (+2.651%)

If there was a car at this test that I thought looked inconsistent and difficult to drive it would be this one. Every time the driver approached a corner it looked like a new experience.

Watching out on track, my first impression was that the driver was just trying too hard and making mistakes, but then both of them were doing exactly the same thing and having the same problems.

What have we learned?

Just for reference the fastest testing time in 2023 was Sergio Perez with a 1m30.305s, pole was Max Verstappen with a 1m29.708s, this was on the same C3 tyre so a reasonable comparison. But it does show that if a year's worth of development and the expense of a new car over the winter is to be justified, there must be more time to come.

Also the car percentage spread for the last six races of 2023 was 0.936%, for the drivers it was 1.835%. From what we have seen of 2024 so far it is now 1.824% for the car and 2.955% for the drivers so the gap has widened significantly. Yes this is only from one test and we will get a better read on it next weekend, but I would have hoped it would have closed up.

At the front I’m pretty sure we will see Red Bull followed closely by Ferrari, which will be joined occasionally by Mercedes and McLaren, with Aston Martin nipping at their heels, then a bit of a gap.

As for the others, under normal circumstances, it looks like it will be very tight. Alpine should be next but it needs to find out why the car looked so inconsistent and keep an eye on RB. Then Sauber, Williams and Haas should follow - but the back half will be nip-and-tuck and all down to who gets it right on the day.

Let’s see what next weekend brings. Qualifying will be the first time we know that the cars will be on a similar fuel load, new tyres, maximum power mode and the driver given the authority to wring its neck.

One thing that’s for sure is that there will be someone on pole position and someone at the back and we really won’t know which is which until next Friday night. (Yes, you need to remember it’s a Saturday race, so everything starts on Thursday.)

It’s been a long winter so let's go.

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