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Formula 1

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

by Gary Anderson
15 min read

The start of the 2023 Formula 1 season is just around the corner and as we have seen from pre-season testing that corner has been been a bit easier to manoeuvre for some than others.

Using headline times from testing is always very difficult, and includes all the normal caveats like time of day, track conditions, wind, tyres, engine modes and on top of all that fuel load.

To try to mitigate those variables as much as possible in my rating I have turned each driver’s fastest laptime into a percentage of the fastest car for both morning and afternoon of each day, adjusted that percentage for any driver that had used a harder or softer tyre than the C3 which will be next weekend’s softest tyre, and then averaged each driver’s performance across three sessions.

Once again, there it is: the old ‘yes, but what about the fuel load?’. Using a bit of a sliding scale and the fact that the top teams usually stick by their testing procedure of not running on the sniff of an oily rag and that the smaller teams might just give running lighter a shot, I have come up with the team performance rating below.

Also for each team, I will add a short comment on how they looked on-track and any other observations based on their own comments or drivers’ body language.

1st – Red Bull

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

Visually the RB19 is an evolution of last year’s car.

If Red Bull had the weight problems that everyone – including the team itself – is saying it had last year then getting down to the weight limit and being able to optimise the weight distribution to suit the new, stronger front tyres will lead to a simple improvement in laptime this year.

That new stronger front tyre is exactly what the team would have been crying out for last year when it was trying to sort out the inherent tyre understeer that most other teams also suffered with. It is going to be a major benefit for Verstappen.

Verstappen was always fast from the get-go. If someone did a faster lap he simply went out and went faster and this normally shows that the base set-up is in the ballpark. He also only used the C3 tyres – which will be the softest tyres at the Bahrain Grand Prix – to set his fastest times, focusing on understanding the car rather than headline laptimes.

Sergio Perez, on the other hand, was his normal self as he didn’t seem to be able to get into the car and wring its neck immediately.

Initially, he made a few errors locking up and running wide here and there but in the end, albeit using a softer tyre compound, he headlined the overall test times.

I’m not sure the car or the new front tyres are going to suit him any better than it did last year. Verstappen is a tough team-mate to beat; he’ll be there on a few occasions but it will be tough to do it consistently.

The big questions:

  • Will Red Bull adopt a number one and number two driver from the get-go?
  • After the passing of Dietrich Mateschitz, will the new structure at Red Bull’s head office want more of an input?

2nd – Ferrari +0.50%

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

This season I’m pretty sure we will see two very well-matched drivers at Ferrari. Carlos Sainz has now got his feet well and truly under the table at Maranello and he needs to make good use of that as Charles Leclerc on a new set of tyres and going for a qualifying lap is a beast.

The car is again, like the Red Bull, developed from the same DNA as last year’s, but with a push to reduce drag even if that costs a little in the corners.

I don’t think there is anything that I can say to split up the two drivers. Sainz seemed at home every time he drove and Leclerc just seemed to need a few more laps to settle in but overall they both seemed happy in the car.

Leclerc and Sainz both set competitive laptimes when they were given the opportunity and we all know that Leclerc can lift his performance when push comes to shove in qualifying.

The big questions:

  • Have we seen the extra power of the Ferrari engine unleashed yet?
  • When will the loss of Mattia Binotto – who was and still is one of the best technical brains in F1 – be felt?

3rd – Aston Martin +0.73%

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Two Sakhir, Bahrain

If any team is happy to follow the lead of another team it’s Aston Martin. When the team changed to its ‘B-spec’ car midway through 2022 it followed the family resemblance of the Red Bull and this new car takes that even further.

Right or wrong, it’s a philosophy for success. With a huge staff increase and some of the top people coming in from other top teams like Red Bull and Mercedes, it’s no surprise that this is the route it has chosen.

It’s probably a surprise to some to see Aston Martin ranked in third but it is hungry to move forward and we all know Lawrence Stroll is not really a patient man. He will dig deep into his pockets as long as he sees progress.

Will it win races this year? On equal terms, probably not but given a following wind and the combination of Fernando Alonso, who can be a bit of an animal come race day, and a team that’s no stranger to pulling off shock results under whatever name it’s running, it’s not impossible.

Initially it looked to me like Alonso was overdriving the car. This is how he goes about his job; he believes he knows what speed should be carried into any given corner and he attempts to do that to see what the end result is.

If you build up speed at the speed the car offers you on each run you stand the chance of just adapting to what the car does and not really giving the engineers the correct information to get the car to that performance level you believe it needs to be in to be competitive.

Felipe Drugovich did a competent job for just being thrown in at the deep end. He didn’t make any mistakes and went about his duties as a test and reserve driver should. However, that said Aston Martin did miss its yardstick in Lance Stroll – as Alonso said, if nothing else, Lance would have known what was an inherent feeling from the new car as he would have had bucketloads of first-hand experience from last year’s car to compare it to.

The big questions:

  • If Aston Martin starts the season at this level, will it be able to carry it through for a full season?
  • Will the integration of all those new people and placing them in the new factory be a distraction?

4th – Mercedes +1.12%

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

Am I mad or something placing the might of Mercedes back here behind Aston Martin? Probably, but that’s where it ends up when I apply the same performance philosophy as I have with all of the other teams.

On the circuit the car didn’t look as settled or as consistent as the drivers wanted. To compound that on the second day, Mercedes spent a lot of time looking for some lost front downforce or load, as it called it.

If it can get lost as easily as that on day two then it’s still running a bit of a knife-edge car and that could just be the search for consistency that I mentioned above.

Lewis Hamilton seemed to have the edge over George Russell on most occasions. During the afternoon session on day three Hamilton was let loose on both the softer C4 and C5 tyres, producing his best lap time on the latter. During his runs on the soft tyres he was giving it full beans and using every bit of track available. The car was very reactive so it didn’t look like there was a lot of fuel on board.

Normally if Mercedes felt it had a strong package it would stay well away from showing its hand until the very last minute.

It’s a big year for Russell as Hamilton will be back fighting but for both, it will all come down to whether Mercedes can give them the tools to do the job. We know they are both capable of winning and if the car gives Lewis the motivation he will fight with anyone for race wins and possibly an eighth world championship.

The big questions:

  • Mercedes says it had a majorly revised design in the starting blocks. Why start with this package if you already know there is something better available?
  • What will that revised design look like, and will Mercedes eat humble pie and visually change the look of the car to something more in line with the other leading cars?

5th – Alfa Romeo +1.49%

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

On track the Alfa Romeo looked like it was suffering from proposing more than any other car. Again, like the Ferrari, that’s fine as long as when you get to a circuit where it can be more of a problem, you know how to minimise it.

Bringing in Andreas Seidl from McLaren as CEO is a good start in the building process for when it becomes Audi in three years’ time. It will give him time to build the team structure and facilities into what a potential championship-winning team will require. During that period I’m sure there will be a few Audi personnel integrated into that structure.

Both drivers had a fling late in the day to see what laptime they could produce and on day two in the afternoon session Zhou Guanyu ended up fastest on the softer C5 tyre just ahead of Verstappen on the C3 tyre. Some of that improvement in performance showed that Alfa Romeo was clearly running on low fuel.

It was really the same on day three, with Valtteri Bottas only two tenths behind Hamilton when both were using the same tyre, so again I’m pretty sure that was on low fuel.

The big questions:

  • Alfa Romeo started last season fairly strongly then fell away for a while. Can it maintain this performance for longer this year?
  • Will Audi’s budget allow the team to improve its facilities to the level of what Red Bull now has?
  • What limitations does operating from Switzerland place on a team that will need experienced F1 engineers?

6th – Haas +1.54%

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

Haas ran through a very workmanlike test. Both drivers are well experienced, with Nico Hulkenberg having had more or less three years out of the hot seat, so he will be well rested. I think that showed in the need to support his head more and more through the fast corners as the test progressed.

The car didn’t look like it had any vices and although Haas had a few small problems, nothing major curtailed its running.

Haas spent the majority of the test in the middle of the timesheets and that is just about where I think it will end up: knocking on the door of Q3 regularly, and getting into it – on a few occasions.

The team starts 2023 with more integration with Ferrari and for a small team that can only be a good thing. It has a new title sponsor so a few more coppers in the bank ensures it will be running up to the budget cap for the first time this year. It’s become a professional F1 team in recent years and isn’t the new kid on the block anymore so results are what is going to count.

Driver-wise Haas has two very experienced drivers; both past their prime, but still very capable of bringing home a result given the opportunity. And that is exactly what Haas needs for at least this season if not next season as well. Then it will be time to find a young hotshot.

The big questions:

  • Will it be able to develop the car more consistently than it has done over the last few seasons?
  • Will team orders need to be brought into play to stop both drivers potentially throwing away points by being too self-centred and stubborn?

7th – Alpine +1.80%

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

I’m surprised by Alpine’s placing as I thought the car aerodynamically looked good but on the track it looked very stiff with a lot of reaction to the bumps. That said, the team was very upbeat about its long-run pace.

Alpine was very proud of what it has produced and didn’t seem to be too disappointed in where it ended up, so maybe it knows something we don’t. I suppose we will find out this week.

As a works team, which I define as an organisation that builds its own power units, this level of performance is not acceptable. Alpine needs to be up there at least in fourth place behind Red Bull (questionable works team), Ferrari and Mercedes. Alpine’s goal for this year should be to close the gap to those big three.

One of its major problems is that it is the only team using the Renault engine so it has no comparison to its own power levels, distribution or recovery of that power. It’s all down to this team and this team alone to find the best operating window.

The big questions:

  • Will the drivers work together for the good of the team or will the red mist cloud their judgement on race day?
  • Will the cost cap limitations allow Alpine to keep pace with the development steps it needs to close the gap to the front?

8th – McLaren +1.86%

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Two Sakhir, Bahrain

I think you could say that this was the only team in the pitlane that had problems that it shouldn’t have had.

We have only had three days of pre-season testing and the most important thing was to be out there trying to understand your car as much as possible as it’s just after this test you will need to define the development update direction.

No matter if the car met the winter objectives or not, the fact it sat in the garage on numerous occasions with heat guns drying glue on the front tyre mudguard section was simply a design and operational cock-up. I have been there and suffered the pain of a problem that couldn’t be fixed quickly but that was a long time ago – the problems McLaren is having shouldn’t happen with today’s technology and processes.

Perhaps it’s time for McLaren to narrow its focus. Lately, it seems to be dipping its toe in any formula that has wheels on it.

While we didn’t see very much of the car on track, it didn’t look like an evil beast but it also didn’t look like it was as stable as you would want it the be. Its limited running means you don’t get through your test programme and you end up taking shortcuts which you will pay the price for further into the season, when you won’t have the data you need to make set-up decisions.

To me, Lando Norris’s body language didn’t look like that of a happy camper – you could see the frustration in his actions and his eyes. For Oscar Piastri it’s too early for him to stamp his foot but Mark Webber – his manager and mentor, who has seen and experienced it all before – will be kicking some butts at the back of the garage.

The big questions:

  • Will McLaren be able to regroup reliability-wise from a horrible test before this weekend or will it start the season haemorrhaging points?
  • Will McLaren be able to introduce the required developments in performance before the season drifts away?

9th – Williams +1.86%

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

Without a doubt, progress has been made at Williams but it is limited. It would be very silly to think that it could make much more of a jump than one or at most two places in the pecking order; even then, who is Williams going to jump?

Closing the gap to the front is all that James Vowles can hope for in his first year. If it can do that then there might be a chance to leap frog another team but I’m not expecting that too soon.

On-track the Williams seemed to be more susceptible to wind direction and wind velocity than others. It’s always difficult to quantify this problem as every car suffers from it, but sometimes if the car has knife-edge aerodynamics then wind direction can have a major influence on its consistency as those knife edge aero loads fall over more readily.

Driver-wise I think new boy Logan Sargent did a competent job. He has a good yardstick in Alex Albon, so if they can work together it could be a good pairing – they just need the tools to do the job.

The big questions:

  • Can James Vowles, with his Mercedes winning methodology, influence Williams operationally when others have tried and failed before him?
  • Will Williams still stand on its own two feet or will it build a stronger relationship with and be more influenced by Mercedes?

10th – AlphaTauri +2.12%

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

And then there was one. On the circuit it didn’t look like AlphaTauri had too many problems so I can’t quite see why it comes out of my analysis down here. It is the sister team to Red Bull, so I’m pretty sure that before testing started it would have known roughly where it stood compare to the mothership.

AlphaTauri’s driver line up is OK. Nyck de Vries comes in with quite a bit of experience from Mercedes so he should know what a decent car feels like, and that combined with his stand-in drive with Williams, and test outings for Aston Martin and Mercedes, should give him an all-round grasp of where AlphaTauri stands and what it needs to focus its development on. As for Yuki Tsunoda, he F1 has experience but it is all from the same team – so no new input.

It’s a critical time for the team as rumours are that it could be sold and/or relocated. And now, following Dietrich Mateschitz’s passing, does the new Red Bull management see the need for two F1 teams?

The big questions:

  • Why didn’t it take more influence on the car concept from the mother ship Red Bull?
  • Is it really up for sale?


Lots of questions but really very few answers. We will know a lot more in seven days’ time and I’m sure most of that new knowledge will question my pecking order. But from where I stand at today, with the information I have, this is the best I can come up with. You never actually know, for a change I might be spot on (yes, and pigs might fly).

Enjoy the coming weekend – I know I will.

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