Red Bull ended the three-day Formula 1 pre-season test in Bahrain with the fastest time courtesy of Sergio Perez.
The Mexican had the RB19 all to himself for the day, after reigning champion Max Verstappen concluded his testing programme on Friday, and gradually whittled down the benchmark late on while running on the C4 compound – the second-softest tyre available.
Perez’s 1m30.305s was not just an improvement on last year’s Bahrain test but on the pole time set by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in last year’s season opener at the same venue – albeit on a softer compound. The C4 will again not be available in the Bahrain GP this year, with C1, C2 and C3 on offer instead.
An improved-seeming day from Mercedes ended with Lewis Hamilton in second place, three and a half tenths down from Perez but having set his fastest time on the softest C5 tyre.
Hamilton’s former team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who like Perez had the car – in this case, the Alfa Romeo C43 – all to himself on the day, completed the top three thanks to a C5 lap half a second off Perez.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was fourth-quickest in the afternoon, albeit his C4 lap proved only good enough for fifth on the day overall – coming up 0.012s short of team-mate Leclerc’s effort set on the same tyre in daytime.
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was the last driver within a second of Perez, his best lap set on C4s – as was Haas driver Kevin Magnussen’s right behind him in the order.
Testing’s arguable standout Aston Martin AMR23 took a while to emerge after the midday switchover from Felipe Drugovich to Fernando Alonso, and then had another pronounced spell in the pits.
But Alonso, who ended up ninth between morning runners George Russell (Mercedes) and Drugovich, made up for the time lost by logging 77 laps in the end.
It meant only one team was left with the dubious honour of a sub-100 lap day, that team being McLaren.
After brake issues limited Oscar Piastri to 44 tours in the morning, Lando Norris – an eventual 11th on C3s – spent long spells in the pitlane due to an unspecified concern reported to be tied to the MCL60’s aero appendages. He at least more or less doubled his mileage for the day in the final hour and a bit, ending up on 37 laps.
There was nothing resembling low-fuel performance running from Alpine, with its afternoon driver Esteban Ocon ending up 14th in a notably bouncy A523, one spot behind Williams driver Alex Albon – who took the biggest mileage honours on the day with 136 laps.
The 4h15m afternoon session concluded with a surprisingly lively rolling start practice followed by a standing start rehearsal – the final bit of collective F1 track action before the 2023 crop reconvenes for the opening practice of the Bahrain GP weekend on March 3.
Day three test times
1. Perez (Red Bull) 1m30.305s, C4, 133 laps
2. Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m30.664s, C5, 65 laps
3. Bottas (Alfa Romeo) 1m30.827s, C5, 131 laps
4. Leclerc (Ferrari) 1m31.024s, C4, 67 laps
5. Sainz (Ferrari) 1m31.036s, C4, 76 laps
6. Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) 1m31.261s, C4, 79 laps
7. Magnussen (Haas) 1m31.381s, C4, 95 laps
8. Russell (Mercedes) 1m31.442s, C5, 83 laps
9. Alonso (Aston Martin) 1m31.450s, C4, 80 laps
10. Drugovich (Aston Martin) 1m32.075s, C5, 77 laps
11. Norris (McLaren) 1m32.160s, C3, 37 laps
12. Gasly (Alpine) 1m32.762s, C3, 56 laps
13. Albon (Williams) 1m32.793s, C5, 136 laps
14. Ocon (Alpine) 1m33.357s, C3, 76 laps
15. Hulkenberg (Haas) 1m33.329s, C3, 77 laps
16. Piastri (McLaren) 1m33.655s, C3, 44 laps
17. De Vries (AlphaTauri) 1m38.244s, C3, 87 laps