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Formula 1

Verstappen fastest in first 2023 F1 testing session

by Jack Cozens
3 min read

World champion Max Verstappen put Red Bull and its much-anticipated RB19 at the top of the times on the opening morning of 2023 Formula 1 testing in Bahrain.

The RB19, which was the only car yet to be seen officially beyond a grainy video clip of the car shown by Red Bull, broke cover in the Bahrain pitlane and lived up to its billing early on as Verstappen lapped 0.294 seconds faster than anyone else.

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Verstappen’s fastest time, a 1m32.959s, was set in the final hour of the session on a set of the mid-range, yellow-sidewalled C3 compound tyres from Pirelli that the majority of drivers recorded their fastest times on.

Williams’s Alex Albon was an outlier in this regard, setting the third-fastest time on a set of the softest C5 compound tyres as he lapped within half a second of Carlos Sainz’s second-placed Ferrari (which like Verstappen’s Red Bull set its time on the C3 tyre).

Xpb 1188839 Hires

While considering that compound offset, the morning was nevertheless a strong one for Williams – with Albon covering a session-high 74 laps, two clear of Sainz who had the next-best tally.

The Spaniard spent a large amount of the session at the top of the leaderboard in his Ferrari, which was captured with a dimple in its nosecone in the first hour of the session.

This was not by design – the deformation likely came with air pressure – but is also not a structural concern, though Ferrari will likely seek to reinforce it.

Zhou Guanyu was fourth for Alfa Romeo and within a second of Verstappen’s pace ahead of Mercedes’ black W14, with George Russell lapping 1.215s off the pace.

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day One Sakhir, Bahrain

Russell spent longer than most others on the hard C1 tyre at the start of the session but still set his fastest time on the C3, with little in the way of visible porpoising for a W14 car whose predecessor was the most badly affected of the 2022 designs by the phenomenon.

Nico Hulkenberg was sixth on his second test outing as a Haas F1 driver, having made his debut for the team in the post-season test at Yas Marina in 2022.

He completed 51 laps in the Haas VF-23 – and was one of eight drivers who hit a half-century of laps or more during the morning.

Felipe Drugovich was one of those who didn’t for Aston Martin.

The team’s AMR23 has been talked up in recent days but its start to testing was the least auspicious, with Felipe Drugovich stopping on track on his first installation lap with the car.

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day One Sakhir, Bahrain

Reigning Formula 2 champion Drugovich, who was given the opening morning of running for Aston Martin in place of the injured Lance Stroll, was still able to complete decent running once that issue – said by Aston Martin to be an electronics one – was resolved and was seventh fastest after improving late on.

Drugovich will hand the car over to two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso for the afternoon session, but Aston Martin has not yet disclosed how it will deploy its drivers over the second and third days.

Yuki Tsunoda was the other driver to complete fewer than 50 laps, doing 46 in his AlphaTauri but finishing ahead of former team-mate Pierre Gasly, now at Alpine, in the times.

The leaderboard was propped up by rookie Oscar Piastri, who completed 52 laps in the McLaren MCL60.

Day one morning times

1. Verstappen (Red Bull) 1m32.959s, C3, 71 laps
2. Sainz (Ferrari) 1m33.253s, C3, 72 laps
3. Albon (Williams) 1m33.671s, C5, 74 laps
4. Zhou (Alfa Romeo) 1m33.723s, C3, 67 laps
5. Russell (Mercedes) 1m34.174s, C3, 69 laps
6. Hulkenberg (Haas) 1m34.424s, C3, 51 laps
7. Drugovich (Aston Martin) 1m34.564s, C3, 40 laps
8. Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) 1m34.671s, 46 laps
9. Gasly (Alpine) 1m34.822s, C3, 60 laps
10. Piastri (McLaren) 1m34.888s, C3, 52 laps

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