Verstappen quickest ahead of Alonso as F1 pre-season gets underway in Bahrain

Sainz 3rd, Leclerc 4th


By Franck Drui

23 February 2023 - 17:48
Verstappen quickest ahead of Alonso (...)

Defending champion Max Verstappen topped the timesheet as pre-season testing for the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship got underway in Bahrain. The Red Bull driver narrowly beat Fernando Alonso who got his Aston Martin career off to a swift start. Third place went to Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

Verstappen set good pace across a marathon day at the wheel of his new RB19. The Dutchman was the only driver to run for the full day and by the time the chequered flag flew under lights in the early evening the champion had posted a total of 157 laps of the Sakhir Circuit, almost 850km. Verstappen’s best time of the day came midway through the afternoon session when he stopped at the clock at 1:32.837.

It looked like his time would go unchallenged, but Alonso, who switched to Aston Martin from Alpine at the end of last year, bolted on a set of C3 soft tyres and promptly got to within three hundredths of a second of the Red Bull driver.

The lap gave Aston Martin something to smile about at the end of an eventful day. In the morning, Felipe Drogovich, standing in for Lance Stroll, brought out the only red flag of the day when he suffered a sensor issue. Alonso also suffered a setback in the afternoon when he shipped floor damage that restricted him to the garage for a spell.

Third place on the timesheet went to Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz as the Scuderia enjoyed a strong first day. The Spanish driver got through 72 during his stint at the wheel of the Italian squad’s SF-23 car and posted a best time of 1:33.253, four tenths off Verstappen.

Sainz’s team-mate Charles Leclerc finished fourth, just over a hundredth of a second behind the Spaniard and another solid outing gave Ferrari a day one total of 136 laps.

Behind Leclerc, Lando Norris took fifth spot for McLaren, six tenths of a second behind Verstappen. The British squad had a tough opening outing, however, with Norris losing time due an issue with a wheel fairing. New team-mate and 2023 debutant Oscar Piastri finished 18th on his first pre-season test day with the team, two seconds adrift of Verstappen.

Lewis Hamilton finished sixth for Mercedes, while team-mate George Russell, who ran in the morning, ended the day in P9. Alex Albon took seventh for Williams thanks to a best lap of 1:33.671 set in the morning, while his new team-mate Logan Sargeant finished 10th.

Zhou Guanyu ended the day in eighth place for Alfa Romeo. F1 returnee Nico Hulkenberg took P11 for Haas ahead of the second Alfa Romeo of Valterri Bottas and Nyck de Vries took P13 for AlphaTauri. The Dutch driver was separated from team-mate Yuki Tsunoda by Aston Martin’s Drugovich, while Alpine recorded a total of 113 laps as Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon finished 16th and 17th respectively.

01 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda RBPT RB19 1:32.837 157
02 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23 1:32.866 60
03 Carlos Sainz Ferrari SF-23 1:33.253 72
04 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 1:33.267 64
05 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes MCL60 1:33.462 40
06 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W14 1:33.508 83
07 Alex Albon Williams Mercedes FW45 1:33.671 74
08 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43 1:33.723 67
09 George Russell Mercedes W14 1:34.174 69
10 Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes FW45 1:34.324 75
11 Nico Hülkenberg Haas Ferrari VF-23 1:34.424 51
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari C43 1:34.558 71
13 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04 1:34.559 85
14 Felipe Drugovich Aston Martin Mercedes AMR23 1:34.564 40
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda RBPT AT04 1:34.671 46
16 Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault A523 1:34.822 60
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault A523 1:34.871 53
18 Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes MCL60 1:34.888 52
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari VF-23 1:35.087 57

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