Defending Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen was fastest on the opening day of the sole pre-season test ahead of the 2023 season in Bahrain but was only 0.029s quicker than Aston Martin’s new recruit Fernando Alonso.
Red Bull was the only team to keep one driver in its car for the entire day and Verstappen spent the majority of that day at the top of the leaderboard. He also completed 157 laps with no obvious issues.
Verstappen led the morning session on a 1m32.959s on the yellow-side-walled C3 compound tyres and went a tenth quicker in the afternoon to top day one of the test on a 1m32.837s despite a wide moment at the final corner on his fastest lap.
Verstappen remained unchallenged until Fernando Alonso completed a series of short runs in the final hour of the session in the AMR23.
The fastest of those flying laps was just 0.029s adrift of Verstappen and on the same C3 tyres as his fellow two-time F1 world champion.
Alonso and Aston Martin had to recover ground after a slow start to testing.
The 2022 Formula 2 champion Felipe Drugovich – standing in for the injured Lance Stroll – had to pull the AMR23 off to the side of the track during the car’s first installation lap of the day.
Aston Martin resolved what it thought to be an electronics issue and Drugovich completed 40 laps thereafter.
When Alonso took over driving duties for the evening session, he sat in the garage for the opening portion with floor damage before returning to the track to post the second-fastest time.
Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were third and fourth at the end of the day, with just 0.014s separating them.
McLaren had a mixed day with Lando Norris losing time in the evening with a brake cooling issue that melted the inside of the wheelbrows.
Last year McLaren’s pre-season was ruined by brake cooling woes that compromised it during the opening handful of races until it brought a new package at Barcelona in May that featured a permanent fix for the issues.
Norris posted the fifth fastest time in the last half hour of the session, putting him ahead of seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes that initially appears free of the bouncing issues that haunted the team in 2022.
Alex Albon was seventh for Williams thanks to a flying lap on the red-walled C4 soft tyres in the first half of the day.
He was followed by Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, the second Mercedes of George Russell and 2023 F1 rookie Logan Sargeant.
The returning Nico Hulkenberg was 11th for Haas ahead of Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) and another 2023 F1 rookie in Nyck de Vries (AlphaTauri).
Drugovich ended the day in 14th place ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
Alpine had a low-key start to testing with Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon in 16th and 17th at the end of the day, almost two seconds adrift of Verstappen’s benchmark. Both set their times on the C2 tyre.
The timesheet was rounded by McLaren’s new rookie signing Oscar Piastri and Kevin Magnussen, who drove the Haas for the second half of the day.
Day one test times
1. Verstappen (Red Bull) 1m32.837s, C3, 157 laps
2. Alonso (Aston Martin) 1m32.866s, C3, 60 laps
3. Sainz (Ferrari) 1m33.253s, C3, 72 laps
4. Leclerc (Ferrari) 1m33.267s, C3, 64 laps
5. Norris (McLaren) 1m33.462s, C3, 40 laps
6. Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m33.508s, C3, 83 laps
7. Albon (Williams) 1m33.671s, C4, 74 laps
8. Zhou (Alfa Romeo) 1m33.723s, C3, 67 laps
9. Russell (Mercedes) 1m34.174s, C3, 69 laps
10. Sargeant (Williams) 1m34.324s, C3, 75 laps
11. Hulkenberg (Haas) 1m34.424s, C3, 51 laps
12. Bottas (Alfa Romeo) 1m34.558s, C3, 71 laps
13. De Vries (AlphaTauri) 1m34.559s, test, 85 laps
14. Drugovich (Aston Martin) 1m34.564s, C3, 40 laps
15. Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) 1m34.671s, C3, 46 laps
16. Gasly (Alpine) 1m34.822s, C2, 60 laps
17. Ocon (Alpine) 1m34.871s, C2, 53 laps
18. Piastri (McLaren) 1m34.888s, C3, 52 laps
19. Magnussen (Haas) 1m35.087s, C3, 57 laps