Max Verstappen set the pace on the opening day of the pre-season test in Bahrain, leaving world champions in his wake.
Despite the fact that teams typically do not show their cars’ full potential during pre-season testing, Verstappen and his Red Bull team did not disappoint.
Verstappen’s RB19 ran for the entirety of the day, completing 157 laps, nearly three full race distances. Meanwhile, most teams split their running between two drivers.
The new Red Bull car has some notable upgrades, including undercuts on the sidepods, which refine the airflow to the rear. These changes make Verstappen’s third championship seem like a strong possibility.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was second quickest, with a lap time just 0.029 seconds slower than Verstappen’s.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were third and fourth fastest, respectively, with McLaren’s Lando Norris and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton rounding out the top six.
Alex Albon, who was testing for Williams, placed seventh, while Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu was eighth.
Alonso’s quick lap came later in the day when conditions were more favorable for quicker times, but his second-place finish is a good omen for him and his new team.
Verstappen’s performance and his RB19’s speed impressed many during the first day of testing.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff stated that this year’s first day of testing was a vast improvement over last year’s, during which the team encountered significant issues with the car’s performance, which they were unable to fix, presaging a challenging season.
Wolff is optimistic that they have a strong base to work from and improve the car’s performance.
The pre-season test is only the first step in the long road to the 2023 season, but it is a good indicator of what is to come in the upcoming races.