Verstappen edges out Alonso on first day of 2023 pre-season testing in Bahrain
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen continued where he left off in 2022 by topping the timesheets ahead of Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso as pre-season testing got under way at the Bahrain International Circuit on Thursday.
Verstappen led both the morning and the afternoon sessions, as the desert heat transitioned to milder twilight conditions, ending the day with a benchmark time of 1m 32.837s – a brief off-track excursion at Turn 10 the only drama to report.
While the majority of teams opted to split their running over the two sessions, Red Bull kept Verstappen in the car all day, with the Dutchman charging his way past the 150-lap milestone.
Verstappen ended the day a slender 0.029s ahead of Alonso, who rose up the timesheets in the evening after a disrupted start to proceedings for Aston Martin that included a morning stoppage for reserve driver Felipe Drugovich.
Ferrari were third and fourth with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc respectively, as new team boss Frederic Vasseur hailed the squad’s driver line-up and spoke of a positive start for the SF-23.
Lando Norris took fifth for McLaren as he made up for lost time after an unspecified stay in the garage, ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Williams’ Alex Albon, who led the morning mileage charts.
Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu posted the eighth-fastest time, just under a second off the pace, as Mercedes’ George Russell and Williams rookie Logan Sargeant – the day’s fastest newcomer – rounded out the top 10.
F1 returnee Nico Hulkenberg placed 11th as he got to grips with Haas’ new car, slotting in front of Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) and another rookie in AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries.
Drugovich wound up 14th as he recovered from his electrical-related, red flag-causing incident at the exit of Turn 4, with the reigning F2 champion giving the 2023 Aston Martin its official debut in the absence of the injured Lance Stroll.
That was not the only issue for Aston Martin on the opening day of proceedings in Sakhir, with Alonso’s afternoon session at the wheel also delayed while mechanics carried out checks on the floor of the AMR23.
Yuki Tsunoda was 15th for AlphaTauri, ahead of Alpine pair Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, with McLaren driver Oscar Piastri (2023’s other rookie) and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen rounding out the order – the field covered by just over two seconds.
The teams will now regroup in the Bahrain paddock for an evening debrief before getting back to action on Friday (1000 local time), when they will aim to build on their initial learnings and get some more meaningful mileage in the bank.