4 Winners and 4 Losers from pre-season testing – Who was left craving more time in Bahrain?

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
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Red Bull appeared to be a class above the rest in pre-season testing, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez feeling instantly home in the RB20. A few others had plenty to smile about, too, but some were left craving more time and more mileage ahead of the season opener. So, for the first time this season, we’ve picked out four winners and four losers from three days of testing at the Bahrain International Circuit…

Winners: Red Bull

Red Bull got people talking from the moment they unveiled their 2024 challenger – the RB20 – at their Milton Keynes base earlier this month, and their antics on track in testing did nothing to dampen the overwhelming feeling the reigning world champions have built a monster of a car for this season.

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Verstappen and Perez managed 390 laps between them, putting them third on the mileage charts. When you dig into the quality of that running, you’ll find a machine that was quickest in the qualifying simulations by 0.28s and 0.10s ahead in race trim.

This is only testing, of course, but it’s likely Red Bull have only just scratched the surface with their dramatically different car – and could well stretch their legs as they learn more about how to extract the maximum potential.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 23: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20

Red Bull's RB20 got people talking from the moment it was unveiled

Losers: Alpine

Alpine moved to play down expectations at their launch – and that strategy continued into testing as they remained largely anonymous during the three days of running.

Boss Bruno Famin said they completed their planned programme – however they were only eighth in the mileage charts, clocking up 200 fewer kilometres compared to what they achieved last year.

Their race simulation pace wasn’t too bad – the Enstone team fifth in the rankings, 0.06s per lap slower than Aston Martin and while they were a less impressive ninth in qualifying trim, a caveat is they were the only team other than McLaren not to bring any soft tyres to testing.

READ MORE: 5 key questions that need answering after 2024 pre-season testing in Bahrain

Winners: Ferrari

Ferrari were one of the big winners in pre-season testing – not because they set the pace on the final day of testing but rather they seem to have cured the tyre degradation issues that plagued them on a Grand Prix afternoon last year.

Both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz said they felt so much more confident when pushing the car, which was much more predictable and compliant compared to the Prancing Horse’s predecessor.

While Ferrari tend to be strong around Bahrain anyway, they can take heart from their impressive race simulations – which puts them as Red Bull’s chief challengers 0.1s off the pace – while still retaining a decent turn of speed over one-lap (they were a match for Mercedes and 0.3s adrift of Red Bull.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 23: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-24 on track

Ferrari look to have cured tyre degradation issues that hurt them in 2023

Losers: Haas

It might seem harsh to put Haas in the losers category given the disruptive winter they endured with Team Principal Guenther Steiner and Technical Director Simone Resta leaving the operation and the fact they topped the mileage charts in testing.

Yes, they will be pleased to have clocked up over 400 laps of the Bahrain International Circuit and delivered lap times to suggest they won’t be cut adrift of the field, despite having diverted a lot of resource to their Austin upgrade last year rather than the new car.

But the reality is the team are likely to struggle to get out of Q1 and fight for points at this weekend’s season opener in the Bahraini desert.

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Winners: Mercedes

Technical Director James Allison cut an optimistic figure after pre-season testing concluded. Sure, Mercedes won’t be happy until they are fighting for race wins and championships again – but given the world of pain they found themselves in at testing last year, their much-improved situation is certainly something to write home about.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell reported the car was much nicer to drive than last year’s car (which was referred to by Hamilton as the 2022 machine’s evil sister as it was slow and unpredictable).

Importantly, they feel like they’ve got a good base to work with and add performance and thus, while they know they are still someway off challenging Red Bull consistently for wins, if they get the development right this year they feel there’s scope to get in the fight.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 22: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have both reported that the W15 is nicer to drive than its predecessor

Losers: Williams

When you change concept as dramatically as Williams have over the winter, there are always going to be challenges when you put the car on the track – and that’s what transpired with a series of mechanical gremlins costing the British team precious mileage.

But they responded to every problem impressively – and by the final day, there were shoots of hope that the new car was a step forward and should be competitive on a greater range of circuits, rather than just the circuits that rewarded good straight-line speed and low drag.

Alex Albon’s last race simulation was pretty decent, relative to the likes of Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin, and that will give Williams hope that if they can understand their new machine quickly, this season could represent another step towards the sharp end.

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Winners: RB

RB were one of the dark horses of pre-season testing, with Daniel Ricciardo putting the team inside the top-five on each of the last two days of running. Yes, it’s not worth reading into times – but their mileage was good – 366 was only 24 laps shy of Red Bull – and both Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda ran largely trouble-free.

Boss Laurent Mekies and CEO Peter Bayer have moved to calm expectations of the season, the team’s call to push development hard until the end of last year means it’s likely we won’t see a big step in terms of upgrades until mid-season.

However, the car they ended last year with was very strong and together with a Red Bull-spec front and rear (both last year’s spec) that did wonders for the world champions in 2023, there’s a good chance they’ll be fighting towards the sharp end of the midfield early doors.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 22: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB prepares to drive in the

Could RB one of the dark horses through the year?

Losers: Aston Martin

Aston Martin were reasonably happy with their efforts in pre-season testing – and to end up fourth in both our race simulation and qualifying-spec calculations is by no means something to scoff at.

However, billionaire Lawrence Stroll’s team have hefty ambitions – and after the mega step they made over the winter last year, they will perhaps have hoped to have been a bit closer to the sharp end than testing suggests they are.

We’ve only had three days of testing, though, and with an aggressive development plan in the pipeline and a car they hope will be more receptive to new parts, the best may yet be to come.

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