TESTING DEBRIEF: How the field stack up after the final day of pre-season running in 2024

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto

Ferrari topped the timesheets on the final day of pre-season testing in Bahrain – but it was Red Bull that had everyone talking after they completed another silky-smooth day that left their rivals in no doubt they remain the ones to beat in 2024. But did Day 3 give us any signs the chasing pack can give the reigning world champions some grief across a record-breaking 2024 calendar?

Red Bull’s RB20 looks menacing

Like most teams, Red Bull focused heavily on long running to get a better understanding of their RB20 – which is a dramatically different offering to its predecessor – and the results were positive, with Max Verstappen saying the “performance of the car was very strong”.

READ MORE: Verstappen explains Red Bull’s focus after final day of ‘very positive’ pre-season test

His team mate Sergio Perez was equally happy, the Mexican saying he has a “very positive” feeling – with his feedback suggesting he was able to get comfortable with the car and was adaptable as they tweaked set-ups – two things he struggled to do consistently last year.

Naturally, Red Bull have moved to play down their impressive showing on the final day – when Verstappen and Perez split the running – but the overwhelming feeling elsewhere in the paddock is that they are a class above.

And the data backs it up. Our numbers suggest they have a 0.2s advantage per lap on Mercedes and Ferrari in the long runs, based on today’s running, and they hold the same advantage over Ferrari on a single lap.

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Mercedes continue solid start

Mercedes are not getting too excited about their 2024 challenger, the W15, but there is a noticeable bump in their mood relative to this time last year.

Technical chief James Allison said the team were in a “world of pain” in 2023’s pre-season, when it became clear they had made a mistake with their car. But as they closed out Day 3 of the 2024 test, both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton reckon they are in good shape heading into the opener.

READ MORE: ‘The stars aligned’ – Hamilton reveals the key factors behind his shock Ferrari switch

Hamilton clocked the second highest daily lap total of the test, completing 123 tours of the Bahrain International Circuit – as he reported the car continued to feel more drivable and consistent compared to the W14.

The data suggests they are in tight fight with Ferrari on long run pace – based on their efforts on Friday – but a step back when it comes to single-lap running, with Russell looking like he was on the edge as he did a few performance runs towards the end of the day.

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Ferrari make a clean sweep of decent days

Ferrari cut encouraged figures on Day 1 of testing – and that feeling remained through the second day and into Friday.

Charles Leclerc reported that the car is “reacting the way that we wanted it to” and that the feeling is “better than the base we started from last year”.

READ MORE: Why Ferrari fans can be encouraged by what testing has suggested

Their long runs on Friday were once again competitive, adding weight to the argument they have made gains in the area they had been most keen to improve in. They were second in the race pace rankings, with the team seeing from the data that they were able to keep the tyres alive much longer and in a more consistent window across all of the stints during a race sim.

They seem to still be lacking relative to Red Bull – but they are at least in the mix in the chasing pack behind. And a solid base gives them the stability to add performance through the season if they get their development and upgrades right.

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F1 pre-season testing 2024: Day 3 Highlights

Aston Martin not quite as strong as last year

Last year’s pre-season test session was a delight for Aston Martin, the green cars emerging as a shock rival to class-leaders Red Bull.

They’ve maintained a lower profile this year, however boss Mike Krack reckons they have “taken a step forward over the winter” adding they have delivered “gains and performance in key areas”.

READ MORE: Leclerc ends Day 3 of pre-season testing on top as the action concludes in Bahrain

Their race run on Day 2 wasn’t very impressive. However, Fernando Alonso’s efforts on the C1 – the hardest of the compounds in Pirelli’s range – on Friday suggested they are very much in the mix for best of the rest when it comes to race pace.

They’re around four tenths of a second per lap adrift of Red Bull according to the numbers our data team crunched from Friday, putting them P4. So, while it’s not as exciting as last year, they remain firmly in the fight.



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