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Verstappen leads first morning of pre-season testing in Bahrain

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Max Verstappen and Red Bull continued where they left off last year by setting the pace on the opening morning of pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit.

As per 12 months ago in the Sakhir desert, each of the three days will be split into two sessions, with the first running from 1000 to 1400 local time and the second from 1500 to 1900.

LIVE COVERAGE: Follow all the action from Day 1 of Pre-Season Testing

George Russell was the first driver to hit the track just after the green light switched on at the end of the pit lane, kickstarting a wide range of runs as teams attempt to learn as much as possible about their new cars.

As the morning wore on, reigning world champion Verstappen got down to a time of 1m 32.548s, despite moments at Turn 5 and Turn 8, while also working his way past a race distance on Pirelli’s harder tyre compounds.

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Charles Leclerc slotted into second for Ferrari, some seven-tenths away from Verstappen, with Fernando Alonso just over a tenth further back in his Aston Martin.

McLaren and Oscar Piastri were next up in fourth place, followed by RB’s Yuki Tsunoda, who ran slightly wide at Turn 4 on one of his runs, while the aforementioned Russell rounded out the top six positions.

READ MORE: Who’s driving on Day 1 of pre-season testing in Bahrain?

That was despite the Briton spending a large portion of the session in the garage as Mercedes made car changes, sitting down in ninth until the closing minutes when he usurped Kick Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas and Williams’ Alex Albon.

Albon and Esteban Ocon also had moments en route to eighth and ninth respectively, the Williams going off track at Turn 10 and Ocon escaping from a trip through the gravel at the exit of Turn 4.

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Visa Cash App RB VCARB 01 on

There was plenty of flow-vis paint on display throughout the morning session

It got worse for Albon with just under half an hour remaining on the morning clock when he slowed down the main straight and pulled off the track at Turn 3, bringing out the yellow flags.

Haas, meanwhile, encountered both a loose aero rake and a suspected fuel problem, leaving Magnussen at the foot of the order, just over three seconds off the pace.

IN PHOTOS: Every 2024 F1 car on track during pre-season testing in Bahrain

A host of driver changes will take place during the one-hour lunch break, with Ferrari, McLaren, Aston Martin, Alpine, Williams, RB, Kick Sauber and Haas all splitting their days.

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