Verstappen sets the pace

Sakhir, 21 February – It seems the 2024 season is starting the way the last one finished, in other words, with Verstappen leading the field. The three times world champion was quickest on the first of three days of testing at the Sakhir Circuit, which hosts the first race of the season next week. Verstappen’s best lap was a 1:31.344, almost a second and a half quicker than his best time (1:32.837) on the first day of last year’s test here. While it’s true that testing times have to be taken with a pinch of salt, it is nevertheless a strong sign.

As was the case at last year’s Bahrain test, Verstappen was behind the wheel of his Red Bull for the whole day and he was also the driver to have completed the most laps (143). George Russell was the only driver to be seen in the Mercedes, completing 122 laps, while all the other teams gave both their drivers track time over the morning and afternoon sessions.

Behind Verstappen on the time sheet were Lando Norris (McLaren) best time 1:32.484, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz (1:32.584) and Racing Bulls driver Daniel Ricciardo (1:32.599). Nine of the ten teams managed to do over 100 laps, with Williams the only team not to make into the three digits on 61. The team able to gather the most data was Haas, with a whisker over the 800 kilometres at 800.976. The total across all drivers today was 1236 laps, equivalent to 6,689.232 kilometres.

With over 4,400 kilometres to its name, the C3 was the top pick of the day. Next week for the Bahrain Grand Prix, it will be the softest of the three compounds available, a logical move given that this compound will be part of all the selected trio of tyres.

 “It’s been a very interesting and useful day in Sakhir,” commented Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director. “We collected data that will be useful in assessing how progress made by all the teams with their new cars in terms of aerodynamic downforce will impact tyre behaviour. Furthermore, we have seen teams adopt different approaches, especially when it came to the long runs: for example, some, such as Ferrari and Williams, focussed on a single compound, working on adapting the car set-up to get it working at its best, while others like Mercedes and Red Bull, worked with various compounds.”