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What we've really learned from pre-season testing


One of the oldest adages in F1, indeed motor sport, is that to finish first, first you have to finish, and there is no arguing with that.

How many times over the years have we seen a team - yes, we mean you Ferrari - with great pace throw it all away due to poor reliability or strategy.

While the pre-season test doesn't tell us whether the likes of Ferrari has improved the strategic side of its package, it does tell us that the SF-24 is the fastest car out there.

Through the speed-trap the SF-24 and RB20 were both measured at 198.2 mph (319 km/h) compared to the Mercedes and Aston Martin at 197.6 mph (318 km/h) and the McLaren at 195 mph (315 km/h).

And while the Red Bull was quickest through fast corners, ahead of the McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin, in slow corners it was the SF-24 that ruled, edging out the Red Bull and Mercedes.

However, ignoring the fact that we are not privy to such information as fuel loads or engine modes, all that pace counts for nought if reliability is poor.

Last year the Red Bull was essentially bulletproof, finishing 95% of the times it started, this compared to Mercedes (89%), Ferrari (86%) and Aston Martin (88%). McLaren's reliability was 91%, but let's not forget the Woking outfit's poor start to the season.

A high number of laps is not only a sign of good reliability, the more laps a team can complete the more data it can acquire, and in contemporary F1 data is everything.

So, after three days of testing, marred only by the Bahrain International Circuit's errant drain covers, Haas appears to have good reliability, if a total lack of pace... and that's without even thinking about the tyre issues that plagued the American outfit throughout 2023.

Ferrari also appears to have good reliability and was ahead of Red Bull and Aston Martin, while Mercedes and particularly McLaren appear to have work to do.

At the other end of the timesheets, Alex Albon looks as though he's going to have his work cut out at Williams, while Alpine is also facing a tough time of it. On the other hand the prospects at Sauber look a little brighter.

Another tantalising aspect to all this is that traditionally Spain has been the race where teams would introduce their first significant upgrades of the season. However, this year the Barcelona event is the tenth race on the calendar, with the opening six events being fly-aways, leaving Imola as the first European race.

Consequently, while it is entirely possible that teams will introduce upgrades sooner rather than later, in a situation similar to that which McLaren encountered last season, it could be some time before a struggling outfit might turn things around.

While the likes of Alonso, Leclerc and Hamilton are already appearing to hand the title to Red Bull, there is a long, long way to go, and while we still see Max and the RB20 as favourites we do not believe that we will witness the same sort of domination as witnessed last year.

In an effort to keep fans glued to their seats - once they've binge watched the latest series of Drive to Survive - Liberty and its media (PR) slaves will be working like crazy to 'big up' any potential threat to Red Bull's domination.

However, without needing to resort to such nonsense, we genuinely believe that while the RB20 is looking to be the best out there, there will be a number of times when Max and Sergio have a genuine fight on their hands.

Driver Test Mileage

Driver Team Laps Miles Kms
Magnussen Haas 239 803.7 1293.5
Sainz Ferrari 224 753.3 1212.3
Ricciardo RB 210 706.2 1136.5
Verstappen Red Bull 208 699.5 1125.7
Hulkenberg Haas 200 672.6 1082.4
Stroll Aston Martin 196 659.1 1060.8
Bottas Stake 193 649.0 1044.5
Ocon Alpine 193 649.0 1044.5
Leclerc Ferrari 192 645.7 1039.1
Russel Mercedes 189 635.6 1022.9
Zhou Stake 185 622.1 1001.2
Alonso Aston Martin 182 612.1 985.0
Perez Red Bull 182 612.1 985.0
Piastri McLaren 182 612.1 985.0
Hamilton Mercedes 172 578.4 930.9
Albon Williams 160 538.1 865.9
Tsunoda RB 156 524.6 844.3
Norris McLaren 145 487.6 784.7
Gasly Alpine 141 474.2 763.1
Sargeant Williams 138 464.1 746.9

Team Test Mileage

Team Laps Miles Kms
Haas 439 1476.3 2375.9
Ferrari 416 1399.0 2251.4
Red Bull 390 1311.6 2110.7
Aston Martin 378 1271.2 2045.7
Stake 378 1271.2 2045.7
RB 366 1230.8 1980.8
Mercedes 361 1214.0 1953.7
Alpine 334 1123.2 1807.6
McLaren 327 1099.7 1769.7
Williams 298 1002.2 1612.8

Engine Manufacturer Test Mileage

Engine Manufacturer Laps Miles Kms
Mercedes 1364 4587.1 7382.0
Ferrari 1233 4146.5 6673.0
Honda 756 2542.4 4091.5
Renault 334 1123.2 1807.6

Check out our Testing galleries from Bahrain, here.


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1. Posted by kenji, 26/02/2024 5:17

"@ Chester....glad to see that there are still some fully paid up philogynists out there."

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2. Posted by Celtic Tiger, 26/02/2024 0:33

"I agree, to me, it looks like Red Bull are the team to beat this year. MV is humbly positive about the car which means that its bloody quick. By most accounts the RB20 circulates the Bahrain International Circuit as if it were on rails.

I think, Ferrari and Mercedes are very close together with their cars. Just like last year, it'll be up to the drivers and strategy to make the difference between the two. But I think Ferrari might have a slightly better shot at ruining RBR's day with the odd win.
Aston Martin and VCARB could be the upstarts of the usual pecking order. The worst car out there appears to be the Stake/Kick Sauber.

I'd love a real season long street fight between RBR and Ferrari but I think we'll be into the '24 season with a similar flavor of '23. I'm just hoping at this point that the RB20 doesn't sweep the top spot 99% of the time.

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3. Posted by Editor, 25/02/2024 12:42

"Please note that this article concerns pre-season testing, it is not about the ongoings at Red Bull and it is certainly not intended to be used as a vehicle for the reposting of unsubstantiated claims by various other sections of the media.

Over the last couple of years the sport has gone downhill as Liberty, with the help of many of those in the paddock, seek to turn it into an entertainment package. This is bad enough, but adding all the elements of a scandal-ridden soap is just a step too far.

Do not encourage them... we certainly won’t."

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4. Posted by Chester, 25/02/2024 12:39

"Very good synopsis and analysis, Editor. Sifting through the data, you have likely produced the best take.

While many may shudder, my maleness would go wild over seeing Taylor Swift and Danica Patrick discuss things pre-race. Both in short skirts, please!


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5. Posted by kenji, 25/02/2024 12:26 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 25/02/2024 12:31)

"If Horner is actually proved to have transgressed the idealogical boundaries then it's quite possible that a phased withdrawal could be negotiated in order to lessen the impact on market sensitivities. That benefits all concerned and will establish some return to a degree polite sensibilities. My experience leads me to believe that there are so many 'unknowns' in cases like this that trying to make informed opinions is fraught with danger.

How this finally plays out will be an exercise in assymetric media control strategy. What with an imminent start to the season, an attempt to nobble Red Bull when they are under maximum pressure to get their season underwaye and the Andretti puzzle adds more than a fleeting frisson of highly charged anticipation. Wow..... '24 is going to be some year.

NB: This post has been edited"

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6. Posted by Spindoctor, 25/02/2024 11:03

"@Editor - good point about overshadowing the 1st race, though maybe they could time it to break *after* that?

I guess it depends if Formula1 is now still mainly a Sport, or is it developing into a multimedia franchise focused on streaming media, drama, merchandising & the occasional race thrown in."

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7. Posted by Editor, 25/02/2024 10:27

"@ Spindoctor

In all honesty, with the first race under a week away, if Horner was going he'd have gone by now.

Were he to be fired in the coming days it would overshadow one of the most important races of the year... the season opener.

Then again, think what an opening episode it would make for Series 7 of Drive to Survive as Taylor Swift joins Danica Patrick for the commentary."

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8. Posted by Spindoctor, 25/02/2024 10:01 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 25/02/2024 12:31)

"I think it would be unwise to bet against Red Bull\Verstappen, though the internal politics of the team might prove grist to the DTS franchise.
"Best of the rest" is an impossible call. Mercedes *might* have been sandbagging more than the others, which would give them hope. If the car is still a bit rubbish, & if Russel is now team leader I can't see them getting there. I'll go with Ferrari, assuming they can get the strategy right & don't disintegrate into in-team politicking."

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