F1 2023 pre-season testing guide: Schedule, driver line-ups and how to live stream

Michelle Foster

Mercedes open to the idea of returning to Bahrain for testing in the future.

Just over three months after Formula 1’s last group outing, the drivers will hit the track at the Bahrain International Circuit on Thursday for the start of a three-day pre-season outing.

But don’t let the lap times fool you, they mean nothing.

This season, the second with the new generation of ground effect aerodynamic cars, the teams have been limited to just three days of pre-season running.

The reasoning behind that was two-fold. The regulations were, at least initially, expected to remain the same from 2022 to 2023 meaning the teams didn’t need as much on-track time while the second reason is of course costs, and keeping those down.

What is pre-season testing?

Pre-season testing is the on-track time where the teams, in a group session, can work on preparing their cars for the upcoming season.

While as recently as 2010 they had 12 days of running, three days apiece, that has been whittled down over the years, down to three tests, then two and this year there’s just one.

The teams will be in action at the 5.412-kilometre Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir from Thursday morning through to Saturday evening where the aim of the game is quite simply to eradicate all niggles, perfect the car’s set-up, and find a spot of speed. Simple, isn’t it?

Although last season, with their DNFs mounting, Christian Horner declared he’d “rather fix a fast car than try to make a reliable and slow one fast”, what the teams ultimately want is both.

But if you ask most bosses, they’ll say a reliable car in pre-season testing is the big tick as from there they can work on improving the set-up and the speed.

An unreliable car means the team goes into the season-opening race often with a lot of question marks and they have to spend the first few races trying to understand what’s going on.

It’s always reliability over pace in the pre-season. In fact having pace in testing doesn’t always bode well for a Formula 1 team, just ask Ferrari.

Time and again in recent years the Scuderia have ‘won’ pre-season testing only to find themselves trailing come race one.

That’s because teams often sandbag, the term used for downplaying the pace of the car. They may eventually turn up the engine and put minimal fuel in the car on the final day, or they may opt not to if they’re confident enough in the car to surprise their rivals come the first qualifying of the season.

What to keep an eye on

Reliability and porpoising will be the two key points this season as the teams hope to have the first and not the second.

Last season Alfa Romeo and Haas had nightmare starts to pre-season testing, both losing vital track time through reliability problems while McLaren had brake issues that the team said put them on the back foot so badly they struggled to recover throughout the first half of the season.

Mercedes also lost time but that wasn’t through reliability, that was porpoising.

This year the FIA have tweaked the floors of the cars to try limit the bouncing so all eyes will be on that, especially over at Mercedes as they had the worst of it last season.

None of the teams will know for sure until their cars hit the track on Thursday whether or not they’ve been able to curb it or if their constant drive to find extra downforce has made them the bouncers of 2023.

After that a cursory glance at the timesheet, especially on the final day, is always something worth doing but don’t place your Bahrain Grand Prix bets based on that, you will most likely find youself out of pocket.

Driver line-ups

For Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri and Williams’ Logan Sargeant, Day One of this year’s pre-season testing marks their first pre-season as Formula 1 drivers. And what a moment it will be for the two rookies.

Nico Hulkenberg will experience his first since 2019 while for Lewis Hamilton this is pre-season number 17, and number 20 for Fernando Alonso.

Red Bull
Thursday: Verstappen
Friday Perez/Verstappen
Saturday: Perez

Thursday: Sainz/Leclerc
Friday: Sainz/Leclerc
Saturday: Leclerc/Sainz


Thursday: Russell/Hamilton
Friday: Hamilton/Russell
Saturday: Russell/Hamilton


Thursday: Gasly/Ocon
Friday: Ocon/Gasly
Saturday: Gasly/Ocon


Thursday: Piastri/Norris
Friday: Norris/Piastri
Saturday: Piastri/Norris

Alfa Romeo

Thursday: Zhou/Bottas
Friday: Zhou/Zhou
Saturday: Bottas/Bottas

Aston Martin

Thursday: Drugovich/Alonso
Friday: Alonso
Saturday: Drugovich/Alonso

Thursday: Hulkenberg/Magnussen
Friday: Magnussen/Hulkenberg
Saturday:  Hulkenberg/Magnussen

Thursday: Tsunoda/De Vries
Friday: Tsunoda/De Vries
Saturday: De Vries/Tsunoda


Thursday: Albon/Sargeant
Friday: Sargeant
Saturday: Albon

Weather forecast

Opting to do away with testing in Europe and its February cold, the Formula 1 teams can look forward to a hot three-day outing in Sakhir.

The temperatures will therefore be more in line with what they can expect at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, which will be followed by Saudi Arabia, Australia and Azerbaijan.

Thursday will be a maximum of 23, followed by Friday’s 26 and Saturday’s 25.

The wind will also pick up over the course of the three days, which could pose a bit of a problem as sand is blown across the track.

How to watch and follow testing

F1 fans around the world can follow pre-season testing on F1 TV via the Pro subscription. Use this link to sign-up and get yourself ready for all the pre-season action!

Those in the United Kingdom also have access to Sky Sports, who will have full and comprehensive coverage of the three track days. The action begins at 10am local time, running through to 7:30pm.

In GMT times that means…

Thursday 23 February
Session 1 – 07:00am – 11:15am
Session 2 – 12:15pm – 4:30pm

Friday 24 February
Session 1 – 07:00am – 11:15am
Session 2 – 12:15pm – 4:30pm

Saturday 25 February

Session 1 – 07:00am – 11:15am
Session 2 – 12:15pm – 4:30pm