F1 testing 2024: Max Verstappen ends Day 1 with big gap to F1 rivals in Bahrain

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen leaves the garage in F1 testing.

Max Verstappen leaves the garage.

Max Verstappen finished the first day of F1 testing over a full second faster than the rest of the field in Bahrain, and while it is only testing, it’s fair to say he looked comfortable with the RB20 from the off.

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Day 1 concludes with Max Verstappen on top in Bahrain

Following on from a busy morning session that saw Max Verstappen top the timesheets, the Red Bull driver continued in his car for the afternoon session while the majority of teams opted to swap their drivers for the second half of the day.

Pierre Gasly, Nico Hulkenberg, Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Logan Sargeant, Lance Stroll and Zhou Guanyu all subbed in for their respective team-mates for the afternoon’s action, with George Russell the only other driver completing a full day’s running in Bahrain for Mercedes.

For McLaren driver Norris, he was sporting a tribute helmet in the colours of Gil de Ferran, former McLaren sporting director and Indy 500 winner who sadly passed away just after Christmas.

And after the first hour, Norris put himself third in the overall standings on the C3 tyre, 0.544s off Verstappen’s benchmark, while Ferrari driver Sainz went to within just 0.036s of top spot.

The progression of the afternoon and into the evening would also see the sun set over Sakhir, with track temperature cooling and the floodlights eventually take over.

These conditions in turn would lend itself to faster times for the drivers if they chose to push harder over a full lap, and Norris, on his 16th tour of the circuit midway through the session clocked a 1:32.484, nudging 0.064s clear of Verstappen.

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But 15 minutes later, with some flow-vis paint on his rear wing Verstappen wound up for his first flying run of the session and went comfortably faster than Norris, some eight tenths quicker than everyone else on the C3 tyre in the process.

After Alex Albon came to a halt late on in the morning session, his team-mate Sargeant was sent into a spin in the tricky braking zone at Turns 9 and 10, losing his rear end and spinning a full 360 degrees, but the American was able to crawl through the gravel trap in the run-off area and keep himself going – albeit with a ruined set of tyres.

Elsewhere, Ricciardo placed his RB fourth fastest with just over 90 minutes to go as the floodlights took hold, though he was 1.2 seconds off Verstappen’s benchmark.

But another issue for Sargeant came as his gearbox sounded as though it had an issue, an upshift out of Turn 8 making his FW46 sound as though there was a problem within it. He did the sensible thing and trundled back to the pit lane, but that curtailed his running for a significant portion of his afternoon and evening, Williams confirming a driveshaft issue soon afterwards.

That left Williams as the only team come the end of the day which did not clock up over 100 laps, though they still managed more than a race distance under their belts in a day of reliable running overall throughout the grid.

Out on a new set of tyres in the final half-hour, Verstappen went out on a cooler track and took another three tenths off his quickest time, putting himself a full second clear of the rest of the field.

The actual lap times themselves are pretty immaterial at this stage, given the amount of work still to do over the next two days of running in Bahrain and the amount of sandbagging likely taking place between the teams.

But that said, Verstappen’s headline time was still one that caught attention come the end of the first day of pre-season testing.

F1 Testing 2024: Day 1 leaderboard

[All quickest times set on C3 tyres unless stated]

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:31.344 143 laps
2 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.140 73 laps
3 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +1.240 69 laps
4 Daniel RICCIARDO RB +1.255 52 laps
5 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.461 61 laps
6 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.663 54 laps
7 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +1.903 64 laps
8 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +2.041 77 laps
9 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +2.314 57 laps
10 Guanyu ZHOU Kick Sauber +2.527 63 laps
11 Logan SARGEANT Williams +2.538 21 laps
12 George RUSSELL Mercedes +2.765 122 laps
13 Yuki TSUNODA RB +2.792 64 laps
14 Valtteri BOTTAS Kick Sauber +3.087 68 laps
15 Alexander ALBON Williams +3.243 40 laps [C4 tyres]
16 Esteban OCON Alpine +3.333 60 laps [C1 tyres]
17 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +4.348 66 laps
18 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +4.562 82 laps

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