F1 Testing 2024: The five biggest headlines from Day 3 in Bahrain

Oliver Harden
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc speeds past during Bahrain F1 testing

Ferrari star Charles Leclerc will be hoping for a much-improved season after a winless 2023

Charles Leclerc ensured Ferrari finished F1 testing on top by setting the pace on the last day in Bahrain on Friday.

It was another disrupted day in Sakhir as a loose drain cover caused a red flag delay, with the lunch break canned as running carried on uninterrupted until dusk.

With the first qualifying session of 2024 less than seven days away – don’t forget the first two races are on a Saturday – here are the main headlines from Day 3 in Bahrain.

Max Verstappen compares RB20 to Red Bull’s dominant F1 2023 car

Max Verstappen has declared that the new Red Bull RB20 is “for sure” an improvement on last year’s record-breaking RB19.

Having won all but one of the 22 races last season, Red Bull were expected to evolve the dominant car of 2023 but have taken a bold new direction with the new RB20.

After putting the car through its paces in Bahrain, Verstappen is convinced he has another title contender on his hands in 2024.

Read more: Max Verstappen makes ominous RB20 declaration as F1 rivals fear the worst

Charles Leclerc encouraged by Ferrari performance

Charles Leclerc has admitted that Red Bull are “quite a bit ahead” of their rivals, but claimed Ferrari are working off a “much stronger base” compared to 2023.

Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz completed a largely trouble-free three days of running in Bahrain, with Ferrari top of the timesheets on two of the three days of testing.

Having suffered a winless 2023 season, Leclerc believes Ferrari will start 2024 in a much stronger fashion.

Read more: Charles Leclerc has ‘more hope’ for Ferrari in F1 2024 season after Bahrain test

Lewis Hamilton admits Fred Vasseur pulling power in Ferrari switch

Lewis Hamilton has admitted that his move to Ferrari for 2025 may not have materialised without the influence of team principal Fred Vasseur.

Hamilton has a longstanding relationship with Vasseur, who oversaw the British driver’s title-winning GP2 (now F2) season with the ART Grand Prix team in 2006 – the year before he was promoted to F1 with McLaren.

Facing questions in Bahrain, Hamilton has praised Vasseur’s influence in his decision to leave Mercedes at the end of the season.

Read more: Lewis Hamilton: Ferrari move ‘wouldn’t have happened’ without Fred Vasseur

Lewis Hamilton highlights ‘best ever’ feature of Mercedes pre-season

Hamilton believes Mercedes’ determination and communication during testing is the best he’s ever witnessed in his time with the team.

Mercedes enjoyed an encouraging test in Bahrain, with the new-look W15 car recording 361 laps over the course of the three-day test.

The Brackley-based team ended the final day in second spot on the timesheets, with Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell posting the second-fastest lap of the day – just 0.046 seconds adrift of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc despite running tyres that were a step harder.

After his final pre-season with his current team, Hamilton reckons the team’s desire and teamwork is as strong as he’s ever known – and he believes Mercedes have “a great platform to build on” with the W15.

Read more: Mercedes W15 optimism grows as Lewis Hamilton offers glowing praise

Guenther Steiner lands pundit role for 2024

On the day the latest series of Netflix’s Drive to Survive was released, it was announced that Guenther Steiner will be back in the Formula 1 paddock in 2024 with German broadcaster RTL signing him as a pundit for the new season.

The former Haas team principal has signed up to appear as a pundit at seven race weekends this season after Haas opted to not renew his contract at the end of last.

He has been widely credited as one of the main ‘characters’ in the huge success of docuseries Drive to Survive, with his on-camera outbursts making him a fan favourite over recent years.

Read more: Guenther Steiner lands new job in F1 paddock on eve of 2024 season