Bahrain test Day Three lunch report: P1 for Charles Leclerc, engine problems for Alfa

Michelle Foster
Charles Leclerc leads Sergio Perez in F1 2023 testing. Bahrain February 2023 design changes

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc leads Sergio Perez in testing. Bahrain February 2023

Charles Leclerc wrapped up his final pre-season run in the SF-23 with a P1 time while the curious case that is Mercedes’ W14 put George Russell up into second place.

Mercedes suffered a serious loss of downforce on Friday, prompting late-night investigations with Toto Wolff admitting they are a “bit lost” as to what was going on.

But whatever it was, and the team isn’t saying, Russell was back on form on Saturday morning as he finished four-tenths down on Leclerc.

Ferrari’s solid pre-season testing continued with Leclerc posting a best time of 1:31.024, the MonĂ©gasque driver setting his fastest time on a short run on the soft Pirellis while Russell’s time was set on the mediums.

Aston Martin’s Felipe Drugovich was third, good news for the team given the reserve driver may yet be drafted in to replace the injured Lance Stroll at next weekend’s season-opening grand prix.

Unlike on Friday when those in Bahrain had to wait until the afternoon’s session for the first stoppage, Sergio Perez provided an early one on Saturday when a sensor strip fell off his Red Bull RB19.

The session was briefly halted to safely allow a marshal to retrieve the sensor.

Meanwhile Oscar Piastri had an impressive spin at Turn 9 when he lost it under braking into the corner and ended up in the run-off area. Aside from the tyres, he got away with that one.

He was soon back on track only to again return to the pits, this time so that McLaren could work on the MCL60’s front wheel deflectors – same problem as earlier in testing.

McLaren said they were “conducting some temporary strengthening work on the front winglets to ensure we can complete today’s running.

“It’s a very minor issue that will be permanently fixed for the grand prix next weekend.”

Another team to experience a hardware problem was Ferrari, Leclerc losing a bit of track time as his higher downforce wing had DRS activation problems.

Ferrari had started the day with a new more loaded rear wing, one equipped with a mono-pylon support, but problems with the right side flap of the DRS meant Ferrari were forced to change back to the medium load wing they ran on the first two days of testing.

Back on track with that problem resolved Leclerc hit the front with a 1:31.024 to relegate Russell.

But it was Valtteri Bottas who brought out the only serious red of the morning, the Finn coming to a halt at Turn 8 with a suspected power unit problem.

His Alfa Romeo notably made a strange noise before Bottas quickly pulled over in the run-off area.

The session ended with Leclerc quickest of all ahead of Russell and Drugovich with Perez fourth fastest. The Mexican driver didn’t do a soft tyre run, sticking to the mediums and finishing 1.4s down on the P1 time.

Pierre Gasly was fifth ahead of Alex Albon, Nico Hulkenberg, Piastri, Bottas and Nyck de Vries.

Times

1 Charles LECLERC Ferrari 1:31.024 67 laps
2 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.418 83 laps
3 Felipe DRUGOVICH Aston Martin +1.051 77 laps
4 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +1.435 69 laps
5 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.738 56 laps
6 Alexander ALBON Williams +1.769 53 laps
7 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +2.305 77 laps
8 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +2.631 42 laps
9 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +5.830 72 laps
10 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +7.220 87 laps