Ominous signs as Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s RB19 ‘hit the ground running’

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen in the Red Bull RB19. F1 testing Bahrain February 2023.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen tests the RB19 on the first day of action. Bahrain February 2023.

Max Verstappen topped the timesheets and completed more laps than anyone else in testing on Thursday, and Red Bull engineer GianPiero Lambiase acknowledged the team “hit the ground running” in Bahrain.

The reigning World Champion covered 157 laps of the Bahrain International Circuit as the only driver to complete a full day behind the wheel on Thursday, with the other teams opting to split their drivers for the morning and afternoon sessions.

But Verstappen’s outright confidence in the car from the off was coupled with the quickest lap of the day, alongside comfortable reliability as the Dutchman was able to go about his business without issue throughout proceedings in Sakhir.

He spoke separately of the RB19 being a case of evolution rather than revolution, which when its predecessor won 17 of 22 races last season makes plenty of sense, and it appears the team very much picked up where they left off last season.

This enabled Verstappen to focus on the small details almost immediately – an encouraging sign as the team set about defending both titles this season.

“We had a good day today, we completed a lot of laps which is what we wanted – almost three Grand Prix’s worth,” Verstappen said afterwards.

“It was also a smooth day; we barely had any issues and we could really focus on the car and try a few things. We had a lot of good running throughout the day when it was hot and sunny and also in the evening which is more representative. It’s nice to see how the car has evolved from last year.

“The behaviour is a bit different because of the tyres but otherwise, we are happy. It’s difficult to tell how the car will perform this season through one day of testing, the car is running well and that’s the most important thing. I’ll be running again tomorrow afternoon, so we’ll be trying out different compounds and seeing what else we can learn before the race next week.”

And Verstappen’s long-time race engineer Lambiase echoed the Red Bull driver’s positivity, taking it further by saying the team were able to get straight to the nitty gritty as soon as testing began – which is testament to their efforts behind the scenes at Milton Keynes over winter.

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“Today was a promising start to the 2023 season as we were able to complete the planned program without major reliability concerns,” Lambiase said.

“Everyone’s hard work over the winter has really paid off as the car hit the ground running in terms of balance, and we were able to concentrate on testing various broader aerodynamic and mechanical configurations to better understand the new platform as well as the subtly modified tyre construction.

“We will continue to focus on ourselves and ensure we are as prepared for the first race as we can be by following a similar method over the next two days.

“There’s plenty of data analysis to do this evening, and then we look forward to Checo experiencing his first taste of the RB19 tomorrow. For Max, he has just four hours remaining before his season kicks off, so he needs to recover well overnight.”