Red Bull Runs Laps Around Other Teams During First Day of F1 Pre-Season Testing

Verstappen's top time cleared the rest of the field by 1.1 seconds and he ran a massive total of 143 laps.

Depending on who you ask, it’s been a very long or a very short Formula 1 off-season. While many of the drivers travel around, party a bit, and get some much-needed time with their loved ones, most team personnel spend long days and nights at the factory dreading the first day of pre-season testing. Well, that day has come and gone, and here are some takeaways.


Red Bull Is Still on Top

No surprises here. Pre-season testing isn’t about lap times or even about going fast—it’s about shaking down the car, making sure the old bits are still working, and the new bits are operating as expected. Things were working so well for Red Bull and Max Verstappen that they went long, racking up 143 laps in the new RB20. That’s nearly two races worth of laps around the Bahrain International Circuit.

“It feels good to be back in an F1 car again and I had fun out on track today,” Verstappen told “We covered a lot of laps and tried quite a few things with the car, which was important, so happy overall with how it went. After the winter break, the first few laps always surprise you a little but then you get back into the swing of things pretty quickly. Overall, the car was responding well and considering this was only testing we had a nice day.”

The three-time world champ’s best lap of 1:31.344 was 1.1 seconds faster than the McLaren of Lando Norris, though that’s kind of irrelevant at this point. What is relevant is that it’s 1.5 seconds faster than during last year’s test. If anything, that shows just how much Red Bull Racing has developed the car over the last 12 months.

With Wednesday dedicated to Verstappen, it’ll be Sergio Perez who gets behind the wheel on Thursday.


Mercedes W15 Is “Nicer to Drive”

George Russell was on driving duty Wednesday, claiming to focus on a positive start to the year rather than worrying about the timesheets. And positive it was, at least in terms of reliability, as the Brit wrapped up the day just 21 laps shy of Verstappen, logging in a hefty 122 laps.

“It was great to drive the W15 for the first time in anger today. From hitting the ground, it felt like we had a good foundation to start from. We completed lots of laps and have plenty of data to go through tonight,” Russell told “We ended the day in a reasonably good spot, and we can build from here over the next two days.”

It’ll be a crucial year for the Silver Arrows, as they try to build up on whatever momentum they had during the closing stages of the 2023 season. With Hamilton confirmed to leave at the end of the year, they will have to be in tip-top shape to not just retain Russell but attract another big talent to replace Hamilton. And speaking of the seven-time champ, he will be driving the W15 for the first time on Thursday.

A Mixed Bag

McLaren, Ferrari, and Racing Bulls wrapped up the top five, with Daniel Ricciardo clocking only 52 laps compared to 73 by Lando Norris, 69 by the soon-to-be-unemployed Carlos Sainz, and 61 by Pierre Gasly. It was Norris who got closest to Verstappen in terms of lap time—if you can consider 1.1 seconds off the pace “close.”

Otherwise, it was a good Back to School moment for the flagship racing series as it prepares for the longest season in history. Drivers, team bosses, and the usual characters were seen roaming around the circuit, some more willing to talk to the media than others. Christian Horner, specifically, tried to keep a low profile as he faces scrutiny over a controversial investigation—of which we’re still unclear what the heck is going on.

We’ll see what day two brings.

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