Formula 1 testing is underway in Bahrain with a relatively drama-free first day seeing defending champion Max Verstappen set the fastest time.
Whilst testing times aren’t seen as a fair representation of a cars real pace ahead of the season they do set a benchmark to see how each team is running.
Verstappen was fastest in both the morning and afternoon session and put in a mammoth 157 laps over the day, the equivalent of nearly three Bahrain Grand Prix.
With teams only permitted to test one car, however, he was the only one to take to the track in the RB19 with Sergio Perez sitting on the sidelines all day. All other teams ran two drivers.
Aston Martin look good this year with Fernando Alonso setting the second fastest time of the day in the afternoon session whilst teammate Felipe Drugovich- sitting in for an injured Lance Stroll- was 14th quickest.
Aston Martin were the cause of a red flag just nine minutes into the day after Drugovich became strander on track. The extra aero-rigs on his car made it difficult to load and unload on the truck resulting in a delay of around 20 minutes.
They quickly diagnosed the problem to return to proceedings later in the session and complete 40 laps.
Ferrari are also looking to start the season strongly with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc third and fourth overall respectively.
Taking over as team leader at McLaren sees Lando Norris in for a big year, the Brit going fifth quickest ahead of Sir Lewis Hamilton. George Russell was ninth quickest in the same Merecedes.
Williams may also be one to watch this year with Alex Albon showing great pace all morning to end up seventh fastest whilst American rookie Logan Sargeant also scraped inside the top 10.
As mentioned, times during testing are often considered irrelevant due to the individual testing programs of each team. Despite this, one thing that does look positive is the gap between the field reducing.
Just 2.2 seconds separate the entire field compared with over 3 in Barcelona this time last year.
The field seem to have all come to terms with porpoising with cause great issue throughout last season. A raised ride height of 15mm seems to be working wonders for the field with bouncing only visible in certain areas of the track and believed to be related to the surface.
Aero rakes were also in order on the day with teams running with the large scaffolding-like structures in various places to measure airflow over the cars body.
Formula 1 pre-season testing returns tonight for the second day of running from 8pm NZ time.
Whilst not televised in New Zealand without a F1TV subscription, followers can take solace in tonight’s 10pm release of Drive to Survive season 5.
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