Red Bull Racing teammates Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez found themselves at or near the top of the time sheets during all three days of testing. Verstappen set the fastest time on day one and the second fastest time on day two. Perez set the fastest time on the final day, with Verstappen not participating. The defending champions look poised for a repeat with Verstappen poised for three-in-a-row. On paper, the RB19 looks quick. However, as any seasoned F1 fan knows, it’s important to take pre-season testing results with a grain of salt. While the Red Bull drivers might top the charts, their competition is not far behind.
More specifically, Lewis Hamilton looks ready to challenge for the elusive eighth World Driver’s Championship. Hamilton’s times on day one and three showed the W14 chassis has pace to put up a strong fight with Red Bull and Ferrari. However, the team will need to correct reliability problems prior to the season’s start. A hydraulic failure on the second day cost the team 90 valuable minutes of track time and information gathering. Much like last year’s porpoising issues that slowed their top speeds, Mercedes will need to ensure that reliability or mechanical errors won’t befall the team in order to capitalize on a fast race car.
Much like rival Red Bull, both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz found themselves at or near the top of the charts on all three days of testing. One of the more promising aspects of Ferrari’s pre-season testing was the consistency with which Sainz and Leclerc showed speed. If the team was doing any kind of sandbagging or research and development, it wasn’t present to the naked eye. It would appear as though the Ferrari teammates have similar or equal cars for 2023. This is great, if the team was any one but Ferrari. After 2022’s tumultuous season, the Scuderia will need to cross every “t” and dot every “i” before the season starts. Looking poised to challenge for the constructor’s title, Ferrari cannot spend any time this season mending self-inflicted wounds.
Fernando Alonso’s move from Alpine to Aston Martin could be seen by some as a lateral move for the two-time World Champion, but based on pre-season testing, it might be quite the positive move after all. Not only was Alonso consistently at the top of the time charts throughout the three-day test, but he also ran the most laps of any other driver. He appears to be getting comfortable behind the wheel of the AMR23, which might mean bad news for the rest of the grid, especially if the chassis is quicker than it shows. However, much like Mercedes, reliability issues could prevent Aston Martin from reaching their full potential. Mechanical woes prevented Lance Stroll, and later Felipe Drugovich, from making meaningful laps in the first two days of the test. While one AMR23 was lapping quickly out on track, the other was in the garage undergoing repairs. On the final day of testing, both Alonso and Drugovich set meaningful times. Drugovich, who was getting his first official laps in an F1 car, was a little under two seconds off Alonso’s time. If Aston Martin can work out any mechanical gremlins, they could move up a place or two in the constructor’s championship.
A crazy silly season put McLaren in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons in 2022. Combined with diversifying their efforts in IndyCar and Formula E, one wonders what the future holds this season for their Formula 1 squad. Lando Norris looks quick, that’s to be expected. Norris outperformed Daniel Ricciardo last year. However, it’s the rookie Piastri that found himself consistently at the bottom of the time sheets. Now, there’s a logical possibility behind this. Piastri is likely getting accustomed to his new Formula 1 car. He’s been out of the cockpit full time since his Formula 2 championship in 2021. It’s possible the team wants him to just get laps and take in data for now. That’s a perfectly rational explanation. However, the disparity between Ricciardo and Norris last year was substantial. This cannot set the tone for McLaren’s season if they want to have a legitimate chance at making moves in the constructor’s battle. For their sake, let’s hope it was Ricciardo and not the car.
Arguably one of the most disappointing showing in pre-season testing came from Alpine teammates Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon. Logging the second fewest laps behind McLaren, both Alpine drivers just appeared slow throughout the three-day session. Pierre Gasly posted the lone bright spot with the 10th quickest time on day two. That was the quickest overall lap time set by either Alpine driver. Even looking at the average times between all three sessions, both Alpines again find themselves at the bottom of the time charts. Again, pre-season testing seldom acts as a firm indication of how a team will perform in the upcoming season, but the slow times set by not one but both A523’s should be raising some red flags for fans of the French outfit.