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F1 Testing 2024: Max Verstappen quickest on Day One in Bahrain in new Red Bull with Lando Norris second

New-look Red Bull RB20 makes the headlines on the track and on the timesheet with Max Verstappen finishing the first day ahead of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz; watch day two of testing live on Thursday from 7am on Sky Sports F1

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Max Verstappen heads the timings in his Red Bull after the opening day of testing from Bahrain

Max Verstappen set the pace from McLaren's Lando Norris on the opening day of 2024 pre-season testing in Bahrain by a full second as Red Bull's eye-catching new RB20 car made an impressive official track debut.

Verstappen, the reigning triple world champion, was already leading the way across the opening day's eight hours of running before the Dutchman improved his time again inside the final 30 minutes with a best lap of 1:31.344, on the yellow-marked C3 tyres.

One of only two drivers to spend the full day in the car, Verstappen also completed a mammoth 143 laps - comfortably clear of more than two Bahrain GP race distances.

Verstappen's quickest effort in the floodlit evening conditions at Sakhir was a full 1.1 seconds faster than Norris, who ran only in the afternoon after team-mate Oscar Piastri had completed the morning in the MCL38.

A year on from their struggles in testing, the completion of 130 laps across the two drivers - and a best time from Norris which is already just 0.3 seconds shy of the best they managed across the whole test last February - represents a solid start for the team which made the biggest onwards in 2023.

BAHRAIN INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38 during the Pre-Season Test at Bahrain International Circuit on Wednesday February 21, 2024 in Sakhir, Bahrain. (Photo by Steven Tee / LAT Images)

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz took third after also only running in the afternoon, adding 69 laps to Charles Leclerc's 64 in the SF-24 during the morning in a best time which was 1.2 seconds off the pace.

Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, took fourth in a strong debut for the rebranded RB team's new car. Aston Martin also enjoyed a productive day with Lance Stroll (fifth) and Fernando Alonso (eighth) completing over a combined 131 laps in the AMR24.

Also See:

Red Bull's 'aggressive' RB20 makes fast start | Mercedes rack up laps

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Ted Kravitz takes a first look at the new bold 2024 Red Bull during the first day of testing in Bahrain

The headline timesheet at testing rarely provides a fully accurate picture of true competitiveness given teams keep their fuel levels, engine settings, run plans and set-ups close to their chests. It is also unlikely that Red Bull's single-lap pace advantage over their nearest pursuers is a full second at this stage of pre-season.

But what did still appear clear from the opening day was that the RB20 - the successor to last year's all-conquering RB19, which won a record 21 races from 22 - has hit the ground running after a session in which Verstappen appeared increasingly comfortable on track.

The car had already proved the talk of the morning owing to confirmation, after clues at last week's launch, that it did feature a new approach to the design of its sidepods and cooling inlets compared to Red Bull's already-successful cars of the past two years.

Ironically, some elements of Red Bull's latest design have drawn comparisons with Mercedes now-abandoned 'zero-sidepod' concept, which the Brackley team concluded at the start of last year was not going to lead them on a path back to F1 success.

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Ted Kravitz is joined by Pat Symonds to discuss Mercedes' new front wing during the first day of testing from Bahrain

Mercedes' much-changed 2024 car has itself caught the eye thanks to the presence of an innovative front-wing arrangement on the W15, in which a tiny flap that connects the wing to the nosecone.

Mercedes' George Russell joined Verstappen in running all through the day and he racked up a healthy haul of 122 laps. With the team prioritising data gathering over performance runs at this stage, Russell finished only 12th on the timesheet but afterwards offered a promising assessment of the new challenger by saying: "it does feel nicer to drive than last year's car".

Lewis Hamilton takes over the car for Thursday's running.

Williams experience difficult start with FW46

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Logan Sargeant takes his Williams for a spin during the first day of F1 testing from Bahrain

Most teams appeared to enjoy trouble-free running on Wednesday but the same could not quite be said of Williams, who endured a disrupted day and completed only 61 laps (nearly half that of anyone else).

A fuel-pump issue stopped Alex Albon on track during the morning before a suspected driveshaft problem curtailed Logan Sargeant's programme in the afternoon.

In between these two stoppages, Sergeant had a wild spin off track.

Bahrain pre-season test: Day One timesheet

Driver and team Time Laps Tyres
1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull 1:31.344 143 C3
2. Lando Norris, McLaren 1:32.484 73 C3
3. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari 1:32.584 69 C3
4. Daniel Ricciardo, RB 1:32.599 52 C3
5. Pierre Gasly, Alpine 1:32.805 61 C3
6. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin 1:33.007 54 C3
7. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari 1:33.247 64 C3
8. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin 1:33.385 77 C3
9. Oscar Piastri, McLaren 1:33.658 57 C3
10. Zhou Guanyu, Sauber 1:33.871 63 C3
11. Logan Sargeant, Williams 1:33.882 21 C2
12. George Russell, Mercedes 1:34.109 122 C3
13. Yuki Tsunoda, RB 1:34.136 64 C3
14. Valtteri Bottas, Sauber 1:34.431 68 C3
15. Alex Albon, Williams 1:34.587 40 C4
16. Esteban Ocon, Alpine 1:34.677 60 C2
17. Kevin Magnussen, Haas 1:35.692 66 C3
18. Nico Hulkenberg, Haas 1:35.906 82 C2

* the C5 tyre is the softest - and theoretically fastest - compound, while C1 is the hardest - and theoretically slowest - compound

Sky Sports F1's pre-season testing schedule

Thursday February 22 - Day Two

  • 6.50am-11.05am: Morning Session
  • 11.55am-4.05pm: Afternoon Session
  • 8pm: Testing Wrap
  • 8.30pm: Ted's Testing Notebook

Friday February 23 - Day Three

  • 6.50am-11.05am: Morning Session
  • 11.55am-4.05pm: Afternoon Session
  • 8pm: Testing Wrap
  • 8.30pm: Ted's Testing Notebook
  • 9pm: Development Corner

When is the first F1 race?

Just one week after testing, the opening race of the 2024 season will begin with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29 to March 2.

Due to the Muslim holy period of Ramadan, the Bahrain and, seven days later, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, will be held on a Saturday.

This means practice one and two will take place on Thursdays, with final practice and qualifying on Fridays.

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Watch pre-season testing live and then every round of the new season, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29-March 2. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership

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