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Formula 1 pre-season testing 2023: Everything you need to know ahead of live Sky Sports coverage from Bahrain

Formula 1's 2023 cars take to the track together in Bahrain for the first time ahead of the sport's biggest season ever; watch pre-season testing live on Sky Sports F1 , with coverage starting at 6:50am from Thursday

F1 pre-season testing (Credit: Ferrari)

The 2023 Formula 1 season is almost upon us, but before the first race of the new campaign, there are three crucial days of pre-season testing.

After a series of elaborate car launches, including Red Bull's in New York City and Alpine's at a London nightclub, it's time for action.

The sport's 10 teams will unleash their new challengers without restriction for the first time and begin to get an idea as to whether months of preparation have paid off.

All three days of testing, along with all 23 races of Formula 1's biggest ever season, are live on Sky Sports F1.

What is pre season-testing?

Formula 1 teams spend many months developing a car but are only given very specific and limited opportunities to put it out on track before they begin competitive racing.

The amount of testing time allowed has gradually been reduced over the years to just three days, along with two 15km demonstrations and two 100km promotional events at which heavy restrictions prevent teams from gleaning huge amounts of information.

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While there was an additional three-day test in Barcelona added ahead of the 2022 season following the introduction of radical new design regulations, this year sees the return of a one-off three-day event.

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The sessions are designed to allow teams to iron out major issues before the season begins, crucially providing the chance to ensure cars are reliable when pushed to the limit and averting the possibility of a series of mechanical failures and retirements in the opening race.

As teams establish reliability, they can begin to hone their set-ups and make adjustments to extract maximum possible performance, while also working out which areas to focus on upgrading ahead of the opening race, which in this case is just eight days later.

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When and where is testing?

Testing will take place in Bahrain over three successive days, starting on Thursday, 23 February and finishing on Saturday, 25 February.

Each day will be split into two sessions, the first of which starts at 7am GMT (10am local time) and runs for four hours.

There will then be an hour break before cars return to the track at 12pm GMT (3pm local time) with the second session running for four and a half hours, taking it beyond sunset and reflecting the stunning night-time conditions in which the opening race of the season will be held.

Image: The Bahrain International Circuit provides a stunning setting for pre-season testing

The Bahrain International Circuit makes sense as a testing venue given its status as the host of the opening race on the F1 calendar, which this year takes place on March 5.

The Sakhir track has both long straights and challenging tight corners, which provide an opportunity for teams to test different aspects of their cars.

The daytime heat, along with likely wind gusts which will send sand blowing across the track, provide additional challenges for both drivers and engineers.

What is new on the cars?

While there is no rules overhaul for next year like there was for 2022, there are subtle changes to the rules and cars that teams can take advantage of.

The most notable is a higher ride height. This is essentially lifting the cars higher off the ground to help reduce the bouncing 'porpoising' phenomenon that affected teams - most notably Mercedes - in 2022.

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This is done by raising the floor edge and throat, while the diffuser edge has also been stiffened. There is also an additional sensor to effectively monitor porpoising.

While these are mostly for safety reasons and are expected to initially cost teams time due to a stiffer floor, it could also narrow the field with a higher ride height thought to have been key to Red Bull and Ferrari's 2023 cars.

The other changes to the cars revolve around outlawing designs such as Aston Martin's rear wing and Mercedes' front wing from 2023, and more safety additions.

The roll hoops, for example, have been strengthened following Zhou Guanyu's dramatic crash at Silverstone last year.

What should you look out for?

You will only see one car from each team on track during each session, limiting traffic on the circuit. Most teams will give their two drivers a session each on each day, but some may choose to split the time differently or give running time to reserve drivers.

Cars can do as much running as they please within each session and have access to all five Pirelli tyre compounds that will be used during the season.

Williams testing their 2022 car with flow-vis paint
Image: Teams will use fluorescent flow-vis paint to test their cars

You are likely to see teams somewhat ruining the wonderful designs of their new liveries with fluorescent flow-vis paint, which is used to visualise air flow over the body of the car.

Another eye-catching feature you will see are aerodynamic rakes, which feature sensors designed to measure off-body flow structures, or in simple terms where the air goes after it hits certain parts of the car.

Both tools enable teams to gather further understanding of their cars, and potentially make further improvements, whether that be in the form of upgrades or just setup.

CIRCUIT DE BARCELONA-CATALUNYA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 25: Testing rig on the car of Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT03 during the Barcelona February testing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday February 25, 2022 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Mark Sutton / Sutton Images)
Image: Aerodynamic rakes are used at testing to gather data

The timesheet, especially in the early stages of the three days, is to be treated with caution. Some drivers may be focusing on longer runs, or testing a specific aspect of their car, while others are looking to put down quicker laps.

Then there is also the inevitable 'sandbagging', which is teams not wanting to reveal their true pace to their rivals ahead of the opening race.

There will be a lot of interest in how reigning champion Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team get on, along with their most likely challengers, Ferrari and Mercedes, who are hoping to provide Lewis Hamilton with a car capable of contending for a record eighth drivers' title.

Who is driving when?

Pre-season testing driver line-up

Team Thu AM Thu PM Fri AM Fri PM Sat AM Sat PM
Red Bull Max Verstappen Max Verstappen Max Verstappen Sergio Perez Sergio Perez Sergio Perez
Ferrari Carlos Sainz Charles Leclerc Carlos Sainz Charles Leclerc Charles Leclerc Carlos Sainz
Mercedes George Russell Lewis Hamilton Lewis Hamilton George Russell George Russell Lewis Hamilton
Alpine Pierre Gasly Esteban Ocon Esteban Ocon Pierre Gasly Pierre Gasly Esteban Ocon
McLaren Oscar Piastri Lando Norris Lando Norris Oscar Piastri Oscar Piastri Lando Norris
Alfa Romeo Zhou Guanyu Valtteri Bottas Zhou Guanyu Zhou Guanyu Valtteri Bottas Valtteri Bottas
Aston Martin Felipe Drugovich Fernando Alonso Fernando Alonso Fernando Alonso TBC TBC
Haas Nico Hulkenberg Kevin Magnussen Kevin Magnussen Nico Hulkenberg Nico Hulkenberg Kevin Magnussen
AlphaTauri Yuki Tsunoda Nyck De Vries Yuki Tsunoda Nyck De Vries Nyck De Vries Yuki Tsunoda
Williams Alex Albon Logan Sargeant Logan Sargeant Logan Sargeant Alex Albon Alex Albon

How to watch and follow testing

You can watch live coverage of every minute of pre-season testing on Sky Sports F1, along with a daily wrap and special testing edition of Ted's Notebook.

The full television schedule is as follows:

Thursday 23 February

Session One - 06:50am-11am
Session Two - 11:50am-4:30pm
Testing Wrap - 8pm-8:30pm
Ted's Testing Notebook - 8:30pm-9pm

Friday 24 February

Session One - 06:50am-11am
Session Two - 11:50am-4:30pm
Testing Wrap - 8pm-8:30pm
Ted's Testing Notebook - 8:30pm-9pm

Saturday 25 February

Session One - 06:50am-11am
Session Two - 11:50am-4:30pm
Testing Wrap - 8pm-8:30pm
Ted's Testing Notebook - 8:30pm-9pm

There will also be regular updates throughout testing on Sky Sports News, with reporter Craig Slater in Bahrain keeping an eye on what's going on both on and off the track.

Finally, you can follow every moment of testing right here on the Sky Sports App and website, with a live blog bringing you updates and the best video.

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