PRIXVIEW – Pre-season Testing

Features Prixview Testing & Race Reports

The 2024 season begins with a triple header of testing and the opening two races of the year at the Bahrain International Circuit. The circuit over the past few years has become the home of winter testing, given the normally stable weather conditions and layout of the circuit which gives the teams the opportunity to understand their new cars with a focus on evolution from last year’s car.

In recent years with it also hosting the opening race the 3.362-mile circuit has been part of F1 for two decades, mixing long straights and a more technical infield section. That means for the race weekends race teams need to find a balance between the two. high speed that matters on the three straights and that means that good downforce and speed are very important, as well as breaking at the end of the straights.

The infield middle section is the more technical and twisty sector, which will be an interesting section to watch over the coming weeks as it will give us an idea of how closely cars will be able to follow each other. The circuit normally favours cars which are good at high speed and high downforce, Mercedes being strong through most of the hybrid era.

The big question over the next fortnight in Sakhir is whether anyone has managed to close the gap or even overtaken Red Bull, though as always caution is needed at testing, we don’t know the teams’ run plans, fuel loads and setups etc. Although the Grand Prix being a twilight race / late afternoon for most of the opening races expect the qualifying simulations to come late in the day.

Red Bull goes into this season with the target on their backs, but testing could provide hints to how close their rivals are, but come the race anything can happen. Normally teams can complete a race distance with both drivers during each of the two sessions on the three drivers with them having twenty-four hours of track running going into next Friday’s qualifying.

The thing I normally watch out for is the number of laps by each driver and team, normally each driver without problems can complete a race distance in each session which in Bahrain is fifty-seven laps. But these are a mixture of recognizance, race simulations and qualifying simulations going on at the same time, they normally do qualifying runs at 18:00 local on Saturday which will be the same time as Friday’s race qualifying.

How useful data is going into the traditional start time we see for most races is they need to find that balance to maximise track time. They know that their runs plans can be disrupted by others and technical issues, and they know the last quarter of an hour is used for system checks by the FIA.

Teams also need to check that the car has been built correctly and iron out any issues that they have had during building the car, system checks are normally the most important thing, as this is about learning. Many of the teams if it’s a good day manage around two race distances which is a hundred-fourteen laps in Bahrain. It’s always about mileage so the drivers and teams have as much information as possible.

Data gathering and experimenting with setups and different wings etc is the most important thing over the three days and in Thursday’s practice sessions, but we won’t see qualifying runs until probably the latter part of session six on Saturday and FP2 on Thursday, with this being a twilight race, we know however until qualifying we see all the drivers go out in anger we will truly understand the early season pecking order.

Testing can’t make a season, but it can sprain a season because it can leave teams playing catch up all season leaving them needing to bring a rethink. Cars can be radically different come Thursday practice going into next weekend’s Grand Prix, teams can also wait until FP2 to show true pace.

McLaren was a good example last year, they had the least running of any team and a nightmare Grand Prix which placed them onto the backfoot for much of the first half of the season. Aston Martin, meanwhile, had a brilliant test which set them up during the first half of last year before falling away.

Teams will be trying to play games, but we normally can make educated guesses based on what teams are doing and what they are trying to learn. But some will be trying to sandbag performances leaving us guessing as to their true performance, which could be slightly unhelpful if teams go too far in masking their performance.

I think that in recent years the reliability has been better but the teams will also want to find the breaking point for power units and gearboxes, they will also want to do fuel runout tests to help figure out the points when things break. The regulations around power units and gearboxes etc do not apply until the cars leave the pit lane next Thursday in FP1.

The warm weather running at the start of the afternoon session though teams can be a bit slow to get out at the start of the sessions, but as we will see throughout the next fortnight how these cars work. I however only draw parcel conclusions until after the Grand Prix to the early season order.

Testing always is in my view like the draft plot for the season, we don’t need to be able to answer all the questions, but we can get an understanding, while creating the questions we will need to figure out in the coming races. It’s always an estimation based on previous strategies used by teams and what the drivers are looking like when handling the car.

What the running order is going into the early part of this season will not be clear until qualifying next Friday and the Grand Prix, but there will be a few clues towards the form guide at the front of the field. But teams will want to use the hour around 15:00 to do qualifying and race simulations.

Some teams are changing their concepts but there have been no changes in driver lineups from last year which means there is less needing to be done to jell the teams together, but getting the cars suited to each driving style. But as we know it’s about getting the cars in the right place so they can be developed continuously through next season.

But we need to remember that there is a lot which teams need to get through over these three days of testing, this is all they have going into the new season, it got easier given we have seen really reliably issues in recent years

Facts and figures

Test Formula 1 Aramco Pre-season Testing 2024
Venue Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain
Configuration 2005 Grand Prix
Circuit Length 5.412 km (3.363 mi)
Lap record Race 01:31.447 (Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 2005

Fast Facts

  • The circuit has a variety of layouts for different events. F1 has raced on three variations of the circuit, with all but one Bahrain Grand Prix taking place on the Grand Prix Circuit layout of the track.
  • Less than half of the races held at Bahrain International Circuit have been won from pole. Just nine of the 20 races at the track have been won from the very front of the grid. The furthest back win here was for Sergio Perez in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. He started fifth.
  • All but one of the track’s corners are numbered except the first which was named ‘Schumacher’s Turn’ in honour of the event’s first winner following his 2013 skiing accident.
  • This is the only twilight test with sessions starting two hours later than they would be in Europe, with the final hour reprehensive of qualifying and the race next weekend.
  • All eight compounds are available for the teams (C1 – C6, plus inters and wet tyres) the sixth session, if it remains dry will be a wet test.

Event timetable





FP1 10:00-14:00 07:00-11:00
FP2 15:00-19:00 12:00-16:00


FP3 10:00-14:00 07:00-11:00
FP4 15:00-19:00 12:00-16:00


FP5 10:00-14:00 07:00-11:00
FP6 15:00-19:00 12:00-16:00

What we will be looking for

The big question, which we won’t be able to fully answer until after next weekend’s Grand Prix has any closed the gap to Red Bull? While in recent years testing has become more reliable given there is only twenty-six hours of official testing and three hours of practice going into qualifying, the teams know hitting the ground running could make or break a season. To have a good season they need to hit the ground running from day one.

Red Bull was so dominant last season it will be key I think to dig into the data and watching the other teams out on track over the coming days to see if there are signs to whether the gap has closed or whether they have managed to maintain their advantage. But we know there are off-track issues, that can be a bit destabilising for the team and I have no doubt they can find a way to carry on as normal.

That’s a question we are unable to answer until qualifying and the race next weekend, you always need to be careful, while limited testing means teams can’t waste time. Testing is about not next weekend but getting the car into the best place for the whole season.

This is a high speed high downforce circuit, effectively its three straights and a twisty infield section. It’s not as useful as Barcelona for the teams but the teams will want to maximise the data, they need that as all look to head into this long twenty-four weekend season.

Last year’s test saw Mercedes make a bold decision to abandon the concept and go for a different route, this year’s car will be without the comprise between the two concepts but I think it’s a good example they ditched the concept between testing and the Grand Prix. Then wrote off the first five races between Bahrain and Monaco to bring a B-Spec car, it shows you need to get it right now or you could spend the whole season playing catch up.

Another example is McLaren the whole triple header in the Middle East was a nightmare for them, that began in testing where they completed the least laps and were playing catch up during the first half of the season. It is all about whether the teams have both evolved the car from last year and whether they have a good base to build from, Mercedes we know have a new concept this year can they bounce back to being Red Bull’s closest challenger?

Aston Martin was the biggest surprise last year, they were up in the top four and managed to stay there through much of the first half of the season. Though we had a big gap between them and Red Bull, team Silverstone has shown us throughout their history they can build good midfield cars but wins are rare, there last being a lucky win here in 2020.

2023 vs 2022 Race Data

Race laps 57
Race distance 308.238 km (191.530 mi)
P1 Fastest
P2 Fastest
P3 Fastest
Q1 Fastest
Q2 Fastest
Q3 Fastest
Race Time
Fastest Lap


01:32.758 01:30.907 01:32.340 01:30.993 01:30.282 01:29.708 01:33:56.736 01:33.996


-01.435 -01.056 -00.204 -00.478 -00.193 -00.850 -04:23.222 +00.574


01:34.193 01:31.936 01:32.544 01:31.471 01:30.757 01:30.558 01:37:33.584 01:34.570

2023 Lap time comparison

Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Fastest Time
Race. Time
01:34.917 +02.159 01:31.543 +00.636 01:32.555 +00.215 01:31.057 +00.064 01:30.507 +00.225 01:30.340 +00.632 01:34:47.713 +00:50.977 +00:02.925
Red Bull
01:32.758 +00.000 01:31.076 +00.169 01:32.345 +00.005 01:31.295 +00.302 01:30.507 +00.221 01:29.708 +00.000 01:33:56.736 +00:00.000 +00:00.000
01:34.257 +01.499 01:31.367 +00.460 01:32.624 +00.284 01:30.993 +00.000 01:30.282 +00.000 01:30.000 +00.292 01:34:44.788 +00:38.637 +00:26.658
01:34.165 +01.407 01:31.570 +00.663 01:33.045 +00.705 01:31.652 +00.659 01:31.381 +01.099 N/A 01:34:03.372 + 2 Laps + 2 Laps
Aston Martin
01:33.196 +00.438 01:30.907 +00.000 01:32.340 +00.000 01:31.158 +00.165 01:30.645 +00.363 01:30.336 +00.628 01:34:35.373 +00:38.637 +00:26.650
Alpha Tauri
01:35.015 +02.257 01:32.525 +01.618 01:33.475 +01.135 01:31.400 +00.407 01:32.510 +02.228 N/A +00.000 01:35:26.510 +01:29.774 +00:16.021
01:35.105 +02.347 01:31.475 +00.568 01:33.064 +00.724 01:31.508 +00.515 01:30.914 +00.632 01:30.984 +00.000 01:35:26.510 +01:29.774 +00:16.021
01:35.043 +02.285 01:31.376 +00.469 01:33.381 +01:041 01:31.204 +00.211 01:30.809 +00.527 No Time Set +00.000 01:35:26.510 +01:29.774 +00:16.021
Alfa Romeo
01:34.575 +01.817 01:31.586 +00.679 01:33.116 +00.840 01:31.615 +00.511 01:31.443 +01.161 N/A +00.000 01:35:26.510 +01:29.774 +00:16.021
01:35.749 +02.991 01:32.440 +01.533 01:33.665 +01.325 01:31.461 +00.486 No Time Set +00.000 N/A +00.000 01:35:26.510 +01:29.774 +00:16.021

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