2024 F1 pre-season testing: what we learned from Day 3


Three days of pre-season testing are now in the books. Although red flags certainly caused a fair amount of disruptions, there was still plenty to analyse ahead of the first race of the 2024 season. Here's everything we've learned

Williams Alex ALbon

Alex Albon's Williams on the final day of F1 2024 pre-season testing

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Ferrari once again topped the timesheets on the final day of pre-season testing in Bahrain, invigorating hope in those hoping for a genuine title-battle in 2024.

Unfortunately, Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s RB20 already seem to be in tune, with the Dutchman setting his fastest time on old C3 mediums — which was just four-tenths shy of Charles Leclerc’s on the C5 soft compound . But the trailing field looks to be competitive and possibly closer in performance than they were last year.

As the sun set on the final moments of testing, drivers from Stake, McLaren, RB, Williams and Mercedes all set similar times on the same tyre — although their fuel-levels were still unknown.

Morning running began rather slowly, with a red flag halting every team’s progress after just 30 minutes. Extensive repairs were carried out and as a result of the lost time, the lunchtime break was scrapped, turning the final day of pre-season testing into one long session which ran until 4pm (GMT).

Here’s everything we learned on Day 3 of pre-season testing.

F1 2024 pre-season testing: fastest times on Day 3

  Driver Team Time Laps
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1min 31.322sec 74
2 George Russell Mercedes 1min 30.368sec 67
3 Zhou Guanyu Sauber/Stake F1 1min 30.647sec 85
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1min 30.775sec 66
5 Yuki Tsunoda Visa Cash App RB 1min 30.775sec 53
6 Alex Albon Williams 1min 30.984sec 121
7 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1min 31.030sec 91
8 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1min 31.159sec 75
9 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1min 31.247sec 71
10 Sergio Perez Sergio Perez 1min 31.483sec 53
11 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1min 31.686sec 89
12 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1min 31.999sec 49
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1min 31.038sec 46
14 Lando Norris McLaren 1min 32.108sec 20
15 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1min 32.149sec 47
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1min 33.053sec 80
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1min 33.079sec 55
18 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1min 33.528sec 28
19 Daniel Ricciardo Visa Cash App RB 1min 37.015sec 70

Vegas de ja vu

Bahrain pre-season testing

Marshals make track repairs on Day 3 of pre-season testing

Chris Medland

By this point, loose drain covers have become a staple of F1 stoppages. After just 30 minutes of running during Day 3, the drain covers at Turn 11 came loose once again, forcing all cars into the pit-lane and for extensive repairs to begin.

Unlike on Day 2, no cars suffered any damage from colliding with the on-track debris, but the repairs did eat into precious testing time and ultimately led to the cancellation of the lunch time break.

There is currently no official explanation for why this was the fault was repeated, but it is possible that it was sucked off the racing surface by the cars’ powerful ground effect. The same issue was responsible for major disruption at last year’s Las Vegas Grand Prix, as well as in Monaco and Azerbaijan.


Norris’ short stint

Lando Norris 2024

Will Norris be an F1 title contender in 2024?

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After arguably his best season on record in 2023, Lando Norris was probably hoping for three days of worry-free testing in 2024 ahead of a possible title challenge with a more competitive McLaren now under him.

But the MCL38 has had more issues than most, with a floor change needed on Day 1 and a small fuel system problem causing problems on Day 2. Norris’ time in the garage was extended once again during the disrupted morning session on Day 3 as the team investigated a clutch issue.

The Briton was scheduled to run throughout the morning before handing over to Oscar Piastri in the afternoon, but the after just 20 laps he was seen taking off his race suit early, leaving the rest of testing to his Aussie team-mate.


Red Bull vs Ferrari…again?

Sergio Perez Red Bull

Will Max Verstappen have a challenger? Or has his team-mates struggles masked Red Bull’s true performance?

Red Bull

Ever since Max Verstappen romped the pre-season leaderboards on Day 1, Red Bull’s RB20 has looked a little less formidable in the hands of Sergio Perez.

The Mexican hopped into the cockpit for the first time on Day 2 and seemingly had issues finding the correct set-up while being off the pace of Ferrari, who set the fastest time of testing so far on the C4 soft tyre courtesy of Carlos Sainz.

While the timings remain largely irrelevant, they do at least hint toward an early challenge from the Maranello outfit, similar to how it did in 2022. Sainz and team-mate Charles Leclerc have looked comfortable and fast at the wheel of the SF-24 — which has hardly hit a single speed bump over all three days of testing.

“The good thing is that there has been no surprises,” said Leclerc during Day 3’s press conference. “We know exactly where we need to improve, so that gives us a better idea of where we need to develop the car.”

Despite the happy camp at Ferrari, rumours in the paddock suggest that Red Bull have shown far from the full picture, with upgrades for its RB20 planned as early as race four.

Just nine laps after jumping back in the car for his final stint of pre-season testing, Verstappen once again climbed back to the top of the leaderboard — besting Carlos Sainz’ best time on the same C3 tyre by almost five-tenths — and continued to improve as the session drew to a close. The Dutchman seems much more settled into life in the RB20 than his team-mate and will likely lead the title-charge once again in 2024 — unless Perez is hiding something up his sleeve.


Eyes on F2

With so many drivers out of contract at the end of 2024, there were multiple mentions of the F2 drivers which could possibly be promoted into a top tier seat.

Lewis Hamilton was bombarded with questions about his Ferrari move during the Day 3 press conference, naturally leading to speculation over who could possibly fill his shoes. Mercedes junior Kimi Antonelli has been highlighted by many as a contender and will race in F2 this season for the first time alongside team-mate Oliver Bearman, who is also tipped to fill an F1 seat in the future. Antonelli has an extensive racing resume behind him, having won multiple championships in the junior categories. He’s even been heralded by some as the best F3 driver since Max Verstappen — which should give you an idea of just how good the young Italian could be.

The 2024 F2 season kicks off on the same weekend as F1’s own on February 29, and all eyes will certainly be on if Antonelli can race his way into an F1 seat at the first time of asking.


Haas find some pace


Can Haas improve on last place?

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After two and a half days of slow runs — possibly with high levels of fuel on board — Haas finally posted some competitive lap times during the final few hours of Day 3. With Nico Hulkenberg in the cockpit, the VF-24 began posting times similar to that of Mercedes and McLaren — although both those teams were possibly running race programmes with higher levels of fuel.

Ahead of the team’s trip to Bahrain, new team principal Ayao Komatsu warned that the team would be one of the worst on the grid at the start of the season, with the aim of developing as the season progressed.

Of course, once again, lap times aren’t entirely important as of right now but if Hulkenberg can replicate his current performance on the first race weekend of the season, Haas may not be in the performance hole it thinks it is.


Bahrain’s Gil deFerran tribute

After McLaren’s Lando Norris chose to adopt a custom crash helmet throughout pre-season testing in memory of former Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran, the Bahrain circuit itself decided to follow suit.

On the main tower, which dominates the circuit’s skyline, the former McLaren sporting director’s initials adorned in team colours were displayed proudly on rotating LED screens.

A nice way to round out the final hour of F1’s 2024 pre-season.


Who competed the most laps during F1 testing?

Even despite the red flag disruptions, teams still managed to clock up some significant mileage over all three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain.

Haas led the way, with 441 laps completed, followed by potential title rivals Ferrari (416) and Red Bull (390).

McLaren, Sauber and Williams experienced the most reliability issues of all the teams, resulting in a general lack of running, although the Hinwill and Woking outfits showed good pace toward the end of Day 3.

Team Driver  Laps completed (Individual)   Laps completed (Combined) 
Haas Nico Hulkenberg
Kevin Magnussen
Ferrari Charles Leclerc
Carlos Sainz
Red Bull Max Verstappen
Sergio Perez
Aston Martin Fernando Alonso
Lance Stroll
Visa Cash App RB Yuki Tsunoda
Daniel Ricciardo
Mercedes Lewis Hamilton
George Russell
Alpine Esteban Ocon
Pierre Gasly
McLaren Lando Norris
Oscar Piastri
Sauber Valtteri Bottas
Zhou Guanyu
Williams Alex Albon
Logan Sargeant