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F1 grid ahead of Bahrain GP after preseason testing: Ranked

Published at :March 1, 2024 at 12:59 PM
Modified at :March 1, 2024 at 1:00 PM
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(Courtesy : F1)

Rahul Saha

The week between Formula 1 testing and the start of the new season is often the most impatient and exciting time of the year, when teams are looking to fine-tune their cars or rectify some of the mistakes made in testing before the cars hit the track ahead of the season opener at the Bahrain GP

In this article, we’ll give you a detailed list of the teams and how well-placed they look following pre-season testing. 

10. Haas Racing 

Best laptime: 1m31.686s (C3)

Laps: 441

Ayao Komatsu, the new Haas Racing team principal, predicted his squad would be at the back, if not last, at the start of the season. Although testing also supported Komatsu’s claims, if Haas is last, it would be interesting to see if it is detached from the field or has somehow managed to be at par with the lower pack.

Unlike other teams, Haas solely focused on high-fuel long-runs during the first two days, learning as much as they could about the car, its tyre usage issues and its drivability. 

One of the positive things coming out of pre-season for the team is that Kevin Magnussen, who struggled with last year’s car said “he could trust the cars more this time around”. 

9. Alpine F1

Best laptime: 1m32.061s (C3)

Laps: 334

Alpine’s gradual decline continues. Following a difficult 2023 season, the team are not well-placed to make any strides as they look like one of the slowest cars alongside Haas Racing. The only positive for the team is that the car seems much more reliable than its predecessor, although it remains quite draggy and lacks the corner performance needed to offset that, which the weight won’t help with either. 

Alpine has early-season upgrades planned, which aim both to reduce the weight and add aerodynamic performance.

But even if upgrades, or a big step for the Bahrain Grand Prix, lift it to around where it was last year—behind the likes of Aston in sixth—that’s still not good enough for a works team.

8. Stake F1 

Best laptime: 1m30.647s (C4)

Laps: 379

The Stake F1 team are one of the few teams to come out of pre-season testing on a positive note. The Sauber-owned outfit was successful in improving both the car’s stability through high-speed corners while helping in reducing the car’s drag level. 

Despite technical director James Key saying the team had been “very conservative and under the radar,” the Sauber C44 was the third-fastest car on single-lap pace thanks to Zhou Guanyu’s day-three run on C4 Pirellis.

Once the set-up was dialled in, it looked like a good, predictable, and consistent car. That’s a good step forward from last year and a good platform to build from, even if Q2 will likely be the limit of its ambitions for the first couple of races.

7. Williams Racing 

Best laptime: 1m30.984s (C4)

Laps: 299

It all looked gloomy and doomed for the British outfit during the first two days of pre-season testing, as two stoppages on day one hugely hurt their prospects and restricted their running to just 61 laps. However, with the car dialed in and Alex Albon behind the wheel, the team unlocked some performance from the car on day three of testing. 

Alex Albon also reckons Williams has a “decent car to go racing with,” having made “big headway” on the final day.

There is still a lot to learn, but with a few days to dig into the data and a hint of some upgrades at the opening race, Williams should be well placed to start the season with a good performance, consolidating its finishing position from last year.

6. Visa Cash App RB 

Best laptime: 1m30.775s (C4)

Laps: 367

The RB VCARB 01 may have a terrible name, but what is obvious is that it is a good car. It uses the 2023 Red Bull RB19 suspension front and rear, which is a gain in terms of the all-important platform control. However, the car is far from a Red Bull clone. Instead, it’s an evolution of this team’s own increasingly competitive machine from the back end of last year.

The car looked very consistent, and its long-run pace suggests it can slot in somewhere in the middle of the pack. Thus, it would be a surprise if it wasn’t somewhere around the mid-pack come Bahrain qualifying.

5. Aston Martin 

Best laptime: 1m31.159s (C3)

Laps: 379

Although it looks increasingly difficult to repeat the exploits of last season, the team hit the ground running with a car that, as it did 12 months ago, looked very well balanced.

If you look at the data and tyre usage during both long-run and low-fuel runs, there isn’t much to choose between Aston Martin and McLaren. However, if you judge it solely on a day three Fernando Alonso long run, you could even have this team troubling Mercedes and Ferrari again. 

The Aston Martin looks quick on the straights, which suggests an improvement in the drag issue that Alonso disliked so much last year and performed consistently.

Fallows is also happy with the progress made in development in general, but the real test is how this car responds to upgrades given last year’s disappointing inability to push on.

4. McLaren 

Best laptime: 1m31.030s (C3)

Laps: 328

After a positive end to the 2023 season, McLaren had a lot of hope coming into the 2024 season. However, the team had a disrupted test and didn’t get through all the running it wanted, but reckons its car is delivering what was expected.

It also has a good foundation for development. Oscar Piastri felt the slow-speed characteristics have improved, but it seems there are still deficiencies in other areas of the car. The team also failed to test some key components due to their limited running that might come in as upgrades for the coming weekends in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. 

Moreover, Lando Norris reckons it is definitely behind Ferrari. Maybe Mercedes too, at least in Bahrain.

3. Mercedes

Best laptime: 1m30.368s (C4)

Laps: 361

This was comfortably the best pre-season testing for Mercedes since the current regulations were introduced back in 2022. 

The long-run pace looks good, potentially strong enough to give Ferrari something to think about. However, as technical director James Allison admitted, there’s “a bit more work to do on the single laps.”

Most importantly, the drivers are much more confident in a car that now has a far more stable rear end in medium and fast corners.

However, the lack of a full-blown race simulation makes it difficult to judge the pace of the W15 precisely. However, Mercedes didn’t look far off by day three.

The big question is how quickly Mercedes will be fully on top of the car and how consistently it can extract the pace from a car that at least looks far different from the troublesome cars of the past two years.

2. Ferrari

Best laptime: 1m29.921s (C4)

Laps: 416

Despite topping the timesheets and Carlos Sainz’s encouraging race simulation on day two that was significantly quicker than Sergio Perez’s, based on what Red Bull is holding back, Ferrari still doesn’t look like they can topple the mighty Bulls. 

More importantly, the cars seemed to be handling well, with both drivers being far happier with the feel and consistency of this year’s design.

What’s more, the tyre degradation problems of last year appear to be a thing of the past. Team principal Fred Vasseur described the difference on that front as being “on another planet”.

This means the Ferrari should race better than it did last year, and while it might be asking a little too much of Ferrari to be a Red Bull-beater in Bahrain, it’s close enough to give Red Bull something to think about.

Besides, Charles Leclerc also pointed out that Ferrari has a platform for development that could allow it to become a bigger threat as the season progresses.

1. Red Bull Racing 

Best lap time: 1m30.679s (C3)

Laps: 391

When the RB20 was first launched, there were concerns about whether the champions could have tripped themselves up with their new ideas for 2024 or produced a car that needed time to be optimised. 

That hasn’t happened. It has hit the ground running with a significantly evolved concept that can be taken even further based on the suggestion of early-season upgrades.

Following three days of testing, it is nearly impossible to look past Red Bull Racing as the overwhelming favourite for the upcoming season. 

Its car looked great on the track and set competitive lap times with ease, despite suggestions of it keeping high fuel for its performance runs and running its engines in conservative mode on long runs. 

Thus, with more track time and new upgrades coming in, we are certain it will again be the benchmark of the 2024 grid. 

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