The general consensus is that the RB19 was the class of the field by a country mile in the 3 days of 2023 pre-season testing. Even in the hands of Sergio Perez the Red Bull was the quickest on the final day in Bahrain.
The confidence in Milton Keynes is high given the lack of issues the car suffered with just a “few small gremlins” to deal with here and there.
Red Bull set to break more records
So, could it be the reigning Formula One champions are set to break their dominant record of 17 grand prix victories in a season this year?
For the neutral fan the news from Bahrain may be fairly depressing, yet a more detailed look at what Red Bull have achieved this week could raise the bar to suicidal.
The headline from day 3 was Sergio Perez setting the fastest time of the week, yet as the old adage goes, ‘its only testing’.
Checo faster than last years qualifying
Checo was 0.359 seconds ahead of Hamilton who was also on a softer compound but as we know fuel levels, engine modes and set up experimentation all cloud the real picture of how much quicker the Red Bull is than the others.
The answer to that conundrum will become clear as testing draws to a close next weekend as Saturday qualifying draws to a close.
However, if we look a little more closely at what Red Bull achieved this weekend it was day one that was the most remarkable.
Verstappen’s astonishing day 1 long run
Max Verstappen in a brand new car went out and delivered 157 laps and as Christian Horner revealed, they were on a different programme to everybody else.
As the first day of testing drew to a close in conditions similar to those the teams will experience during next weekends grand prix, Verstappen delivered a long run on the C3 tyre that was consistently in the low 1:36s. Nobody over the next two days was even close to this race pace besides the flying Fernando Alonso.
The final two days of Red Bull’s testing was all about setup and experimentation before Sergio Perez delivered a lap that was faster than Red Bull’s quickest qualifying time in Bahrain last season.
Marko confirms dominance
Further, it was 0.359 seconds quicker than the best Lewis Hamilton could offer and the Mercedes driver was on a softer, faster tyre than Perez.
Helmut Marko at the close of proceedings on day 3 gave a small insight to how the team feel about Verstappens long run on Thursday.
“The way we started the test, it was the best first day of a test in Red Bull’s history.
“Everything went smoothly and it was impressive how Max [and the team] managed to finish our [testing] programme.
Ferrari were solid and looked the next best prepared team out there but there will be deep concern at Mercedes despite Lewis Hamilton delivering the second fastest time on the final day.
The car looked more cumbersome to drive than either the Ferrari or the Red Bull and even more worryingly in the hands of Fernando Alonso, the Aston Martin looked the equal of the recent 8 times world champions.
Reflecting on testing as a whole a downbeat Hamilton gave an honest appraisal.
“It’s been an interesting few days. It’s never easy. There’s been a lot of discovery. I think the thing that I have been most impressed with is that it’s my 11th year with the team and everyone’s turned up with the same mentality, working hard. No one has been complacent.
We realise that we have a mountain to climb and no one has fussed. Everyone has kept their heads down. Really proud of that, everyone in the garage, back here and at the factory will be going through all of this data and pushing on.
“Reliability has generally been good, obviously we had a stop yesterday but generally it’s been relatively good. At the end, it’s always nice when the track gets a bit cooler and you put on the softer tires, and see the steps between them all. We’re not quite where we want to be but it’s a good platform to start from.”
Where Mercedes were lacking was in straight line performance but Lewis Hamilton reflected this was the same as last year.
The team are expected to bring a lower drag rear wing next week for the Bahrain opening F1 race of the season.