Perez puts Red Bull fastest in final testing

SAHIR, Bahrain – Sergio Pérez has put Red Bull at number one in the rankings, ending winter testing of the 2023 F1 season and reinforcing the feeling that the world champions have a strong lead ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 5.

Pérez’s 1:30.305 lap in the last hour, when the teams cut the low-fuel lap time on Pirelli’s softest and fastest tire, was 0.359 seconds ahead of the next best time set by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Straight results aren’t everything and the tests are coming to an end, but the Red Bull test looked menacingly good, with impressive mileage and good pace throughout all three days.

While fuel capacities and engine mode settings are among the unknown variables to consider when considering a provisional order, the consensus in the paddock is that Red Bull and Perez teammate Max Verstappen enter the season as strong favorites to defend their titles. .

Proof of how deceptive timing can be was that Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas finished the test as the next fastest behind Red Bull and Mercedes, with a strong lap in the final part of the day after the sun had set and temperatures had dropped.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz split duties on both sides of the lunch break and finished fourth and fifth in overall order, although the Italian team looks well-placed to be Red Bull’s closest competitor in the opening race.

Mercedes will be encouraged by Hamilton’s impressive late lap after a nightmarish second day where he lost some time due to hydraulic problems. But it is still unknown in what hierarchy the former world champions are.

The midfield still looks too tight to call. AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen finished sixth and seventh ahead of George Russell’s best set in the first session of the day, while Aston Martin pairing Fernando Alonso and Felipe Drugovic rounded out the top ten.

Alonso and Drugovic could very well be teammates next Sunday if Lance Stroll doesn’t recover from his bike training injury, which looks like the most likely outcome given the mileage the team gave to Formula 2 champion Drugovic in three days. .

Lando Norris ended the day 11th with just 37 laps as the McLaren had low mileage compared to the competition – his rookie teammate Oscar Piastri only scored 44 laps in another session. Piastri recorded the only televised session in the three-day test, which was surprisingly uneventful in terms of driver errors or reliability gremlins for the teams.

Pierre Gasly was 12th for Alpine and Alex Albon completed 136 laps for Williams. Returning F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg completed his first pre-season with the Haas after driving 77 laps, while rookie Nyck de Vries closed the line in another AlphaTuari.

The day of running ended with a lot of fun as the riders took part in two trial starts from the start-to-finish grid, helping the FIA ​​test its restart procedures. Unfortunately, the starts didn’t tell too much about what to expect on March 5 as the riders weren’t racing, although some of them seemed to take the first corner semi-seriously.

Saturday time:

1. Sergio Perez – Red Bull – 1:30.305 – 133 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:30.664 – 65 laps
3. Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo – 1:30.827 – 131 laps
4. Charles Leclerc – Ferrari – 1:31.024 – 67 laps
5. Carlos Sainz – Ferrari – 1:31.036 – 76 laps
6. Yuki Tsunoda – AlphaTauri – 1:31.261 – 79 laps
7. Kevin Magnussen – Haas – 1:31.381 – 95 laps
8. George Russell – Mercedes – 1:31.442 – 83 laps
9. Fernando Alonso – Aston Martin – 1:31.450 – 80 laps
10. Felipe Drugovic – Aston Martin – 1:32.075 – 77 laps
11. Lando Norris – McLaren – 1:32.160 – 37 laps
12. Pierre Gasly – Alpine – 1:32.762 – 56 laps
13. Alex Albon – Williams – 1:32.793 – 136 laps
14. Esteban Ocon – Alpine – 1:33.257 – 76 laps
15. Nico Hulkenberg – Haas – 1:33.329 – 77 children
16. Oscar Piastri – McLaren – 1:33.655 – 44 children
17. Nick de Vries – AlphaTauri – 1:38.244 – 87 laps


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