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Formula One

Sheesh… Verstappen goes a second quicker than anyone else in F1 testing

F1 testing is always smoke and mirrors… but if you were hoping for a competitive season, the early signs aren’t great

Published: 22 Feb 2024

It’s only testing, it’s only testing, it’s only testing… but with Max Verstappen lapping more than a second faster than anyone else on Day 1 in Bahrain, alarm bells that 2024 could be another one-bull race are already wailing. Gulp.

Underneath a shadow cast by the allegations made against boss Christian Horner earlier this month, Red Bull caused a stir when it launched its new RB20 last week, having apparently made a radical departure from the design philosophy that saw it win all but one of last year’s 22 grands prix.

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And not only that, designer Adrian Newey seems to have worked in elements of the W13 and W14’s ‘zero sidepod’ concept that Mercedes failed to make work and ultimately gave up on 12 months ago. It’s almost trolling, but with carbon fibre.

Anyway, the reigning, three-time world champion looked imperious in his new car throughout the day, which he ended 1.14 seconds quicker than the next fastest car; the McLaren of Lando Norris.

He also racked up 143 laps over two sessions (a race distance in Bahrain is 57 laps, remember) without so much as a hint of a reliability problem.

There are several unknowns, of course: the teams never reveal the fuel loads or engine modes they were using, and the time of day makes a huge difference too as the track gets quicker as it gets cooler.

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But the big grin on race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase’s face as Max set his benchmark time suggests the team is happy with the work it’s done over the winter.

It’s only testing, it’s only testing, it’s only testing…

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