Red Bull at the front, Ferrari and Mercedes behind: F1 Testing

25 Feb, 2023

The third and final day of testing ended with the usual suspects at the front: Red Bull topped the timing sheets, with Sergio Perez finishing the third day of testing for the Austrian team.

Lewis Hamilton finished just over three tenths behind – albeit with a softer compound of his fastest lap – with Valtteri Bottas (C5) and the Ferrari duo (both with C4) just behind.

Lap times, work schedules, fuel loads, Power Unit modes and various other factors make comparison very difficult. However, Red Bull’s RB19 is certainly the most prepared car, comfortably ahead of a Mercedes machine still suffering from some issues.

Ferrari, on the other hand, after a long winter of work, found itself working on an SF-23 that has changed significantly from the F1-75.

Red Bull confident – Ferrari search for the right balance to enhance the SF-23.

The two cars that stood out and can be described as ‘favourites’ ahead of round 1 in Bahrain are Red Bull and Ferrari.

The Red Bull RB19 undoubtedly proved to be a more ready car than the SF-23, immediately giving good sensations to the drivers – especially Max Verstappen – providing the technicians with the answers they were looking for during the test.

The Milton Keynes carwhich we have previously analysed – is an evolution from last year, showing excellent load capacity and efficiency.

Perhaps most importantly, the RB19 has shown great tyre conservation – making it the favourite for next week’s race.

Sergio Perez carried out the last day of testing for Red Bull, completing several long-run simulations. Perez also had the chance to set a few laps on the C4 and push the car further to its “limit”.

This would have been useful for the Mexicon, who struggled in 2022 to extract the car’s full potential. The standings ended with a 7-tenth advantage over the two Ferraris, with the Scuderia carrying out very different run plans.

The SF-23 has changed substantially this winter, which the drivers have admitted.

There is plenty of work to be done in Maranello to prepare for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The team was unable to test the new single-pylon rear wing today, which would have generated an even greater load due to a problem with the mobile wing that could easily have been fixed.

Ferrari also had the opportunity to perform a test on the new basic specification (recognisable by the new position of the tie rod) to collect data and send it to the factory in real-time – to start the team’s evaluations.

In free practice one next week, we will see how successful this was. Ferrari has good speed over the flying lap, although a balance is difficult to find, making the optimal window very hard to find.

Mercedes (for now) is struggling, while Aston Martin impresses

If we had to do the classic end-of-test report cards, Mercedes would definitely be unhappy with their grade.

While dismissing Mercedes’ testing as just ‘bad’ would be an oversimplification, the Brackley squad still has some unknowns ahead of round one.

The W14’s behaviour was unpredictable during testing, making it difficult to analyse. George Russell seemed more comfortable in the car this morning than yesterday, but Lewis Hamilton might have hoped for more performance in the afternoon session. 

A greater issue than Mercedes’ low-fuel runs was their race pace – which seemed to suffer from the car’s drivability.

“The porpoising is gone, but some features from last year’s car are still present on this one.

“I have to thank the team for the hard work done up to now, and I’m sure we can improve further”, said Lewis Hamilton – even before getting into the car on Thursday after looking at Russell’s morning session

The W14 also suffered from excessive drag due to the high-load rear wing, although this is unlikely to be used next week as the team searches for aerodynamic efficiency.

However, the biggest surprise was Aston Martin, who has taken a clear step forward, although further conclusions can be made next week.

The car is more than 95% new; even the fire extinguisher is new. We had to improve in many areas aerodynamically, mechanically, but also physically, making the riders feel more at ease.

“Last year, there was an annoying vibration on the steering wheel, which didn’t give the right feeling behind the wheel,” said Luca Furbatto from Aston Martin regarding the changes made to the AMR22. 

A big step forward has been made with the AMR23’s aerodynamic efficiency. Another weak point the team focused on was tire management, which Fernando Alonso spent plenty of time learning on the final day.

The Spaniard performed important long runs today, putting together strong laptimes with minimal tyre degradation. 

As such, with the W14 seemingly struggling, Aston Martin could even dream of doing what Alfa Romeo did last year and try to challenge the Brackley squad early in the season.

Alfa Romeo addresses their problems, McLaren struggles – The Midfield is Close

Much like last year, testing was very difficult for McLaren. The MCL60 is not at the required level for the 2023 season. The team has admitted to falling short of its targets.

The car still suffers from excessive drag, and – worse still – too many problems have appeared with the front brakes in recent days.

Today, it was the excessive flexibility of the ‘gull wings’ above the front tyres (connected to the brake ducts) that limited the team’s running on the track

This is a structural problem, which the team intends to fix with updates for next week’s Bahrain GP.

On the other hand, Alfa Romeo suffered their first major issue after two rather quiet days. Valtteri Bottas was forced to stop his C43 on track in the morning session, although he returned in the afternoon.

The team identified a suspected problem with the Power Unit, which was shipped to Maranello to identify the nature of the fault. 

The mechanics continued by replacing some components to complete the work plan. The C43 showed good pace on short and long runs, with this year’s car seeming more stable than Alfa Romeo’s previous challenger.

The situation elsewhere is difficult to read. Alpine carried out quite a ‘covert’ programme, never looking for absolute performance, instead focusing on the characteristics of the A521,

Alpine also brought a new rear wing to the track today, lighter than the version used in the first two days. Williams also brought a new type of rear wing, increasingly unloaded, with work done on shorter runs than other teams.

AlphaTauri and Haas’s pace indicates that the midfield will be closer than last season, with the possibility of more cars battling it out even for the last places in the Top 10. However, the order of the field could be very different to last season.

Laps completed by Teams:

Alpha Tauri 456 Williams 439 Ferrari 417 Haas 415
Red Bull 413 Alfa Romeo 402 Mercedes 398 Aston Martin 387
Alpine 353 McLaren 312

Ranking divided by Power Unit:

Mercedes 1536 | Ferrari 1234 | Red Bull 869 | Alpine 353

Author: Paolo D’Alessandro

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang