What to look out for in F1 preseason testing
Teams will finally take to the track in the first official action of the 2023 F1 season; a three-day test in Bahrain.
With teams facing even fewer hours of possible track time this season, it will be increasingly important to maximise the green flag running available to them.
Fans will be able to watch extensive coverage of all the test days, but what do we need to look out for in the three-day event?
© RN365/Michael Potts
The Red Bull RB19
The reigning champions were the most secretive when it came to their preseason launch. They ‘unveiled’ a 2022-spec car with a barely-modified livery in a 2023 show that was mostly used to announce a Ford partnership.
With the RB18 being the class of the field in 2022, have Red Bull played it safe and opted for an evolved design? Or have they managed to come up with any clever solutions for 2023?
We’ll find out on the opening test day when their 2023 challenger is seen for the first time.
Are Mercedes right to persist with design concept?
Mercedes surprised some by launching a car that had a striking resemblance to the troublesome W13 car from last season.
They insist that they know the reasons for the bouncing/porpoising in 2022. If that’s true, how much more pace can they extract from their car?
Mercedes have admitted that they aren’t too committed to the concept and that they could change their car concept partway through the season.
With Toto Wolff also promising lots of updates in the season, is there a chance they could try some new designs as early as preseason testing?
© Mercedes F1
Ferrari’s power unit performance
One of the big 2023 improvements said to come from the Maranello team is from the power unit department.
Reliability was a big issue for the team in 2022, and one that caused them to limit their power unit performance to ensure finishing races.
If the reliability improvements have come through, Ferrari may be ones to look out for in the speed trap figures (if they don’t completely ‘sandbag’, that is).
Their intriguingly-designed SF-23 certainly looks the part, too. Can Ferrari start this season like they did in 2022?
The early midfield clues
There are varying degrees of confidence coming from the midfield teams ahead of testing.
Alpine had their own reliability concerns to address in the off-season, which they believe they’ve solved, whilst Aston Martin are hoping to continue their huge strides forward made at the end of 2022.
McLaren have been vocal about setting ‘realistic’ targets in the early part of the season, and have suggested that their year hinges on updates later on in the year.
Alfa Romeo and Haas could be banking on the rumoured Ferrari power unit upgrades to bring them further up the field, whilst AlphaTauri and Williams will be hoping for developments in several areas to haul themselves away from the foot of the championship standings.
© Aston Martin
Any losers from a lack of running?
With the restrictive nature of a three-day test, will anybody fall foul of the tight schedule and fall behind in their running programmes?
In years gone by, teams have occasionally been forced to miss test days owing to logistical or technical problems, but normally with the comfort of more test days being available, or a second test altogether.
With three rookies – and one or two reserve/development drivers – taking part, how hard will the newcomers push their cars?
Teams won’t have much room for error in Bahrain, and none of them will want to be the story from testing.