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Verstappen boosted by 'pretty okay' smooth start to F1 testing

Max Verstappen was looking more than satisfied to finish the first day of pre-season testing at Bahrain International Circuit on top of the timesheets, and more importantly with no significant problems to report on the RB19.

Verstappen was in the car all day – the only driver to run both morning and afternoon/evening sessions – and completed a total of 157 laps of the circuit, which will host next weekend’s 2023 season opener.

It was the first time that the new RB19 had been on show to the public, after the official team launch featured a livery mock-up on a generic 2022 chassis.

But the late unveiling didn’t seem to mean that the team had run out of time to get things right, with the car showing ominous reliability all day that will leave their rivals feeling worried.

“It was good,” Verstappen said when he stepped out of the cockpit after the chequered flag brought the first day of testing to a close. “A lot of laps, so that’s of course what we wanted. Basically a smooth day, no issues.

“We could really focus on the car, try a few things, to understand also the new tyres for this year,” he continued.

  • Read also: Bahrain F1 testing sees Verstappen edge Alonso to stay in charge on Day 1

“We got loads of running during the day when it was really hot, or kind of hot, and in the evening as well – so a pretty okay day.”

“We have seen a very good outing from our team,” concurred Red Bull motorsport consultant Dr Helmut Marko. “Everything was working straight away, it didn’t have any major problems.

“Every lap we are achieving some improvements, so far we are really happy,” he insisted. “Indeed, we are more competitive than we were last year to start off.”

Compared to last year, there are few regulation changes coming into effect this season meaning that the upgrades on the 2023 cars are fairly minimal. But not to minor that Verstappen wasn’t able to spot the difference.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19 practices a pit stop. 23.02.2023. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Day One.

“It’s nice to see the new car, how it has evolved from last year, how the behaviour is a bit different, and also because of the tyres,” he said.

“It’s a bit of an evolution from last year. I think last year was more a time where you were really adapting to the car, really understanding what you had to do,” he continued.

“Of course, with all the knowledge from last year, I think it’s already a much easier start for everyone to come back here,” he added.

Although it was a bright start for the new cars, Verstappen wasn’t getting carried away by topping the timesheets – especially as it was just 0.029s ahead of Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin.

“It’s difficult to tell at the moment,” Verstappen said when asked how the car compared to Red Bull’s rivals. “But the car is running well, and I think that’s the most important.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing with Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing and Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal. 23.02.2023. Formula 1 Testing, Sakhir, Bahrain, Day One.

Verstappen will be back in the cockpit again on Friday morning and said he was hoping for “A bit more running, a bit more understanding on the different tyre compounds, then from there onwards just make our minds up what we’re going to do starting the race weekend.

“That’s what we are working on. This is only one track, right. There are a lot of races on the calendar where you need different things from the car, so step-by-step.”

After that, Verstappen will sign off and leave the rest of Friday and all of Saturday in the hands of his team mate Sergio Perez.

And after that, it’s just a week before Verstappen, Perez and the rest of the field are back at Bahrain for the first race weekend of the season, the Bahrain GP on Sunday March 5.

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