Sergio Perez puts Red Bull on top as F1 wraps up pre-season test
MANAMA—Formula One champion Red Bull wrapped up the third and final day of pre-season testing at Bahrain’s Sakhir circuit on Saturday with Mexican Sergio Perez setting the fastest lap of the week.
Perez’s time of one minute 30.305 seconds was 0.359 quicker than Mercedes’s seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton.
It was also 1.9 seconds faster than anything at last year’s pre-season Bahrain test.
Although testing times can be taken lightly, with the cars running on different fuel loads and set-ups, Red Bull still looked the team to beat with double world champion Max Verstappen leading the opening day.
“We got a good understanding of our car,” said Perez after a fault-free day and 133 laps with the fastest on the Pirelli C4 tyres.
“I think we did the most we could today, we did a lot of analysis on set-up and tyre choice. We ran without any big problems, got a lot of laps in and had good reliability in general.
“The team back in Milton Keynes have done a tremendous job, we have a good-paced car and certainly think we can work on that more.”
The first race of a record 23 this season is at the same desert circuit on March 5.
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) February 23, 2023
Hamilton did his best lap on the softer C5 tyres but the team said progress had been made, with no sign of the bouncing or ‘porpoising’ that tormented their drivers last year, even if more pace was needed.
“We’re not quite where we want to be but it’s a good platform to start from,” said Hamilton, whose teammate George Russell drove in the morning and ended up eighth overall.
“We don’t know where we will be next week but we will stay positive and continue to push to the maximum.”
Russell agreed, saying: “I believe we have improved the car over the course of testing and got the W14 in a much better window today.
“There is still plenty of work to do but we’re in better shape for next week with more to come.”
Valtteri Bottas was third fastest for Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeo overall on the C5s, ahead of Ferrari’s 2022 runner-up Charles Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz. Alfa’s Guanyu Zhou was fastest on Friday.
“I feel we’ve got some work to do,” Leclerc told reporters after topping the morning times. “Red Bull seems to be very strong in these three days.”
Brazilian reserve Felipe Drugovich again stood in at Aston Martin for Lance Stroll, son of team owner Lawrence, and remains on standby to replace the injured Canadian in the opening race.
The team has given few details about Stroll’s cycle accident during training in Spain, other than saying he had a wrist injury.