The official pre-season Formula One test took place at the Bahrain International Circuit over the weekend, ahead of the season starting this coming weekend, again in Bahrain.
So after three long days of running, here are some of our observations.
Aston Martin has made a massive step forward
It wasn’t the best start to the season for Aston Martin after Lance Stroll injured himself while cycling and was forced to miss the entire pre-season test in Bahrain.
They are still unconfirmed reports that he has broken at least one wrist and it would appear likely that he will not be fit to race in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
With this in mind, the team gave reserve driver Felipe Drugovich a day and a half of running in the AMR23 and has confirmed that should Stroll not be it to race, the Brazilian driver will be his replacement.
This is despite speculation of a return of Sebastian Vettel after his retirement at the end of last season. He was of course not able to take part in the Bahrain Grand Prix last season as he had Covid-19 and ended his career on 299 races.
While they did have this set-back, Fernando Alonso, who joins the team this season, already looked at home in his Mercedes-powered car and was setting blistering lap times and caught the eye of every team in the paddock.
The Silverstone-based team look to be the clear fourth-fastest team, with a battle with Mercedes for third the most likely outcome this season. With the team having the same power unit a close relationship in the past, it will be very intriguing to see how this one pans out.
They have definitely made a massive step forward this season and should be hoping to be on the podium on a few occasions. Drugovich has proven to be a great asset to the team and will do a solid job should he have to make his Grand Prix debut in Bahrain.
McLaren could be in for a tough year
Did Daniel Ricciardo actually have as bad of a year as it looked?
That is the question some are asking after McLaren had a very underwhelming test and potentially might be the slowest car on the grid when the season gets underway.
Oscar Piastri has been the talk of the paddock for the past 12 months after his dramatic departure from the Alpine Academy in favour of a seat with McLaren.
However, he might be thinking that it was a mistake as his team looks like they are going to struggle this season, while he was given the Alpine seat after Alonso’s switch to Aston Martin, and they look to be in a much better place.
The Woking team have been tipped by some of the leading journalists in the sport to be near the rear of the field, a shame for a team that has made some significant progress in recent years.
One reason for this is their ambition to compete in as many series as possible. With Indycar, Formula E and Extreme E alongside a virtual programme, it is a lot to focus on and while each has its own dedicated team, maybe the focus of Zak Brown on covering all basis might just hit the F1 team a little bit more.
Are Red Bull title favourites once again?
To say that Red Bull are title favourite again is a little bit boring, but given Mercedes held that title for eight consecutive seasons, it’s allowed.
The Milton Keynes-based side had a very strong test with good reliability and pace over the course of the three days.
Max Verstappen was the only driver to take part in both the morning and afternoon sessions on the opening day and enjoyed some long runs and qualifying laps that saw him end the session on top of the timesheets.
Sergio Perez was able to get into the car all day on Saturday, one that probably had the ideal set up from the two-time World Champion the previous day.
Many expected Red Bull to be at the front again, but it’s now a question of, has Red Bull improved or has everyone else just got worse?
I guess we will find out when we have the Bahrain Grand Prix at the weekend.
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