5 Things We’ve Learned from F1 2024 Pre-Season Testing

Ferrari Fastest On Day 2 Of Pre-Season Testing
Ferrari Fastest On Day 2 Of Pre-Season Testing

Pre-Season Testing is the first on-track action we’ve had ahead of the 2024 F1 campaign. This is the first time we’ve seen the 2024 machines driven in any kind of anger and singals that we’re so close to the first Grand Prix of the year.

The livery reveals over the past few weeks were exciting, but there’s no substitute for the real cars. Three days of running at the Bahrain International Circuit has given us an insight into which teams are looking impressive and who isn’t filling us with confidence.

They say you can’t read anything into testing times, but we’re going to do our best to decipher the pecking order ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix next week. Here are five things that we’ve learned from 2024 F1 pre-season testing!

5 Things We’ve Learned from F1 2024 Pre-Season Testing

Despite pre-season testing only being across three days, there was a huge 24 hours of running available to the teams. Each eight-hour day was split evenly into a four-hour morning and afternoon session. This covered a variety of conditions from the midday desert heat to cooler dusk and night-time running.

With this being in Bahrain as well, the winds played a role too, as cars that were less stable struggled to stay on the track.

Formula 1 Testing In Bahrain Day 1
Image credit: Getty

We’ll start with something that was one of the biggest surprises of testing, and that was the reliability of the cars. The regulations have remained relatively static over the past three seasons and it’s clear to see that the engineers have made their cars bulletproof in this time.

One of the biggest aims of testing is to identify and fix mechanical issues with the car, but going off this evidence, there were so few to actually find. Cars developing mechanical issues was rare and red flag stoppages even less common.

In fact, there were more red flags for the track breaking up (2) than there were for cars stopped out on track with a failure. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get several races this season where all twenty cars that started the race do the distance and see the chequered flag.

#2 – Haas Look Woeful

A cliche of testing is that you cannot read anything into the lap times and for the most part, that is true. Although, sometimes, the times tell a story so loudly and obviously that you cannot help but make conclusions.

Haas’ times definitely fall into the latter category, as the team that finished bottom of the constructor’s championship in 2023 aren’t showing any signs of improving their fortunes. Not only does the car look bang average, it appears to be woefully slow.

Formula 1 2024: Pre Season Test
Image credit: LAT

Across the three days, the highest position that Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg managed was 11th on the final day for Hulk. The car was at its worst on day two, where the Haas pairing were both over six seconds off Carlos Sainz’s best time.

It makes you sick to think that Andretti were rejected for being “unable to produce a competitive car” and yet here are Haas bringing up the rear like the likes of Marussia and HRT used to in the early 2010s.

There is one positive for Haas, though, and that is that the VF-24 looks to be very reliable, but that can be said for pretty much every car on the grid. With the whole grid being so reliable, scoring points will be incredibly difficult for Haas, and arguably even tougher than in 2023, where they only got a dozen.

#3 – Williams Could be in Trouble

I said that “pretty much” every car on the 2024 grid looks reliable, and the one possible exception to that rule is Williams. Day one went poorly for the Grove outfit, with Alex Albon coming to a halt in the morning with a technical gremlin.

When Logan Sergeant got in the car in the afternoon, he didn’t stay on the track for very long, being the first spinner of the season down at Turns 9 and 10. Aside from Albon’s efforts on the final day, Williams stayed in the bottom half of the timing sheets.

Williams FW46 Makes 2024 Debut Today In Bahrain
Image credit: Williams

On longer runs, though, the FW46 looks to be decent. As the week went on in Bahrain, Williams got more to grips with the car and both driver errors and mechanical issues got rarer. Thinking cynically, though, that could be a sign of the car being a bit of a “diva”, as some in the paddock term difficult cars.

It’s all well and good optimising the car for the track after having eight hours of running per day, but that’s not a luxury that Williams will have at any other circuit this year. In Sprint weekends as well, they’ll have less than a few hours to practice before qualifying begins.

So, Williams will be sweating going into 2024, but if their understanding of the car carries into the opening rounds of the season, they should be competitive in the midfield once again.

#4 – McLaren Are Much Improved

Being a McLaren fan is rarely dull, as for better or worse, the Woking outfit are always entertaining. Their pre-season testing and opening rounds in 2023 were nothing short of abysmal, as the car was arguably the slowest and least reliable on the grid.

However, despite this, McLaren understood how to get the best out of the MCL60 as the season went on and climbed all the way to a fourth-place finish by season’s end. They even managed a win in Qatar, albeit in the Sprint Race.

Lando Norris, Mclaren Mcl38
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38

McLaren ended 2023 with arguably the second-fastest car on the grid, and the papaya machines were definitely second best at some Grands Prix last year. In 2024, the MCL37 looks very steady in the hands of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.

McLaren are without doubt up there with Ferrari near the pointy end of the grid and could well be the best Mercedes-powered outfit ahead of Aston Martin and engine suppliers Mercedes-AMG.

It might be pre-season hype, McLaren have flattered to deceive on so many occasions in the last few seasons. However, going off the results of testing, McLaren will be in with a shot of a podium in just over a week’s time.

#5 – Red Bull Still Look the Team to Beat

There is always hope of things being shaken up ahead of the new Formula 1 season, but Red Bull Racing have come out swinging in 2024. The RB20 looks like a monster of an F1 car and day one left us in little doubt as to its pedigree as Max Verstappen went over a second faster than anybody else.

Yes, it’s testing, but Red Bull shifted their attention to the 2024 car very early in 2023, so they’ve had more time than anybody else to improve upon a winning design.

Formula 1 Testing In Bahrain Day 1
Image credit: Getty

Adrian Newey has well and truly revolutionised its aerodynamics and I almost got the feeling Verstappen wasn’t pushing anywhere near 100% at any time over these past three days. The RB20 did have some technical gremlins in Sergio Perez’s hands, but had no such issues when the Flying Dutchman was in the car.

Even Mercedes’ Sir Lewis Hamilton has admitted that Red Bull look the “clear” team to beat at this stage.

It’ll take something very special to beat Red Bull in 2024 and I’m not sure that any of the other teams are up to the job. Conceding defeat like some fans have been online is overdramatic, but you’d be very brave to bet against Red Bull repeating their 2023 exploits in 2024.

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