F1 testing 2023: Perez fastest as Hamilton and Mercedes make leap forward

Red Bull topped the timing sheets thanks to Sergio Perez's effort on the final day of pre-season testing in Sakhir

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Sergio Perez set the fastest time of Formula 1 2023 pre-season testing after topping the timing sheets from Lewis Hamilton on the final day of action at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Perez had already surpasses Charles Leclerc‘s quickest lap from the morning, which was a 1:31.024, when he put down a 1:30.616 on the same C4 tyre compound as the Ferrari driver.

With over an hour to go, Perez went even faster on a 1:30.509 which was not beaten in the final 60 minutes.

Hamilton, who had a brief spell at the top, was 0.359 seconds slower than Perez, albeit on the C5 compound which appeared to be overheating in the final sector.

Valtteri Bottas was third in the Alfa Romeo, 0.522 seconds adrift of the leading time, ahead the Ferrari duo of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

Fernando Alonso was down in ninth, but had an impressive long run during the final session where he outpaced Sainz in a full race simulation.

Further down, Yuki Tsunoda was sixth for AlphaTauri, Kevin Magnussen was seventh and George Russell‘s morning time put him in eighth.

Lando Norris was 11th as question marks about McLaren‘s performance continue, with Alex Albon 13th in the Williams.

Red Bull the team to beat

Without doubt, Red Bull are the team to beat after demonstrating very strong pace on short and long runs.

In 2022, Ferrari had a slight advantage over Red Bull, but the roles seem to have reversed and Max Verstappen will be the favourite for pole position and the win at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Ferrari look like they are quick,” team boss Christian Horner said during the final session. “Mercedes’ form is difficult to read at the moment.

Aston Martin have made a big step, the concept of their car has moved them forward. They look like they are not too far away.

“We’ve done a lot of laps, a lot of setups on the car. I think focusing on ourselves, we are in a reasonable window with the car.

Sergio Perez in action during 2023 pre-season testing in Bahrain | Red Bull Content Pool

“You get to try all the things that you wouldn’t at a race. This is a process to see what suits the car, what the drivers like.

On what the drivers have been saying, Horner added: “It’s been pretty consistent with Max and Checo, which is always refreshing to hear.

“Therefore the development of the car, the direction is that we can optimise it in future races.”

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