The 2023 Formula 1 season gets underway with testing in Bahrain, as teams see their cars on track in anger for the first time ahead of the first grand prix of the year.
Teams will have a total of 25.5 hours on track, before testing wraps with just a week to go until the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.
However, there’s a few unique rules for testing, and teams will have to be ready from the moment the pitlane light goes green at the Bahrain International Circuit given the condensed testing time of just three days.
How many cars can teams run in testing?
There’s a limit of one car (and therefore one driver) per session, to keep it fair for the smaller teams that might struggle to build two cars and get them to the circuit.
Though that still didn’t stop Williams turning up two days late in 2019, much to the chagrin of then-team principal Claire Williams.
There’s no rule that teams need to run their two F1 drivers either – they can also give time to their reserve drivers. The only qualification is a driver needs to have a Free Practice Super Licence.
In 2021 Roy Nissany had a full day with Williams and Pietro Fittipaldi drove the first day of the 2022 Bahrain test for Haas.
Can teams hide their cars?
If anyone has produced a particular innovation then testing will be the first time it’s revealed to the fans, pundits, and most importantly rival times.
Teams have previously sought to hide their cars but since 2020 there’s been an open-door policy so teams can’t hide their machinery from the TV cameras.
There are exceptions though – if the car returns to the pits for repairs after a crash or if the floor comes off then teams can close shop while they work.
How do track limits work?
Track limits – sure to be a hot topic at the Bahrain GP – won’t be strictly enforced in testing.
In 2021, then-rookie Yuki Tsunoda made headlines as he clocked the second-fastest time of the test – but made a clear track-limits infringement at turn four.
In testing, breaking track limits really doesn’t help anyone. There’s nothing riding on the fastest times, running over kerbs repeatedly could damage the car and it’s bad practice for the Bahrain GP taking place a week later.
Like teachers say when you sneak a peak at your friend’s paper in a primary school test, you’re only cheating yourself.
Are there any tyre rules?
The full range of tyres are available from Pirelli for the teams to use in testing, but in 2023 that means six dry-weather tyres rather than five.
That’s a range from the hardest compound (C0) all the way up to the softest C5, as Pirelli introduced a new hard tyre from 2022.
The tyres available for the Bahrain GP are C1-3, which is the same as 2022. So teams may choose to focus on those particularly at the end of the test.
For the Saudi Arabian and Australian Grand Prix, the selection will be a step softer with C2-4 available.
What about flags?
Yellow and red flags will be active as usual, just like in practice. However, given the limited time teams and drivers will have on track, anyone who causes a stoppage will be particularly unpopular when they get back to the paddock.