Winners and losers from 2024 F1 pre-season testing

Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets at the end of 2024 F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain

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Preseason testing is done and dusted for 2024, after a short and sweet three days in Bahrain gave fans the first indication of how each team is performing before the first race of the season.

The usual rule of thumb for testing is to work out the front and back of the grid first and then work inwards to the midfield, and thankfully the teams delivered.

McLaren, Mercedes and Aston all produced somewhat Schrodinger’s tests, showing hints that they could be best of the rest behind Red Bull but without the consistent form of Ferrari over the three days.

Likewise, Alpine appeared to be a step behind that group but didn’t really offer much to form a concrete prediction for them. And while much of the technical focus was on the sidepod area of each car, the majority of downforce still comes from the floor in this era of regulations.

Unfortunately that still remains a closely guarded secret, until the inevitable crashes at Monaco.

Charles Leclerc gets his impression of the new Ferrari SF-24 at 2024 F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain | @ScuderiaFerrai/X.com

Winner: Ferrari

Given the way Ferrari appear to at least have the edge on Mercedes right now, we could’ve made Lewis Hamilton the real winner.

But it’s not 2025 yet, as Fred Vasseur was at pains to point out whenever he was quizzed on the seven-time champion’s impending arrival, so we’ll focus on Sainz and co for now.

Sainz had already raised hopes with a very strong Thursday performance that saw him finish top of the timesheets and edge Perez on the long runs, but his teammate’s Friday numbers were arguably even better.

Leclerc gushed over the SF-24 and its superiority compared to where Ferrari were 12 months ago, saying the car ticked all the boxes they’d drawn up ahead of the test.

He was the fastest driver of testing on headline pace, though Max Verstappen getting with half a second of his best time on significantly slower tyres indicates that won’t be the case in a weeks’ time.

But despite pushing hard in the closing stages, George Russell couldn’t dislodge that time and Leclerc‘s race simulation was even better. It certainly backs up his assertion that Ferrari have solved their tyre management issues from the past two seasons.

Loser: Williams

It was a punchy launch from Williams across the pond in New York, as they laid out a bold vision for 2024 and talked a big game about moving up the grid.

They were apparently one of the latest teams to complete their car but their ‘move fast and break things’ approach resulted in much more of the latter than the former in Bahrain.

The driveshaft problem on day one was the biggest reliability failure of anyone over the test while Logan Sargeant‘s dramatic spin at turn 10 later on day one was probably the most notable driver error of the test too.

More importantly, they seem to be closest to Haas on pace. That may change as they continue to get to grips with the late changes on the FW46 but it appears that Williams will start the season scrapping for the odd point rather than regularly competing for them.

Winner: Max Verstappen

Verstappen looks like he never left. His time on Wednesday was over a second quicker than the rest of the field which was frankly terrifying, and thankfully the pack at least closed up over the rest of the test, but we wait with bated breath to see whether that remains the case in qualifying for the Bahrain GP.

He appears to be at ease in the car already – in stark contrast to Perez who’s still getting to grips with the RB20 – but Verstappen looks the odds-on favourite for the Bahrain GP. The Mexican could’ve featured in the losers, but we’ll wait for the season to actually start before making that judgement.

Loser: Drains

Drain cover has come loose on Turn 11 | @F1 / X.com

If you thought drainwatch was over after Las Vegas, you were wrong. Turn 11 proved the culprit this time, with it coming out of place on both Thursday and Friday.

Despite F1 impressively juggling the timetable to mitigate the impact, teams still lost almost an hour of running thanks to the fault which was especially costly for the likes of Williams and McLaren who were already behind on mileage.

For a sport that markets itself as the most technically advanced in the world, it’s just not acceptable to be derailed by something as simple as a drain cover. However, F2 testing earlier in February did at least show there is still a point to having drains at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Winner: RB

Toro Rosso were already one of the most intriguing teams heading into the season, given their closer ties with Red Bull and the volatility over their driver lineup with the potential for Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda to transfer either up or down the grid in 2024 or 2025.

And that promise was only reinforced in Bahrain, with Ricciardo finishing in the top five on two out of the three days and Tsunoda‘s late glory run on Friday meaning he completed the set.

Ricciardo‘s race sim on the final morning wasn’t in the most representative conditions but at least appeared to show they’ve broken clear of F1‘s basement battle, it just remains to be seen how far up the grid they can push.

Their performance on the final day was a bit more reserved, but was close enough to Alpine‘s running later in the day to indicate the two teams could well be in the same ballpark at the opening race, and Ricciardo was even quicker than Lance Stroll on the C1s.

Sergio Perez of Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo of Visa Cash App RB at Day 1 press conference of F1 2024 Testing | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Loser: Haas

Haas started the test pessimistically, and that’s how they finished it.

They did get a lot of running in, which was the bare minimum aim for a team that admitted they still weren’t on top of the regulations and needed data for guidance on where to develop.

They racked up the most mileage on two of the three days with both drivers topping 80 laps on Friday – a truly monumental effort equivalent to over three Bahrain GP race distances, and didn’t have any major mechanical problems.

But they’re not preparing for the 8 Hours of Bahrain, and ultimately Haas are just slow. Magnussen‘s initial pace compared to Albon on the C3s wasn’t too bad but the Dane’s tyres dropped off sooner and neither Haas driver cracked the top 10 on the final day of testing either.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, and previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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