There might only be one day of testing in the books ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 season but many have already seen enough to tip Max Verstappen for a third successive title.
The reigning world champion picked up where he left off in a dominant and record-breaking 2022 campaign and looked in imperious form as he set the fastest time on day one of three in Bahrain and racked up a whopping 157 laps to boot.
However, while the Dutchman admitted he was happy with the car and the mileage he was able to put on the board, he was also eager to strike a note of caution ahead of the 23-race season that kicks off with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 5.
“It was good. A lot of laps, so that’s of course what we wanted,” Verstappen told the media. “[It was] basically a smooth day [with] no issues.
“We could really focus on the car, try a few things, to understand also the new tyres for this year. We got loads of running during the day when it was really hot, or kind of hot, and in the evening as well – so a pretty OK day.”
‘Easier to build on last year’
Red Bull proved the class of the field in 2022 when F1 ushered in a new era of ground-effect aerodynamics.
After some teething problems early on, the RB18 in Verstappen‘s hands proved unstoppable as the Dutchman scorched his way to a record-breaking 15-win season.
It’s little wonder then that the Milton Keynes-based outfit have opted not to reinvent the wheel for 2023, despite the windtunnel restriction they face as a consequence of their controversial 2021 cost cap breach.
“[The car is] a bit of an evolution from last year,” Verstappen added. “I think last year was more a time where you were really adapting to the car, really understanding what you had to do.
“Of course, with all the knowledge from last year, I think it’s already a much easier start for everyone to come back here.
“It’s nice to see the new car, how it has evolved from last year, how the behaviour is a bit different, and also because of the tyres.
“It’s difficult to tell [if it’s better than the RB18] at the moment, but the car is running well, and I think that’s the most important.”
Verstappen edged out the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on day one of F1 2023 testing. Follow the action live from day two on Total-Motorsport.com.