F1 testing in Bahrain: Max Verstappen ousts Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc to set marker

World champion Max Verstappen set the tone as F1 pre-season testing began in Bahrain.

The Red Bull driver overtook two-time world champion Fernando Alonso in an Aston Martin, and two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc hid behind him.

“Today we had a good day, we did a lot of laps, which is what we wanted – almost three Grands Prix,” said Verstappen.

“It’s nice to see how the car has changed from last year. The behavior is slightly different due to the tires, but other than that we are satisfied.”

In 2022, Verstappen has won 15 of 22 races, including nine of the last 11 when he took the world title in a row.

His final score of 454 points was 146 points higher than Leclerc, who placed second. The Mercedes of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished the first day of three at Sakhir with sixth and ninth best results.

Mercedes survived the 2022 rollercoaster season when they finished third in the Constructors’ Championship behind Red Bull and Ferrari.

Hamilton finished the campaign in sixth place overall, two places behind Russell.

“It’s nice to be driving again here in Bahrain. It was a nice, cool day weather-wise, though windy,” Hamilton said.

“We have to keep working, focus on ourselves and stay focused. It’s hard to know where we are in order, but we will feel better in the coming days.” The 2023 season kicks off at Sakhir Circuit on March 5.

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