The order of the F1 grid according to the 2023 pre-season tests

Time for analysis and speculation before the Bahrain GP this weekend. The tests that ended last Saturday left 3,988 total laps. Fast laps, long runs, six tire compounds plus some other experimental, ten cars, twenty drivers… until Sakhir’s Q3 no one will know for sure the real possibilities of each car. But the records and the sensations at the foot of the track do allow us to draw up a first ranking on the current situation of all the teams. Surprise: the favorite this Sunday is Red Bull.

1: Red Bull RB19

After one lap, Verstappen led Thursday and Friday with the C3 (soft reference in Bahrain) and Pérez on Saturday without having to mount the C5. In long runs, the Mexican scared even more with his race simulation on the second day of testing, in the heat. It is an evolution of what already worked very well, without drastic changes. They seem so superior, it would be a surprise if they had too much opposition in the fight for pole position and victory.

2: Ferrari SF-23

Top speed has become his new forte. Part of it comes from the power unit, revised and improved to avoid reliability failures (which unlock benefits), but also from some aerodynamic changes that reduce drag. The problem is that along the way they have lost grip in the curves. Long run tire degradation did not start well, although Sainz made a strong start to the drill on Saturday. Leclerc generally looked more uncomfortable behind the wheel, but he came away with a good final time.

3: Mercedes W14

It hasn’t been a brilliant test and reliability was again an issue with Russell’s breakdown. Even so, it is difficult to rule out the Brackley factory from the top-3. They may need several races and upgrade packages to establish themselves at the level they were at the end of last year, when they went on to win the Brazilian GP. Hamilton left with great times with the C5, but the lap was far from clean. How far are those pole positions that in the ‘on board’ reflected a fine piloting and without corrections. This Mercedes is no longer like those.

4: Aston Martin AMR23

A surprise. Well one lap away, with Alonso close to Verstappen in the first two days; and even better in race pace judging by the simulation on Saturday. Very fine, without slipping in the curves, it moves like the best. Sunday car. Stroll’s bar is missing, because Drugovich’s kilometers contribute little. But it is undeniable that the car has made a qualitative leap compared to its predecessor, which ended 2022 fighting or even surpassing Alpine and McLaren. In favorable rear train circuits, it may be able to scare those in front. Although on straight lines the Mercedes engine has become conservative compared to Ferrari and Honda.

5: Alpine A523

This team never makes bad cars and always brings out their full potential on race weekends. Its tests have been extremely discreet and there have not even been any relevant attempts at classification. But when listening to their engineers, calm reigns and they take it for granted that they will aspire to fourth place in manufacturers, which is their goal for 2023. The question: without Alonso in the garage, the responsibility to guide the ‘set-up’ falls about Ocon and Gasly. Perhaps in some grand prix the first free practice will get a bit stuck.

6: Alfa Romeo C43

Bottas and Zhou have been seen ahead in the time tables. Sauber’s winters have been very good in recent years, although it is difficult to maintain the rate of evolution that other manufacturers do during the season. The car is increasingly independent from Ferrari, they do not even incorporate the Maranello gearbox. A reference for the true middle zone.

7: Haas VF22

A curious approach from the American house, which goes from two ‘rookies’ like Schumacher and Mazepin to two veterans hardened in a thousand battles, Magnussen and Hulkenberg, who for one reason or another never exploded. Haas buys everything that is permitted from Ferrari and has a design office in Maranello. In addition, they traditionally take advantage of the winters. With the power of the new Italian engine, they must lead the caboose.

8: McLaren MCL60

Inconspicuous training sessions and a car awaiting improvements that will come from the Azerbaijan GP. It is easy to think of Baku because there will be a three-week break since the previous race (Australia) to manufacture and send the parts. Andrea Stella, the new ‘main team’, acknowledges that the car does not meet the aerodynamic objectives that had been set. Piastri is a rookie with a long time ahead of him, but Norris is progressing towards sporting maturity in anticipation of a truly competitive F1. In any case, they will advance.

9: Alpha Tauri AT04

The junior team is going through a bump: the car is moving away from the top-10 that it has been in for many seasons and Helmut Marko’s program hardly offers drivers with any chances. Nyck de Vries (28 years old) is a promising ‘rookie’, F2 and Formula E champion, but he trained with McLaren and Mercedes and had never been linked to drink. Tsunoda also has to show that he is not there because he shares a nationality with Honda. And the AT04 must show on the track that it is not the Red Bull test bench.

10: Williams FW45

A block that is too young, with changes in leadership at the end of the year and a driver, Logan Sargeant, with no experience in Formula 1. The car is discreet, although it no longer looks anything like the Mercedes W13 that came out as a frog. They point to the red lantern again, because Alex Albon’s team does not have the resources of Haas or Alpha Tauri. The appointment of James Vowles as main team can also serve as training in case one day Toto Wolff decides to step back.

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