F1 Testing Day Three: Leclerc Fastest Red Bull Remain Strong

Ferrari tops leaderboard for second day in Bahrain, with Red Bull's Verstappen fourth on harder compounds with further drain-cover issues.

Lee Parker

By Lee Parker
Published on February 23, 2024

Ferrari tops leaderboard for second day in Bahrain 2024 Pre-season Testing
Ferrari tops leaderboard for second day in Bahrain 2024 pre-season testing

On the last day of Formula 1 pre-season testing, Charles Leclerc kept Ferrari at the front, with the fastest time, with Mercedes’ George Russell second and Max Verstappen for Red Bull in fourth, setting the stage for an intriguing season opener at next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Following his teammate Carlos Sainz’s lead from Thursday, Leclerc clinched the top spot on Friday with a remarkable lap time of 1:30.22 in the afternoon while on the C5 tyres, the quickest compound provided during the week.

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The test’s morning session was again interrupted due to a dislodged drain cover, causing a halt in the action for over an hour. This incident mirrored the disruption from the day before, underscoring ongoing track issues.

Despite Leclerc’s success, Sainz’s performance on Day Two, with a lap time of 1:29.921 on the slightly harder C4 tyres, remained the fastest of the test. However, Red Bull showcased their speed with the week’s best time on the C3 tyres, the same compound designated for the upcoming race, solidifying their status as the team to beat, courtesy of their new RB20 car.

Ferrari demonstrated considerable promise during the test, with their drivers expressing increased confidence in their car’s performance compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, Mercedes reported improvements in their car’s drivability compared to its challenging predecessors. McLaren also remains optimistic, feeling well-positioned within the competitive group.

Verstappen, who, like Leclerc, participated in the afternoon session, opted for the C3 or harder tyres. His best time of 1:30.755 was slower than Leclerc’s by four-tenths, but when adjusted for tyre differences, his lap was theoretically faster, indicating close competition as the new season approaches.

Russell, who, along with teammate Lewis Hamilton, has praised this year’s significantly updated Mercedes for its improved drivability, engaged in several short stints towards the end of the session during the evening hours. Initially, he climbed to fifth position using the C3 tyres before advancing to second on the C4 tyres towards the session’s close, trailing Leclerc by just 0.046 seconds.

Zhou Guanyu for Sauber made a significant leap to third place, also using the red-marked C4 compound.

Racing Bull’s Yuki Tsunoda also opted for a late-session, qualifying-style effort on the C4 tyres, culminating in a fifth-place finish after completing 53 laps.

Alex Albon, the sole driver to remain in the cockpit throughout the day while the remaining nine teams divided their track time, made a notable advancement to secure sixth place following an exhaustive 121 laps, surpassing McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

Carlos Sainz topped the morning session times, while Lewis Hamilton, discussing his surprising move to Ferrari in 2025 for the first time during a press conference, secured 12th place with 49 laps under his belt.

Lando Norris completed only 20 laps due to a clutch malfunction on his McLaren.

Bahrain pre-season test: Day three timesheet

1) Charles LeclercFerrari1:30.32274C5
2) George RussellMercedes+0.04667C4
3) Zhou GuanyuSauber+0.32585C4
4) Max VerstappenRed Bull+0.43366C3
5) Yuki TsunodaRB+0.45353C4
6) Alex AlbonWilliams+0.662121C4
7) Oscar PiastriMcLaren+0.70891C3
8) Fernando AlonsoAston Martin+0.83775C3
9) Carlos SainzFerrari+0.92571C3
10) Sergio PerezRed Bull+1.16153C3
11) Nico HulkenbergHaas+1.36489C3
12) Lewis HamiltonMercedes+1.67749C5
13) Lance StrollAston Martin+1.71646C3
14) Lando NorrisMcLaren+1.78620C3
15) Pierre GaslyAlpine+1.82747C3
16) Kevin MagnussenHaas+2.73180C3
17) Esteban OconAlpine+2.75755C3
18) Valtteri BottasSauber+3.20628C3
19) Daniel RicciardoRB+6.69370C1
*The C5 tyre is the softest – and theoretically fastest – compound, while C1 is the hardest – and theoretically slowest – compound

We now head to the first race of the season, the Bahrain GP, starting with free practice on Thursday, February 29, till March 2. The 2024 F1 schedule includes a unique twist with three Grands Prix – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Las Vegas set to race on Saturdays.

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How can I watch F1 races in 2024 in the USA?

ESPN holds the broadcasting rights for Formula 1 in the United States, with a contract in place to air the series through at least 2025, having begun its coverage in 2018.

The network relays Sky Sports’ F1 coverage from the UK to its American viewers, distributing it across its platforms, including ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU, and ESPN Deportes for Spanish-speaking audiences.

How can I watch F1 races live in 2024 in the UK?

Merely a week after the pre-season testing, the 2024 season kicks off with the Bahrain Grand Prix scheduled from February 29 to March 2.

In observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, both the Bahrain Grand Prix and, a week later, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, will take place on a Saturday.

Consequently, the first and second practice sessions are slated for Thursdays, while the final practice and qualifying rounds will occur on Fridays.

Since 2012, Sky Sports has been the exclusive broadcaster of F1 in the UK, requiring a subscription for viewers to follow the series. Subscriptions to Sky Sports start at £18 per month, granting access to all nine channels.

Additionally, F1 enthusiasts have the option to live stream races via NOW TV, which provides full access to Sky Sports. NOW TV offers two introductory deals for new subscribers: a monthly pass at £26 or a day pass for £11.99.

While Sky Sports exclusively broadcasts F1 in the UK, Channel 4 has the rights to air the British Grand Prix live from July 5-7, 2024, making it the only race available on free-to-air television.

For live grand prix broadcasts in the UK, F1TV does not have rights, but fans can still enjoy a range of F1 content, including documentaries, on the platform. Subscription options for F1TV are available at £2.99 per month or £19.99 annually.

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About The Author

Senior Editor

Lee Parker
Lee Parker

Lee is our staff writer specialising in anything technical within Formula 1 from aerodynamics to engines. Lee writes most of our F1 guides for beginners and experienced fans having followed the sports since 1991, researching and understanding how teams build the ultimate machines. Like everyone else on the team he listens to podcasts about F1 and enjoys reading biographies of former drivers.

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