Bahrain testing: Key talking points as Sergio Perez sits out, Aston Martin look strong

Pre-season testing in Bahrain kicked off on Thursday as the 2023 season edges closer and closer.

With the first day of pre-season testing in Bahrain complete, there are many talking points to be analysed and looked at in more detail.

Every driver in attendance managed to take to the track other than Sergio Perez, who is schedule to jump into the cockpit of the RB19 from Friday afternoon onwards, as Red Bull split their testing schedule clean in half.

Lance Stroll was not in attendance after reportedly breaking both of his wrists following a recent cycling accident, leaving Felipe Drugovich as Aston Martin’s temporary partner for Fernando Alonso.

Two-time world champion Max Verstappen topped the timing screens in both sessions, with his 1:32:837 being the fastest time set by any driver on Thursday.

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The Dutchman was closely followed by Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, who was only 0.029s slower than the Red Bull driver.

With each team using their testing time in different ways and with different plans, lap times do not tell the full story in pre-season, leaving top speed as one of the only ways of telling the true capability of the cars.

McLaren, AlphaTauri, Haas and Williams all managed an impressive top speed of 322 km/h, putting them joint-third.

The second fastest team was Ferrari, who managed to clock a speed 3km/h faster than third place with 325km/h being the fastest that the SF-23 was recorded.

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The fastest car on track on Thursday was unsurprisingly the RB19, with two-time world champion Max Verstappen taking full advantage of his full day on track by setting the fastest lap time and clocking the quickest speed.

READ: Aston Martin yet to finalise driver line-up after Lance Stroll injury

The Red Bull driver was recorded doing an astonishing 326km/h around the Bahrain International Circuit, with the energy drink giants and reigning champions setting down an early benchmark for the other teams.

Mercedes may be concerned that there are at least six teams on the grid that currently have a higher top speed than them, however it is entirely possible that the team were sandbagging.

The Silver Arrows have admitted that a new sidepod design is already in the works, having arrived to Bahrain with the same narrow sidepod design as last season.