Leclerc sets fastest time of test so far after fault halts Bottas · RaceFans

Charles Leclerc set the fastest time of the Bahrain test so far in the early session of the final day of running ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell.

Leclerc’s best time of a 1’31.024 on C4 tyres was comfortably quicker than any other driver so far in testing, with Russell going second-quickest on the C5 tyres, four tenths slower than the Ferrari. Valtteri Bottas suffered the only major problems of note in the session, stopping on track with just under 90 minutes remaining.

The final day of testing began with all ten teams quickly taking to the circuit. Sergio Perez had the Red Bull RB19 all to himself for the last day of running. He was sent out with a variety of aero rakes and sensors strapped to his car, but one of those small devices appeared to fall off the car at the exit of turn ten, prompting a quick red flag so a marshal could recover the debris.

After stopping on track with a hydraulic problem near the end of Friday’s evening running, Russell was back out early in the Mercedes. He set the early pace with a 1’33.685, before Nico Hulkenberg put Haas on top with a time three tenths faster than Russell.

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Oscar Piastri had his final session of the test in the McLaren MCL60. The rookie suffered a 360 degree spin, losing control of the car over the bumps entering turn nine and the difficult downhill braking zone for turn ten. He recovered back onto the track without issue, before improving on his next lap to go second behind Hulkenberg.

Perez put in a 1’33.167 to claim the top spot for Red Bull for the first time in the day. But then Russell took to the circuit on C4 soft tyres and clocked comfortably the fastest time of the session with a 1’31.707, just half a tenth away from Max Verstappen’s personal best time from Friday. Soon after, Mercedes opted to send him back on on the softest C5 compound and he improved by over a tenth to set a new overall best time of the test with a 1’31.564, better than Zhou Guanyu’s best time from yesterday.

Mercedes’ time at the top was short-lived, however, as Leclerc jumped to the top of the times with a 1’31.164. Not only was Leclerc’s new fastest time over a quarter of a second quicker than Russell’s previous best, the Ferrari driver had set it on C4 soft tyres, rather than the C5s on which Russell had set his quickest time. Soon after, Leclerc shaved a tenth off his own best time, lowering the best lap of the test to a 1’31.024.

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With 80 minutes remaining before the lunch break, the session was interrupted by a red flag. Valtteri Bottas had suffered a problem on his Alfa Romeo and pulled off the circuit on the approach to turn eight, causing the second stoppage of the day. After a 15 minute delay, the session resumed and the final hour was mostly dedicated to longer, higher-fuel runs.

There was another test of the Safety Car system and procedures in the final 15 minutes of the session, with Piastri and Russell both taking advantage of a clear track to conduct a practice start on the grid. The chequered flag signalled the end of the session, with Leclerc quickest ahead of Russell and Aston Martin driver Felipe Drugovich third fastest, a second slower than Leclerc’s best.

AlphaTauri achieved the most laps of the session with Nyck de Vries closing out his pre-season with 87 laps, while Russell gained back some mileage after his Friday evening hydraulic problems by covering 83 laps. McLaren had the lowest distance of the ten teams, with Piastri clocking 44 laps. Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon also fell short of the race distance of 57 laps.

2023 F1 pre-season Bahrain test – Day three, session one times:

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