The 2023 F1 pre-season testing is now in the rearview mirror. Three days of testing are done and we had a Red Bull driver at the top of the standings. Sergio Perez, with a stunning time, led the timesheets and laid down the marker for everyone.
The third day of the test was more about pushing the cars to the limit before the first race of the season. Quite a few teams trialed the C5 compound during their performance runs and we got to see how these cars looked at their best. So, as the testing concluded, what did we learn? Let's take a look.
#1 Red Bull leads Ferrari heading into the first F1 race
Red Bull holds all the cards by the looks of it after the end of the first test. The team has done a tremendous job of bringing the evolution of last year's car. It looks balanced, it's most reliable and it has not shown any inherent weakness so far. The team has a development time penalty that should limit its progress, but it could not have asked for a better start to the season.
Ferrari has looked like an able competitor for Red Bull until the last day of the F1 pre-season test. The car looks good and the design is certainly efficient. Having said that, it eats the tires a little too much for a racing stint to compete with Red Bull. Ferrari will start the season as the second-fastest F1 car, and the gap between the top two teams will clear in the first race.
#2 Mercedes and McLaren have dropped the ball
Mercedes is in much better shape at the start of the season than they were last season. Having said that, it's also quite clear that the German team is not in the same league as the top two teams, and just like last season, the team finds itself dropping a little back from Red Bull and Ferrari.
Having a strong development plan is a good thing, but starting the season on the back foot hoping to overhaul everything in the second half of the season? That's not the best strategy.
McLaren, on the other hand, is in a worse position. The entire development path appears to be a disaster and the first few F1 races are going to be damage limitations for the team. Having Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri in the team, was certainly not what McLaren had in mind for this season. There is going to be a major overhaul after the first few F1 races on the car but one has to agree that this is just not ideal for the team in any which way.
#3 Aston Martin is one exciting prospect this season
No one knows where to place Aston Martin in the F1 pecking order. At worst, Aston Martin is the fourth-best car on the grid. If we look at the race runs on the final day of testing, Aston Martin is the second-best car.
Either way, the car looks sensational in the hands of Fernando Alonso and rest assured the Spaniard is going to extract every ounce of performance from this car. Podiums? The team should secure a few. Wins? One can't rule that out either. Aston Martin is taking the F1 world by storm and we can't help but love every bit of it.
#4 It's close between Alpine and the two Ferrari customers
It's a common theme in pre-season tests where Alpine feels content with the car and the other teams think the car is fifth fastest but the F1 pundits just can't see it. In all fairness to the pundits, they're not entirely wrong.
Alpine is the true enigma of the test in the sense that the car does not look good on the track, The bouncing is a bit too much and the drivers have not looked too comfortable on either of the days. Having said that, the competition expects the car to be 5th fastest so there's not much to debate on that part.
The two Ferrari customers Alfa Romeo and Haas appear to be enjoying a resurgence after a mellow end to last season. These are two solid cars and should be in contention for points at the start of the season.
#5 The midfield is very competitive once again
While Aston Martin appears to have made this huge leap from midfield, every other team from P5 to P10 in the pecking order is not too far away from each other. Just like the start of the 2022 F1 season where there was quite a bit of unpredictability from one race to the other before the order settled down, we could see something similar this time around as well.
From P5 to P10 in the pecking order, we are going to see some major contributions from the drivers. The frontrunners still appear to be in a league of their own once again but the F1 midfield appears to have surely shrunk this season.