Everything we learned from 2024 F1 testing
Sun 25, Feb, 2024
Source: The Race

Just like that, Formula 1 testing is over for 2024 - and three packed days of running made pre-season extremely interesting for The Race's F1 team on the ground in Bahrain.

Some lessons are learned more quickly than others in testing, but all help piece together the picture ahead of the new season. 

So what do we know now that we didn’t at the start of the week?


Ferrari topped testing, with Carlos Sainz leading Charles Leclerc for a Ferrari 1-2 in the overall times.

While it would be overdoing it to anticipate a repeat of that result in the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Ferrari SF-24 does appear to be the closest challenger to Red Bull. 

Based on deeper analysis of the times, the pace difference looks to be in the region of three-to-four tenths of a second. And with the potential for the waters to be muddied by conditions, engine modes and fuel loads, Ferrari is possibly within striking distance.

The Ferrari drivers weren’t big fans of last year’s car, but the 2024 machine is far more to their liking. Given they jumped in the car last year and immediately knew it was going to be a tough season, that’s a significant turnaround.

As Ferrari’s technical director Enrico Cardile puts it, the car is now "more driveable and predictable". 

That’s a big deal for Ferrari, which has been steadily chipping away at improving these tendencies since last year. What’s more, it should also mean its race pace is better given that improved stability will mean the tyres are treated better and should suffer from less degradation. 

The race runs in Bahrain testing suggested Ferrari is not in bad shape in that regard. Now, it’s just a question of adding performance faster than Red Bull can to close the gap. 

Because the whole paddock does think there is a gap - potentially one bigger than in 2023. 

Red Bull’s headline pace was clearly deceiving, and even its long-run work seemed to be disguised by something, most likely a very conservative engine mode. 

Max Verstappen could barely hide his satisfaction with how this week has gone, in a textbook example of the cliched ‘the best has just got better’.


The messaging from Mercedes after the Bahrain test was gently positive, with talk of a solid foundation, useful days and genuine progress.

Most importantly, as George Russell put it, Mercedes now is confident it has “a very good base to build from”,  while Lewis Hamilton described the car as much nicer to drive and a clear improvement.

So the glory days are back for Mercedes? Well, not yet.

But the crucial thing is that Mercedes finally has a car it expects can be consistent and respond to development. That’s been severely lacking over the past two years.

The drivers are confident thanks to the changes to the mechanical platform that can now be made to work better with the aerodynamic performance of the car.

That’s not just about the visually obvious change to pushrod rear suspension, but greater anti-dive at the front and anti-squat at the rear - to keep the car more balanced in extreme states of heavy braking, acceleration and high speed.

Mercedes even showed off the extent to which it can run anti-dive at the front by switching the upper wishbone rear leg to a lower mounting point during the test.

Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin claims the handling flaws of last year’s car are gone and that a number of its troubles are now behind the team.

Mercedes isn’t back on top. But what matters is it now has something it can work with rather than endlessly floundering trying to make the best of an erratic car.

McLaren and Aston Martin won't be an immediate threat

McLaren’s test was hit with a couple of time-consuming issues. A problem in the fuel tank led to a delay on day two and a clutch issue halted running on day three. 

It meant McLaren had a far from prolific test, with only Williams completing fewer laps.

And headline laptimes, of limited use though they might be, did not paint McLaren as an immediate threat to the top two teams.

That was reflected in the team’s public stance too. McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown told The Race that Red Bull’s in the clear and Ferrari is best of the rest, while Lando Norris bluntly said "we’re still a very long way behind Red Bull and a long way behind Ferrari still".

It’s probably a similar situation at Aston Martin, which looks eye-catching at times from trackside but also has some moments that suggest it is trailing Ferrari in particular in that best-of-the-rest group. 

This wasn’t the kind of jaw-droppingly good test that heralded Aston Martin as a real dark horse 12 months ago. But there were no red flags literally or internally, which suggests Aston Martin should be threatening the lead group even if it’s not in the thick of it. 


The same drain cover coming loose on the outside kerb approaching Turn 11 was a frustrating interruption for the teams this week - twice. 

First, the broken parts were re-welded on day two. When it broke again on day three, the whole structure was reinforced. Both disruptions caused driving and (less importantly!) media schedules to be rejigged.

But there’s a race here next week – so while both temporary solutions held firm for a day of testing each, a more permanent fix is needed. 

It could be gloriously simple: remove the drain entirely, fill the area with concrete and paint it as required. That had not been decided by the end of the test but it was the preferred choice. 

While it seems drastic, it’s also quite pragmatic. Drainage isn’t exactly critical here even though it did rain for the recent Formula 2 test.