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The Red Bull indicator that will worry its F1 rivals

On the final day of pre-season testing, Max Verstappen gave hints at Red Bull's true pace over their rivals after completing a long run on the C3 tyres.

Verstappen Piastri Bahrain
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

It was a statement of intent from Max Verstappen when he fitted a set of C3 medium tyres under what is expected to be race conditions in Bahrain and proceeded to power through 14 laps at a consistent pace.

The reality has slowly dawned on the teams that the RB20 is the step that Red Bull was hoping for in terms of performance, with only minor setbacks relating to their brakes throughout the three days.

As the twilight conditions descended over the track and the air temperature dropped to 23 degrees centigrade, Verstappen turned switched his focus to race runs on the mediums.

Verstappen looked comfortable on track as he lapped in the low 1:37s before switching to the C1 hard and repeating the time feat throughout a 17-lap stint.

His quickest time on the C3 came 10 laps into the run, showing that the RB20 handles its tyres well on one of the most abrasive surfaces on the calendar.

Ferrari tackles consistency

Charles Leclerc produced laps in the mid- 1:37s in the SF-24, before dipping into the low- 1:38s towards the end of his run on the C3.

It would confirm Red Bull's suspicions that Ferrari is around three-tenths slower on race pace, however, there is a small win from the Scuderia's point of view.

The SF-24 looks a lot smoother on track, with it no longer 'jumping' along the straights as was the case with its predecessor. Much of the team's work over the winter was aimed at giving both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz a more consistent car, which it appears to have succeeded in doing.

Fernando Alonso matched Leclerc during his C3 run in the Aston Martin, which means much of their updates developed over the winter could potentially put them back into contention for podiums after dropping off towards the end of last year.

As highlighted by Lando Norris, McLaren is still far off its rivals but a much more encouraging start to the year should give them a better foundation to work from with the MCL38.

Oscar Piastri only managed a couple of laps in the high 1:37s before dropping into the 1:38s, suggesting there is still a lot of setup work to come from the team to fine-tune its race pace.

C3 long run analysis

1 1:37.752 1:37.173 1:37.610 1:38.625
2 1:37.575 1:37.366 1:37.567 1:37.843
3 1:37.422 1:37.363 1:38.022 1:38.129
4 1:37.285 1:37.476 1:37.863 1:38.213
5 1:37.172 1:37.583 1:37.634 1:38.216
6 1:37.177 1:37.724 1:37.860 1:38.453
7 1:37.221 1:37.598 1:37.783 1:38.587
8 1:37.160 1:37.613 1:37.721 1:38.922
9 1:37.130 1:37.703 1:37.845 1:38.791
10 1:37.058 1:38.215 1:37.445 1:38.894
11 1:37.124 1:37.742 1:37.651 1:38.923
12 1:37.208 1:38.177 1:37.503 1:38.932
13 1:37.205 1:38.109 1:37.587 1:39.035
14 1:37.116 1:38.336 1:38.644

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Qualifying