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Formula 1

Three key storylines to keep an eye on in 2024 F1 pre-season testing

It's nearly time for the talking to stop and for cars to be put through their paces in Bahrain.

Hamilton Mercedes shakedown W15
To news overview © Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

Another year, another pre-season Formula 1 test and another few days that will make or break your season.

Thousands of work hours have gone into creating the new machines on the 2024 grid, and although teams have completed shakedowns, it is only when testing kicks off in Bahrain that the first real clues begin to trickle through about how the grid could be stacking up.

Of course, we won't get a true answer for that until qualifying in Sakhir but there are still some interesting story lines to keep an eye on as the three days of action start 2024.

Are Red Bull still as far ahead?

In 2023, it became apparent pretty much from the first morning of testing that the Red Bull RB19 was the car to beat - and Max Verstappen the driver who would take some stopping.

Indeed, 21 and 19 wins later respectively from 22 races, it's safe to say no-one could stop the Dutchman, but it is extremely rare for a team to enjoy such a sizeable advantage over the field over two successive seasons.

With the laws of diminishing returns striking for Red Bull with its previous concept, it has gone radical with the RB20 - will this prove to be another Adrian Newey masterstroke or a disaster that will level the playing field and allow Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren or Aston Martin a sniff?

Sergio Perez has also spoken during the launch season that the car feels improved in slow-speed corners on the simulator compared to 2023 - that is a good thing for the Mexican and should help him to be closer to Verstappen.

Have Mercedes and Ferrari finally got it right?

As far as Red Bull is concerned, it has already aced one ground effects concept and is onto its second whilst Mercedes and Ferrari are still trying to figure out their first.

All teams on the grid have moved towards the former Red Bull style of downwash sidepods, but one upside for Mercedes and Ferrari is that they still have giant gains to make in their performance - ones that Red Bull has already found.

One important test that Mercedes has already passed with its new W15 is the fact that 'it looks right.'

If an F1 car 'looks right', it is usally fast but the zero sidepod W13 and W14, before the upgrades, machines never quite did look right - with the bodge job that was the upgraded W14 only ever an interim solution before the W15 could be redesigned as cost cap rules prevented Mercedes from doing so.

One key area is that the cockpit has been shuffled back 100mm, solving one Lewis Hamilton complaint from 2023 in that he was sitting too far forward in the car as the zero sidepods necessitated the cockpit being further forward.

Just how fast is the RB?

Both McLaren and Aston Martin are hoping that they will be able to keep looking upwards and continue their form of 2023 of mingling with the so-called big three teams and establish themselves there.

The one thing both do not want to do is be looking over their shoulders at an RB team which has undergone drastic change since last term.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown has a bee in his bonnet about the fact that Red Bull owns two teams on the grid - with the newly-named RB, previously AlphaTauri, and what this means for the competition.

There is nothing in the rules that forbids a team buying transferable components (previously non-listed parts) from a rival such as suspension, gearbox and power steering with RB taking this to the max with its first attempt at a car.

But just how fast is the new car, set to be driven by Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda? If it is still in the midfield, McLaren could probably live with that, but should the VCARB-01 be threatening near the top of the time-sheets, expect this row to intensify and more vocal criticism to follow.

			© Red Bull Content Pool
	© Red Bull Content Pool

F1 2024 pre-season testing RN365 News dossier

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