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Trackside Verdict: Which cars looked the business on track?

With only a few teams opting to set headline lap times in pre-season testing, we've had to look beyond the basic timesheets. Fortunately, RacingNews365 photographer Michael Potts was trackside every day, and provides his thoughts fastest, slowest, and best looking cars.

With the pre-season testing results often met with caution and tentativeness, the final answers about the F1 2023 pecking order will ultimately be determined at the first race of the season. Until then, we will be relying on headline lap times, background data and, crucially, how the cars looked on track. Which cars passed the 'eye test' at the Bahrain International Circuit? RacingNews365's accredited photographer Michael Potts was on hand to provide his verdict on all ten teams.

Red Bull

They just nailed it! It is hard to see how they can't win both titles this year. On the morning of the first day, Verstappen and Perez arrived at the Netflix shoot together, chatting happily, a show of unity, and were the only two drivers to arrive together. On track the car looked incredibly fast. There was a point on the first day where Max was delivering fast lap after fast lap, not the usual push lap then recovery lap you would expect from a qualifying run. This followed the pattern of a race simulations at what looked like qualification speeds. It looked very, very fast and very ominous if you are anyone other than Max Verstappen, because even though Checo did top the combined timesheets, Max just looked so much more in control. If you listen very carefully you can hear the engravers starting to work already.

Ferrari

The Scuderia sounded exquisite, and it looked good too. They have fixed some reliability issues which will hopefully prevent some of the retirements we saw last year. All cars are louder this year than last year, as a photographer you can use the sound of the cars to help you pan. This has been harder to do with the V6's - not anymore. They sound delicious. If Mercedes design was as tight as possible, Ferrari have gone the opposite direction with large voluptuous sidepods. The car looked quick, but also a bit erratic. On the first day I saw it venturing off the track at least twice and it looked very squirrely around Turn 7. The car sparked more than the others down the straight. There was a lot of optimism at their launch but now they have seen Red Bull, you sense there is fear creeping into the team.

Mercedes

I did think the Mercedes looked rather good on track. The black colour scheme is stunning - however the team were a bit downbeat on the assessment of where they are in the pecking order. I am not sure if this a collective call to Bono complaining about tyres or they really are not as quick as they would like to be. The bodywork of the car is bizarre, It looks like a clay car that someone has squished in the middle. There is a bulge running down the length of the car, the emaciated sidepods and what almost appears to be a stepped floor. I spent a long while in the pits just staring at the car, it is a wondrous, peculiar creation. Let's see if it is also a fast one.

Alpine

The Alpine didn't look quick but it looked very stable and very assured. I can't remember seeing the car on, or near, the edge. Maybe the team was focusing on race pace rather than qualifying times. The car's design is quite radical. The sidepod grooves are very interesting, they appear so different from everyone else's. The blue and pink livery is not my favourite, I am looking forward to seeing the full pink car this weekend. It is a stunning livery and one that I really wished they would run all year. Gasly moves over from the Red Bull stable and will be hoping to do a Carlos and excel away from AlphaTauri.

McLaren

Sadly we didn't see much of the MCL60 over the course of the test. The team had a lot of reliability issues and the mood music coming from the team wasn't positive. They are planning a big upgrade early in the season which could help them improve. This is a bit of a transitional year for the team as they await a new wind tunnel and welcome a new team principal and driver in Oscar Piastri. There is a lot of upheaval which, when things settle down later in the year should translate into improved results. The car didn't look terrible on long runs, and it might surprise a few people who have written it off - I am not saying they will sneak a podium, but more likely they will not be last.

Alfa Romeo

The Swiss team stole the headlines on day two with the fastest lap. It might have been a glory run but the car did look very good on track. They did have a few mechanical issues. I was in the pits on the last day when Bottas stopped on track. They had to change the power unit and to stop pesky photographers snapping something they shouldn't, a human shield of Alfa Romeo team members created a defensive wall that would have impressed any football coach. The colour scheme is very striking and very aggressive, even if the team has two of the most laid back drivers. Bottas is taking over Vettel's retro 'dude' look. From the front it is very hard to distinguish the Alfa from the Mercedes. This is another team that is going to punch above its expectations.

Aston Martin

The green and yellow Aston Martin team look to be the most improved. Some people are saying that they could be the second fastest car on Sunday - but I think they are going to be fourth or fifth. The car looked very good on long runs, it looked great turning into the corners and Alonso looks as hungry as the rookies. Lance Stroll sat out of testing due to an injury sustained during training and his replacement Felipe Drugovich did incredibly well as a stand in. He is the current F2 champion, but to step into these new F1 cars, with only a limited amount of practice is a huge achievement.

Haas

The team looked very good, and Hulkenberg has slotted back in as if he has never left. Their driver line up is one of the better ones in the lower midfield and that could really help them snap up the points in what will be a very competitive championship. This is a more mature, more sensible, less adolescent Haas. They logged a lot of laps, and the car looked good on track. I didn't see them having any issues, which is a bit unusual. In the past they have usually been the team that has the car in the garage for the longest amount of time. In this test they managed to log a sizeable amount of laps. The new colour scheme is bold, simple and effective - but in this field of dark carbon fibre cars, it doesn't stand out.

AlphaTauri

The Red Bull sister team were an ubiquitous presence on track during testing. They logged more laps than anyone else, so I managed to get a good look at the car. Adding FE and F2 champion Nyck de Vries to the team, they now have probably the smallest driver lineup on the grid. AlphaTauri had a bad season last year and that probably had a lot to do with their customer relationship with Red Bull. This year they plan to do more in-house which should give them more freedom. They have a different front suspension layout which is a fairly big change. I was disappointed with their livery shown off at the New York car launch but on track it does look fairly good. Particularly from the top - the logo on the engine cover makes a very striking geometric design. From the front it looked very similar to the Haas. It felt like they were doing a lot of long run testing rather than focusing on shorter qualifying laps. They could be a bit of a dark horse come race day.

Williams

I felt it was a bit of a mixed bag for Williams, they looked really good on track, they logged a lot of laps but then, when I looked at the time sheets, things were not that impressive. Possibly they did their fast laps when the track was not at its best. The team also have a new team principal and a new driver in Logan Sargent. I think he might surprise a few people - he was very close to beating Piastri to the F3 title a few years ago. They have some lovely detailing on the wheel covers this year. They have a new title sponsor, Gulf Oil, and I was really hoping we would see the classic gulf oil livery return to F1. It has made a partial return to some of the pit crew fire proofs and helmets as well as the pit stop rig. The Williams does look a little similar to the Aston Martin at times. They did a few tests with cameras mounted on the nose of the car which was interesting to see.

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