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F1 pre-season testing 2024: When it is, can I watch it and more

All to know about Formula 1 pre-season testing in 2024 including date and time, weather forecast and who is driving

F1 drivers during pre-season photoshoot

Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The new F1 season is on the horizon with teams set to travel to Bahrain for pre-season testing, where fans will get a glimpse into who may - or may not - be competitive.  

Drivers will once again kickstart an F1 campaign at Bahrain International Circuit with pre-season testing on the 21-23 February in the first bit of track action for 2024.  

This year’s testing is just a week before the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on the 29 February - 2 March, where much of what’s learnt from testing may come into play. 

Will Red Bull once again be the team to beat? Is Max Verstappen on for a fourth consecutive world championship? Or, can McLaren build on its momentum from 2023 and close the gap to Red Bull? 

Many more questions will present themselves, while much of the grid will remain the same but with two new team names as AlphaTauri has rebranded as RB and Sauber has ditched its Alfa Romeo guise. 

So, with excitement firmly building for the upcoming F1 season, here is everything to know about pre-season testing where fans will also get their first glimpses into the new 2024 car liveries.  

Sauber C44

Sauber C44

Photo by: Sauber F1 Team

When is F1’s 2024 pre-season testing? 

  • Bahrain F1 pre-season test: 21-23 February 2024 

Day 

Start time 

Finish time 

Wednesday 21 February 

7am GMT (10am local time) 

4pm GMT (7pm local time) 

Thursday 22 February 

7am GMT (10am local time) 

4pm GMT (7pm local time) 

Friday 23 February 

7am GMT (10am local time) 

4pm GMT (7pm local time) 

F1 will stage its pre-season test at Bahrain International Circuit for a fourth consecutive year, where teams have just three days of running to complete their different testing programmes ahead of the season-opener at the same venue. 

Having Bahrain as the pre-season test venue allows F1 teams to complete track action in representative hot, dry and sunny conditions. It also keeps travel costs down and remains in line with F1’s pledge to be more environmentally friendly, as teams no longer have to fly from pre-season testing to the opening grand prix. 

However, before pre-season testing a team also undertakes a filming day - also known as a shakedown - where up to 200km of track time can be completed just to make sure everything is working properly with its new car.  

Who is driving in F1 pre-season testing?

The F1 driver market for 2024 was very quiet as each team maintained its line-up from the 2023 season. The biggest news story over the off-season was actually a driver transfer for 2025 as Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes for Ferrari, which is expected to be one of many moves for next year as several contracts expire at the end of 2024.  

Although the same drivers are partaking in pre-season this year, teams can only have one car out on track at once so drivers will each receive 1.5 days of testing. 

Team Wednesday AM Wednesday PM Thursday AM Thursday PM Friday AM Friday PM
Red Bull Max Verstappen Max Verstappen Sergio Perez Max Verstappen Sergio Perez Sergio Perez
Mercedes George Russell George Russell Lewis Hamilton Lewis Hamilton Lewis Hamilton George Russell
Ferrari Charles Leclerc Carlos Sainz Charles Leclerc Carlos Sainz Carlos Sainz Charles Leclerc
McLaren Oscar Piastri Lando Norris Oscar Piastri Lando Norris Lando Norris Oscar Piastri
Aston Martin Fernando Alonso Lance Stroll Fernando Alonso Lance Stroll Lance Stroll Fernando Alonso
Alpine Esteban Ocon Pierre Gasly Pierre Gasly Esteban Ocon Esteban Ocon Pierre Gasly
Williams Alex Albon Logan Sargeant Logan Sargeant Logan Sargeant Alex Albon Alex Albon
RB Yuki Tsunoda Daniel Ricciardo Yuki Tsunoda Daniel Ricciardo Daniel Ricciardo Yuki Tsunoda
Sauber Valtteri Bottas Zhou Guanyu Zhou Guanyu Valtteri Bottas Valtteri Bottas Zhou Guanyu
Haas Kevin Magnussen Nico Hulkenberg Nico Hulkenberg Kevin Magnussen Kevin Magnussen Nico Hulkenberg 

What happens at F1 pre-season testing?  

F1 pre-season testing gives a team its first opportunity to run different car set-ups, parts and programmes in preparation for the upcoming campaign. It is less about speed and more about gaining knowledge on the new car by completing as many laps as possible, where teams are free to run any set-up that they wish. So, think of it like a free practice 1 session but across an entire day times three. 

Night lighting and the Bahrain flag

Night lighting and the Bahrain flag

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

F1 pre-season testing on TV  

The official television timings are yet to be announced but, as per last year, F1 is expected to broadcast the entire Bahrain test on Sky Sports F1 in the United Kingdom and Ireland, plus on F1 TV in countries where it is available. 

Autosport will be running a live text commentary on the F1 pre-season test at Bahrain International Circuit.  

F1 pre-season testing weather forecast 

Bahrain is expected to be hot and sunny during F1’s 2024 pre-season test, with temperatures regularly above 20 degrees Celsius, but not straying higher than 24 degrees Celsius. Friday is expected to be the hottest and sunniest day of running, while cloudy intervals are predicted for Wednesday and Thursday. 

However, there are nine hours between the start of the day and when track time finishes, so temperatures may vary throughout and become a lot cooler as the sun begins to drop. 

There are also very low chances of rain which makes it more representative of the opening grand prix than when Barcelona held pre-season testing, because temperatures in the Spanish city would rarely go above 15 degrees Celsius in February. 

How accurate is F1 pre-season testing? 

It is only testing, so lap times must not be taken as a definite indicator into what the pecking order will be. This is because lap times set in testing are obscured by multiple variables which include different car set-ups, fuel loads, engine modes, tyre compound and tyre life, so it is not like in qualifying where teams have everything cranked up for one lap. 

Sandbagging is also common in pre-season testing, and refers to when a team prefers to hide its potential so that it doesn’t show everyone its full pace before the opening grand prix. This can all be seen in the data below, which lists the fastest lap in testing compared to the equivalent pole position time at the same circuit later in the year.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

What happened between 2016 and 2019 best explains why testing is not the be-all and end-all because Ferrari topped it every year during that time, but the Scuderia did not win one of those world championships. There is also 2014, where Felipe Massa topped testing for Williams yet the British outfit scored less than half of constructors’ champions Mercedes’ points tally that year. 

However, pre-season testing does still offer some indication into who might be the strongest, because Red Bull has topped the last two before dominating both of those campaigns - even though Charles Leclerc took pole and victory in Bahrain in 2022. 

Year 

Circuit 

Driver  

Team 

Fastest test lap time 

Driver 

Team 

Pole position time 

Difference 

2023 

Bahrain 

Sergio Perez 

Red Bull 

1m30.305s 

Max Verstappen 

Red Bull  

1m29.708s 

-0.597s 

2022 

Bahrain 

Max Verstappen 

Red Bull 

1m31.720s 

Charles Leclerc 

Ferrari 

1m30.558s 

-1.144s 

2021 

Bahrain 

Max Verstappen 

Red Bull 

1m28.960s 

Max Verstappen 

Red Bull  

1m28.997s 

+0.037s 

2020 

Barcelona 

Valtteri Bottas 

Mercedes 

1m15.732s 

Lewis Hamilton 

Mercedes 

1m15.584s 

-0.148s 

2019 

Barcelona 

Ferrari 

1m16.221s 

Valtteri Bottas 

Mercedes 

1m15.406s 

-0.815s 

2018 

Barcelona 

Sebastian Vettel 

Ferrari 

1m17.182s 

Lewis Hamilton 

Mercedes 

1m16.173s 

-1.009s 

2017 

Barcelona 

Ferrari 

1m18.634s 

Lewis Hamilton 

Mercedes 

1m19.149s 

+0.515s 

2016 

Barcelona 

Kimi Raikkonen 

Ferrari 

1m22.765s 

Lewis Hamilton 

Mercedes 

1m22.000s 

-0.765s 

2015 

Barcelona 

Mercedes 

1m22.792s 

Nico Rosberg 

Mercedes 

1m24.681s 

+1.889s 

2014 

Bahrain 

Felipe Massa 

Williams 

1m33.258s 

Nico Rosberg 

Mercedes 

1m33.185s 

-0.073s 

2013 

Barcelona 

Nico Rosberg 

Mercedes 

1m20.130s 

Nico Rosberg 

Mercedes 

1m20.718s 

+0.588s 

2012 

Barcelona 

Kimi Raikkonen 

Lotus 

1m22.030s 

Williams 

1m22.285s 

+0.255s 

 

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