Mystery of the RB19, the W14’s crunch moment: F1 Bahrain testing talking points

It’s nearly time for the class of F1 2023 to hit the track for the first collective running of the year with three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain, but what can we expect to see? 
Mystery of the RB19, the W14’s crunch moment: F1 Bahrain testing talking points

Red Bull’s RB19 to finally break cover 

There will be great anticipation surrounding Red Bull when the light goes green on Thursday for the opening day of action, given we are yet to see the team’s actual 2023 car in the flesh. 

The RB19 has been shrouded in secrecy so far this winter, with Red Bull unveiling their new livery on a showcar at their New York season launch.

Remote video URL

Red Bull ran the car for the first time in a shakedown at Silverstone, but unlike their rivals, the world champions were very specific about what they did, or more to the point, didn’t reveal. 

Red Bull offered no publicity images from the event and only released a short video clip on their social media channels in which the car could not be seen clearly. 

It marked a contrasting approach from teams such as Mercedes, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams, all of whom provided some imagery from their respective shakedowns and filming days. 

Expect plenty of intrigue and activity around the Red Bull garage when the RB19 emerges for the first time. 

Can Mercedes put their woes behind them?

Mystery of the RB19, the W14’s crunch moment: F1 Bahrain testing talking points

Mercedes have been very cautious about their 2023 chances but Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will be hoping their W14 can power them back into title contention this year. 

The eight-time constructors’ world champions are determined to put the misery of a failed 2022 campaign - and their troubled W13 - behind them, but acknowledge they are “starting behind” in 2023. 

Pre-season testing will be a crunch moment for Mercedes to see whether the plethora of issues that plagued their 2022 challenger are truly a thing of the past. All eyes will be fixed on whether the W14 is porpoising on the straights in Bahrain, and how well balanced it is. 

Mercedes have, so far at least, refused to abandon their radical ‘zero sidepod’ concept, but Wolff did suggest the design will be revised during the upcoming season. 

In recent years Mercedes have been no strangers to grabbing the headlines by bringing big upgrades to their car on the eve of a new season, and it remains to be seen whether that will be the case once more in 2023. 

Will Ferrari live up to early hype?

Mystery of the RB19, the W14’s crunch moment: F1 Bahrain testing talking points

By no means is it the first time, but there is a sense of real hype building around Ferrari’s off-season. 

There is optimism that Ferrari have rectified the engine reliability issue which hampered their 2022 campaign, and with it have been able to reclaim the performance they were forced to sacrifice in the second half of the season. 

Meanwhile, the arrival of new team principal Frederic Vasseur has instilled fresh belief into the team, who exuded confidence as they pulled off a bold and risky in-person launch that featured the SF-23’s track debut live on TV in front of their adoring Tifosi. 

Ferrari’s successful launch only added to the excitement surrounding the new season. Will 2023 finally be the year off-track enthusiasm is replicated with on-track performance as F1’s most famous team look to end their long title drought? 

How many cars will differ from their launch-spec?

Mystery of the RB19, the W14’s crunch moment: F1 Bahrain testing talking points

Although the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari, Aston Martin and McLaren have all chosen to provide glimpses of their actual 2023 challengers, teams will still be keen to keep their cards very close to their chests. 

It remains to be seen how much of what was revealed during launch season will be genuine when it comes to the test and opening race. 

There have already been suggestions that Ferrari’s front wing design which prompted some intrigue could be a red herring, while the likes of Red Bull, Alpine and Haas have indicated their cars will look different at the test. 

Teams wanting to hide the best elements of their designs is nothing new in F1, but it will be fascinating to see who has been willing to give away the most about their 2023 cars, and who have some surprises up their sleeves. 

Focus on mileage and reliability

With excitement at fever pitch ahead of the new season, it can be easy to get carried away during testing. 

It is once again that time of year where caution is urged and warnings are given that the timesheets should be taken with a pinch of salt. 

The order that emerges from testing is not always representative of what to expect come the first race, though both being held at the same venue should provide a clearer indication of the potential pecking order. 

With many variables such as the time of day, track conditions, engine modes, tyres and unknown fuel loads all to take into account, the timing pages can often paint a misleading picture. 

Perhaps the best indicator of who’s in good shape and who’s not is the amount of mileage completed over the course of the three days. 

Maximum track time is crucial for teams to understand their new cars and identify and solve any issues that may crop up. 

So keep an eye out for those able to run their cars seamlessly, and those who spend more time in the garage. 

Mystery of the RB19, the W14’s crunch moment: F1 Bahrain testing talking points

Read More