The F1 season starts here

Wednesday 21 February 2024

The countdown to the start of this year’s FIA Formula One World Championship is on, with three frantic days of official pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain getting underway today. 

For the first time in history, every team and driver is set to remain unchanged… but we already know that won’t be the case in 2025, when Sir Lewis Hamilton will be joining Ferrari – a major move which only adds to the intrigue over the coming months as potential rivals vie for the vacant Mercedes hot-seat alongside George Russell. 

That story will unfold further down the road – in the meantime, all ten teams are revving up for a year that promises more twists and turns than ever before, with a record 24 Grands Prix plus six Sprint Races on the longest-ever calendar. 

Right now, though, all ten teams have just three days of highly focused testing with a maximum of 24 hours of vital track time and, making life even harder, they can run only one car at a time.  

Those hoping for a more competitive championship in 2024 after dominant Red Bull won all but one race last year, will be seeking evidence that rival teams have closed the gap over the off-season. Adding to the interest, understandably many of Red Bull’s adversaries appear to have introduced a number of the all-conquering RB19’s design features while the new RB20 has evolved still further. 

Normally, it is unwise to deduce a clear picture of relative performance from pre-season lap times as teams will be running variable fuel loads, engine modes and tyre compounds. But, given the short amount of time between testing and the opening Grand Prix, which takes place on the same circuit just a week later, this year the stopwatch should give everyone an insight into those teams starting on the front foot and those likely to be playing catch up. One thing is for sure: it is going to be a very, very long season for those in latter group. 

UK viewers can watch all the sessions live on Sky F1.