SAKIR, Bahrain—It might be no surprise that even with the penalties imposed on them for overspending on the F1 budget, along with limited time in their wind tunnel did not deter Max Verstappen to pick up right where he left off last year, by topping the timesheets at the first day of pre-season testing at the Sakir International Circuit Thursday.

The Dutchman recorded both best times in the morning and afternoon sessions, with the latter of 1:32:837 fastest lap and a total of 157 laps completed. The big surprise of the opening day was Fernando Alonso, showing that the 41-year-old Aston Martin driver still has the capability to get closer to the front, even if this week is only testing. The Spaniard ended up only 0.029 seconds behind Verstappen, taking over the wheel from teammate and test driver Brazilian Felipe Drugovich, who caused the only red flag of the day by stopping on track in the morning with an electrical issue. Drugovich himself substituted for Lance Stroll, who could not make the first test due to a bike accident and could be out for the first race of the season next week.

Further down the order, Ferrari were close by in third and fourth with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, with McLaren’s Lando Norris continuing his presence in fifth.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell took the new entry out and were impressed with the bouncing effect of the car now gone, but only managed to complete the day in sixth and ninth, respectively. Williams Racing had a fine start in the test with Alex Albon in seventh and his rookie American teammate Logan Sargeant tenth.

Despite no bouncing troubles, Lewis Hamilton got his Mercedes no higher than sixth on the opening pre-test day in Bahrain. Mark Thompson/Getty Images photo

Other finishers were Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu eighth, Haas F1’s Nico Hulkenberg 11th, the other Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas 12th, with disappointing drives from Alpine team with Pierre Gasly 16th, Esteban Ocon 17th, McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri 18th and the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen rounding up the 19 drivers on the opening test day. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was the only driver absent and will return in the next two days.

Testing will resume on Friday at 10:00 local time, with teams going over their data and continuing for another couple of days to see if things match up before the start of the season.

By Mark Gero

Charles Leclerc placed fourth on the opening formula one pre-season test Thursday in Bahrain. Mark Thompson/ Getty Images photo