Reflecting on today and recalling how he had felt as a rookie at this stage last year, Maloney was very satisfied with how things had gone. He indicated that any positive feelings now could count for good early results, with the new 2024 car representing a chance anyone in the pitlane could capitalise on.
“Today was good. This morning, we mainly focused on race running and then this afternoon, performance runs - similar to everyone else up and down the grid. So, it's good to get in dry after yesterday being so wet, good to get our first day in the car done proper and we came out the box quite strong.
“I think that's a good sign. I mean, I was six-tenths off the whole three days of testing last year, so I can only take it as a good sign and we'll see going into tomorrow and then of course, with the short turnaround to round one.
“I think this year, for the first part of it, it’s going to be all about who can make the biggest steps with the car and then the driver getting a feel for it as quickly as possible.”
While it is always difficult to read into the times during testing, the Sauber Academy Driver said that as much as drivers and teams like to disguise their ultimate pace, it can’t be hidden entirely.
“It's just testing of course, but even when you say that no one is sandbagging that much. We might not be at the limit that we will be in qualifying, but we also aren't much under, it's impossible to be.
“It’s a good sign but it still doesn't mean anything unless it's qualifying, and you have to put the lap together. It was a good lap from my side and I'm happy with the job the team and I did, got through all of our test plans and we're learning as we go.”
The second day of running in Sakhir was the first proper chance for teams to assess their performance levels versus their closest rivals, with all 22 cars out on track at one time.
With a proper day of testing now under his belt, the Bajan driver says the differences between the old and new cars are becoming clearer. Understanding the nuances between the two will likely make a huge difference come race day, and teams and drivers alike will be learning about them all the way up to lights out in Bahrain.
“It's nice. It feels similar, if someone drove one day in the old one, one day in the new one, they're not going to feel massively different. But after doing a full year in the old one, you do feel those small, different things.
“It’s a different way of driving in certain corners but generally they’re quite similar. It definitely looks a bit nicer; my car is a lot brighter as well. So, I am seeing a difference from the cockpit.
“The way of running the car for the teams is a bit different, and it’s difficult to get on top of that straightaway and that takes a lot of effort and a lot of work to get the last couple of hundredths from my site.
“It does feel a bit different in certain areas, certain corners. In the high speed, the wings are new, so the downforce levels are a bit different. But, when you jump in, you can still tell it’s an F2 car with a turbo and Pirelli tyres, 18-inch wheels. The big things feel the same.”
Looking ahead to the final day of on-track action before the 2024 campaign kicks off proper, Maloney is eager to maximise his and the team’s learnings on race runs to better understand the Pirelli tyres.
Last season, Maloney put in a stellar performance in his maiden Sakhir F2 Feature Race to rise from 18th to 3rd. He’ll be hoping to achieve another podium result in a few weeks’ time.
“It'd be good to get in some more race runs. Bahrain is a quite a specific track when it comes to degradation of the tyres, so we need to get our heads around that. I think we have two more new sets, same as everyone else really.
“I guess we will go for at the end of the second session. I'm really looking forward to round one and qualifying is really coming quickly.”