Oliver Bearman started his preparations for his 2024 season perfectly, ending the opening day of post-season testing as the quickest driver. The Ferrari Driver Academy talent was 0.165s quicker than second placed Andrea Kimi Antonelli, as the 22 drivers got the last bit of on track action for 2023 underway.

Switching to the soft tyres late in the day, Bearman continuously found improvements to lower his best effort, eventually setting a 1:36.092 to end up P1. It was a hugely encouraging day having struggled during the final round of the campaign, admitting that jumping backwards and forwards from Formula 1 and F2 machinery was a difficult balancing act, and one he ultimately misjudged.

Still, after having a full day back in familiar surroundings, the Briton was satisfied that he was back and on the pace immediately.

“It was a good start to the test. It was a tough weekend here for me, so it's nice to have a sanity check and get back to it. Jumping back from the F1 car yesterday, it was nice to try that again, because it didn't really go to plan on Friday.”

“I experienced that for the first time and now I get to do it again and get straight back into F2 and get up to speed quickly, which we did really well.”

“Overall, it's been a positive day, we've run through a lot of items. Next year's cars are different but fundamentally there won't be too much in terms of differences, so there’s still a lot of important testing to be done.”

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“Qualifying was tough. I think I underestimated the challenge of getting back into the F2 car. That was a big step. In terms of F2, there were changes in track temp, tyre compound, track condition, but also coming back from F1, it's really tough to manage everything.”

“It was my first time so I wasn't too worried and then coming back after a full day in the car, we were straight on it, so I'm happy that we managed to put that to bed and hopefully we can keep doing F1 and then jumping back into F2 as well.”

Having finished a heavily Red Flag-affected morning session in 10th, Bearman says that the team were solely focused on their own run plan and was very satisfied with the team’s efforts after stepping out of the car on Day 1.

READ MORE: Bearman heads PREMA Racing 1-2 on opening day of post-season testing at Yas Marina

He added a caveat that reading too much into the times is always precarious, but that PREMA Racing’s opening day of the test had been hugely productive around the Yas Marina Circuit.

“It's been a strong afternoon. Obviously, everyone has their own plan, so it's hard to understand what everyone is doing, but I feel like we're in a good place with the car.”

“We were just trying a few things, maybe they're not all positive, but it's good to cover everything and tick some final boxes before we go to the new car. Overall, I think we learned some stuff, so that's the important thing.”

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With two more days coming up, Bearman says that despite the changes coming for next year and a new car arriving, the data gathered in Abu Dhabi will be crucial going into next season.

Ensuring that he and PREMA maximise their time on circuit is the focus for the remainder of the test, rather than any session-topping laptimes, as nice as they are to see.

These three test days are useful especially for me, considering I had a tough last round. It's nice to get back and to be on the pace, the cars aren’t changing massively next year, so this is still a very useful test for us.

“Like I said, we've been trying a lot of stuff that will be applicable and relevant to next year's car, so it’s been really useful so far. It's nice to be on top, but everyone's covering different plans, so we’re just looking within the team, our qualifying performance and race performance from the weekend.”

“That's kind of what we're basing our lap times off, rather than looking at other guys. We're trying to cover everything: racing, qualifying. So that will be the plan again, to continue in this way and hopefully learn some more as well.”