The Mexican managed 105 laps throughout the day, setting his fastest time of 1m35.290s early on before the team switched its focus to a race simulation.
Speaking in the paddock after the test, Perez described it as his first "proper day of testing".
Bahrain test day one report
"We've made a great step today," he said. "It has been a fantastic day in terms of work, in terms of learning.
"We really needed that. I'm very happy, the team did a great job because we moved forward big time.
"There are many things you have to learn on these cars and before today I couldn't do much.
"Tomorrow is my last day in the car before Melbourne so hopefully we can have another good day and then we will be in good shape."
Perez, who plans to work on alternative set-ups on Friday, has urged his team to aim high for 2014, as it appears the Mercedes-powered teams will start the campaign with an advantage.
When asked if he knew where the team stood in terms of competitiveness, he said: "There's really no idea, but we are working hard.
"We should have big targets because everything is possible. We don't know where we are but I'm confident that we are in not too bad a position.
"We still have some setup directions that we want to try. Tomorrow we are going to have a very different car to today, so trying to dial into that will be a good challenge."