21 February 2020

The first three days of testing - a few thoughts

So what do we think we learned in the first three-day test in Barcelona? The Jonahs in the Formula 1 paddock will no doubt be tolling their bells are saying that the sport is doomed to another year of Mercedes domination. But is it? Was Mercedes simply flexing its muscles a little to try to dishearten the opposition? And was the opposition disheartened at the end of the test?

Ferrari was talking things down – a good PR strategy – but the drivers did not seem to be too disheartened. Mercedes seems to think that Ferrari has been deliberately playing down its potential, running only in very conservative engine modes. And does anyone really believe that Ferrari has somehow lost 2.42s in comparison to the Mercedes? Come to that, is that anyone who believes that red Bull is 1.7s off the pace as well? No, the teams are not trying as hard as they might. They have better things to do…

Mattia Binotto gave a gloomy picture when speaking to the press, saying that he didn’t think Ferrari would be on the pace in Melbourne.

So what can we really conclude from the testing?

Well, the cars were astonishingly reliable, although a few teams hit trouble on the third day as they pushed things harder. The 10 teams recorded a total of 3,940 laps, which is just short of 11,400 miles of running, or around 57 race distances, not far short of a race distance a day on average. And remember these cars are completely new…

Lewis Hamilton did the most number of laps (273) but Max Verstappen was not far behind with 254, followed by Carlos Sainz (237). Eight of the 21 drivers did more than 200 laps., with the lowest total (apart from the one day appearance from Robert Kubica) being Raikkonen’s 134 laps. But Kimi was third quickest overall, albeit as the only drivers other than the Mercedes duo to use the softest available rubber.

The fastest runner on the less quick C4 tyres was Renault’s Esteban Ocon, who was almost as quick as Raikkonen, but Kimi was 1.37s off Bottas’s quickest lap. Ocon was two-tenths faster than the so-called “Pink Mercedes” of Lance Stroll (Racing Point), but the car was clearly quicker than the lap time suggests, as Sergio Perez all but matched his team-mate but running on the harder C3 tyres.

The Red Bulls were ninth and 13thoverall but Verstappen used only medium C3s and Alex Albon ran only hard C2s. The fact that Perez was the fastest overall on C3s (quicker than Max) was interesting, but not necessarily a key indicator. That is the way it is in F1 testing. Next week we will have another three days of running. Red Bull is expected to arrive with an upgrade package for its new car. Will Ferrari do better?

We will see…

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