2020 F1 Testing Blog
We enjoyed two weeks of Formula 1 Testing at Circuit de Catalunya and were blessed with good weather. This year F1 opted for a more compressed 3-day format for each week but we have still seen a lot of track action. Our initial reaction is that the 2020 cars are fast, with excellent grip, but which team will be heading to Melbourne with the most confidence?
Let’s start with the reigning world Champions – and it’s clear that Mercedes have not been resting on their laurels over the winter. They completed an incredible 903 laps over the course of the six days. The general consensus is that the Silver Arrows have the fastest car. If they do have a weakness, then it may be reliability. On the second to last day an oil pressure problem caused Lewis Hamilton’s engine to shut down, and cost Mercedes a full afternoon’s running. When asked for his thoughts on this Lewis said: “Is it a concern? Yeah, for sure. Normally in pre-season testing we have much more confidence in the reliability, so it’s not been perfect. We’re on our second or third engine already.”
What about Ferrari? The Scuderia have been uncharacteristically quiet these past two weeks. In 2019 they did their talking out on the track and heading into last season everyone believed they had the fastest car. This year’s challenger has looked slow by comparison and Ferrari were around half a second down on Mercedes lap times. Were they sandbagging? Possibly, but something tells us there will have been some worried conversations back at Maranello. Mattia Binotto admitted as much saying: “We believe we are not the fastest car at the moment and we believe in lap times we will behind at the start of the season.”
Red Bull on the other hand will be feeling pleased with themselves. Yes, Max Verstappen had a few spins, but it’s best to do that now and discover where the RB16’s limits lie, rather than during a race. Verstappen himself seemed unconcerned, joking that he: “thought we needed something to talk about”. And they do look quick, showing a better short run pace than Ferrari. Red Bull’s cars typically have an excellent chassis and at certain tracks – Monaco, Hungary, Mexico – we may well see them as favourites to win the race.
So who looks best outside of the big 3? Racing Point have improved beyond recognition from last year. It hasn’t escaped the attention of their rivals that the RP20 has a striking resemblance to the Silver Arrows 2019 Championship winning car, with some dubbing it ‘The Pink Mercedes’. Nonetheless Racing Point have a serious car this year.
Renault also looked good and on the final day Daniel Ricciardo signed off with the 3rd fastest time of the testing period. The Australian was cautiously optimistic about his performance, saying: “We’ve been doing this long enough to know that’s not necessarily what we’re going to qualify in Melbourne. But it’s still positive for us to see that we extracted a quick time.”
McLaren seem pleased with themselves too. Andreas Seidl commented: “This test has been the best for McLaren for some time, with strong reliability enabling us to complete our programme as planned and collect valuable information for analysis. We head to Melbourne feeling prepared for the start of the season.”
The middle order looks as tight as ever and we anticipate some fantastic racing over the coming year. Even towards the rear of the grid it’s clear that Williams have made up ground. George Russell was as honest as ever, saying: “I think realistically we are still the slowest car, and we’re not going to get carried away with ourselves, but we’ve definitely reduced the gap.” Williams have the potential to score more points. Haas and Alfa Romeo will be worried.
The black cloud hanging over Formula 1, and the world in general right now, is coronavirus. Motor racing is unimportant when it comes to people losing their lives but we have everything crossed that the first few races are able to take place as planned, if for no other reason than we all need something to cheer us up.
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