Well, I don't know about you but the first week of testing seems to have flown by for me. There have been the usual rumours of sandbagging, but the overall theme this week has been the immense reliability that we've seen. There have also been a few drivers suffering from having cold tyres, which has often sent them into a spin. However, there has been no major on-track drama to talk about...
Here's the timesheet for today:
1) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 1:17.393, 24 laps
2) Alex Albon, Toro Rosso, 1:17.637, 136 laps
3) Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, 1:17.785, 34 laps
4) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 1:17.955, 43 laps
5) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:17.997, 58 laps
6) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 1:18.046, 138 laps
7) Lando Norris, McLaren, 1:18.431, 132 laps
8) Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, 1:18.511, 154 laps
9) Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:18.563, 64 laps
10) Kevin Magnussen, Haas, 1:18.720, 66 laps
11) Pierre Gasly, Red Bull, 1:18.780, 146 laps
12) Lance Stroll, Racing Point, 1:19.664, 72 laps
13) George Russell, Williams, 1:20.997, 17 laps
14) Robert Kubica, Williams, 1:21.542, 48 laps
Let's go through how each team got on.
If you glance at just the timing screen, Renault look as if they have had a really good day. They are the fastest team, with the car being driven by Nico Hulkenberg with a 1:17.393. Daniel Ricciardo also finished high up on the leaderboard, with a 1:17.785. However, it is when you begin to look closer that you notice a bit of a problem. They completed a combined 58 laps throughout the entire day, with the Hulk on 24 laps and the Honey Badger on 34.
They also had to finish the session early, as Nico Hulkenberg stopped on the circuit to bring out the red flags. Due to it being late on in the day, the team were not able to complete any more running.
I think that the problem that Renault have got is that they clearly have two good drivers, and have decent pace on long runs. The problem that they seem to be having this year is actually being able to complete long runs like the other teams have been doing. A combined 58 laps is not really what they were aiming for, and Antonio Giovinazzi's 154 laps in the Alfa Romeo puts that figure to shame.
"We had some good running today. It was nice to get a feel for the car on shorter runs and assess its behaviour and different set-up preferences. We didn't get as many laps in today as we'd have liked today, but that's part of testing and these things happen. It was a shame to stop on track to close our day, but we'll be looking into that to see what's happened.
"I'm feeling more and more comfortable each time I step into that car. We didn't put in as many laps as we'd planned this morning, but that's testing and we were caught up with some smaller issues which meant we were stuck inside the garage. The timing looks good on paper but it is impossible to be sure of the respective plans to put our lap times in perspective.
Toro Rosso had yet another fantastic day, this time with Alexander Albon at the wheel. He managed to complete a massive 136 laps, and also put in a best time of a 1:17.637 to go third in the timesheet.
With most of the teams showing an increase in performance as well as solid reliability, then there could be a massively close fight in the midfield this season. However, something that I think could hinder Toro Rosso is the fact that they are willing to take lots of grid penalties in order to further the development of Honda, which may lose them a few points.
Either way, I think they have quite a strong driver lineup this season, and if the Red Bull parts are integrated well into the rest of the car, then the team could be on the rise in terms of both performance and reliability.
"My first two days of F1 testing completed and I really enjoyed it! We had a good day today topping the timesheets in the morning session, I know it's still early days and we don't know what everyone else is doing but it's a good sign for the future. The first day began with a tricky start, but the team made me feel comfortable after that and we were able to get on with the programme. I think everything is going to plan quite well, we've hit our mileage target which is important for the guys back at the factory, and of course at the same time, I'm still learning the car. The grip is so high that it took a while for my head to adjust to it, it's been a big learning curve! I'm still not fully in the rhythm yet but I think after next week I'll be there and ready to race."
Team Principal, Franz Tost added:
"The first pre-season test in Barcelona was a successful one for Toro Rosso. The car ran well throughout the four days and we saw good results from both the performance side and the reliability. It was the first time in the STR14 for Daniil and Alex, who both did a very good job and gave positive feedback about the car and the Honda Power Unit. There is still a lot of work in front of us to further improve the car. The team did a great job as we ended the first test with a total of 482 laps. This gave us a lot of data and we now have a long list of test items for next week to make further steps forward. The weather was very good in Barcelona this year as the wind wasn't blowing so heavily and we reached reasonably good track temperatures, which allowed us to get some productive running – especially in the afternoon sessions. This means the test results are quite valid for the start of the season in Melbourne."
Today was the day that the Silver Arrows finally decided to show us a bit of what the W10 is capable of, with Valtteri Bottas setting their best time of the week with a 1:17.857 to finish fourth overall. His teammate Lewis Hamilton was next up on the leaderboard, with a 1:17.977. They each completed 57 and 58 laps respectively.
At this point, I don't think that anybody is questioning whether Mercedes has the pace or not. It was just that they had not ventured onto any sort of softer tyre in the first three days, and had been near the bottom of the times each day. This was until they decided to slightly unleash the W10 today, after fitting a set of the softest C5 tyres for Bottas. I don't think that this lap was at all representative of where the team actually are in terms of pace, but it was nice to see them drive it slightly in anger.
"The first week of testing was really good for us in terms of reliability, we got a lot of mileage in with the new car and didn't experience any major issues. Today we did some shorter runs, seeing how the W10 works when you try to extract a little bit more performance out of it. We've been making progress throughout the entire week, the car felt better every single day. We're now looking forward to next week when we will hopefully make even more progress. Many thanks to the entire team, it was a good first test. Now we're all hungry to improve even more in the second test."
"It was quite cold in the morning which meant that it was a little bit difficult with the tyres for everyone. In general, the car was feeling better today and is coming together. However, we still have to keep on digging deep, analysing the data and the changes that we are making. The reliability has been really solid which is a great showing of all the hard work that everyone in the factory has done. But we have to keep on pushing, the competition looks very strong. The weather has been good all week so we could get through our programme and it was great to see the fans out there. I'm looking forward to coming back next week."
Ferrari have had an amazing first week of testing, as they haven't broken down once, and they are widely regarded to have the fastest car of the bunch. Leclerc was back in the driving seat today, and he managed to complete a huge 138 laps in the SF90, with a best lap time of a 1:18.046 - good enough for sixth place on the timing screen.
It will be interesting to see what sort of pace Ferrari decide to show us next week, as they are much more likely to be focusing on their one-lap pace. There have been rumours that other teams are sandbagging in order to disguise their performance, but I doubt that Ferrari would try to hard to do this given their affinity with pleasing their sponsors from pre-season testing.
Leclerc himself didn't have an amazing day though, as he kept locking the brakes on the entry to the corners, and he also went into the gravel at the same place as Lando Norris. However, the Monegasque driver escaped without needing any assistance.
"For now, I don't want to say too much, because this is just testing. But the feeling from the car is very good. We did many laps, the reliability was good and every day we managed to complete our programme.
"I feel quite at ease in the car, even if there are still a few things I need to get used to, including how the team operates. But this is quite an easy car to drive. As Seb said, this doesn't feel like a new car, but more like one that is quite well developed. Driveability is very good, which shows that the team has done an amazing job over the winter to bring a very solid car here.
"As soon as I arrived here in Barcelona, I switched to 'work' mode and put any emotion to one side to get on with the job as well as possible. The results? I'm not really focusing on that side of things. I'm focusing on myself, trying to do my best and to improve with every lap."
McLaren had another strong day at pre-season testing, as Lando Norris managed to complete 132 laps at the wheel of his MCL34, putting in a lap at the end of the session of a 1:18.431 to go into seventh place. Norris is now one of the drivers that have been caught out by their cold tyres, as he managed to beach the car in the gravel in what was a bizarre incident (have a look at the testing highlights on YouTube).
Overall on day four, McLaren showed great reliability and Norris showed great patience in order to complete that many laps (testing can be quite dull for the drivers). With McLaren, I feel like they are doing their own thing and they aren't bothered by the pace of their rivals. This I think does come from their new, humble attitude which is what people expected from the team to start with. Nobody is ever going to believe they had the best chassis in 2017, so it's better just to not say it rather than to big themselves up only to let the fans down at the races.
"I think today I did the most laps I've ever done on a test day. It was also the cleanest day we've had in terms of consistent running this week, so it was very productive. We did some more race simulation today and I've definitely learned a lot over my two days in the car. We've found some improvements over the week, but there's still a lot to work on.
"Overall, it's been a good week. The guys have done a solid job over the winter putting the car together and the test has gone pretty smoothly. We now have a better idea of the direction we want to work in with the car, and its strengths and weaknesses, and we'll try to work on those weaknesses next week."
Gil de Ferran added:
"In summary, we've had a productive and valuable first test, and pleasingly this means we have nothing much to report!
"We've done some good mileage, completed our test programme and learned a lot of useful information about the MCL34, the 2019 Pirelli tyres and our new drivers. The work we've completed this week has been another good step in our preparation for the start of the season, and we hope we can continue this momentum into the second and final week of testing."
If any of the drivers are going to be sore in the morning, it will definitely be Antonio Giovinazzi. This is because the young Italian driver lapped the Circuit de Catalunya a whopping 154 times, only beaten by Vettel on Day One and Leclerc on Day Two. The car was also looking balanced on track, and Giovinazzi was able to set a 1:18.511 in his Swiss-built machine.
Much like I said yesterday, I really think that the team previously known as Sauber are benefiting greatly from the money that Alfa Romeo have injected into the team. They've got some great running done this week, with both Giovinazzi and Raikkonen pounding in the laps. The car also has some interesting aero features, with a weird front wing that aims to create as much outwash as possible so that they can regain some of the downforce that they have lost this season due to the new rules.
Everybody around the paddock has been praising the car and the drivers, so let's see if this great form continues into the next week of testing, but more importantly into Melbourne.
Giovinazzi had this to say:
"After another full day in the car, I am satisfied with the progress we have made this week and overall our team is feeling motivated by our recent learnings. I feel comfortable in the car as well as in the team itself and we are all working together constructively. We have another week of testing ahead of us which we will use to focus on making further progress and learn even more about our new car. I am already looking forward to being back on track."
Haas managed to have a much better day than they did yesterday, racking up a combined lap count of 130. Romain Grosjean lapped the circuit with a best time of a 1:18.563, with Magnussen behind him with a 1:18.720. They completed 64 and 66 laps respectively.
Haas haven't been able to show the sort of performance they had at testing this time last year, and the team can only hope that they are able to have a trouble-free week of testing at the second test. However, today was their best yet, so there are signs that the team have moved on from the niggles that have caused problems in the past.
Kevin Magnussen was also back in the car, meaning that the team have managed to fix the headrest that forced a driver swap the other day.
"It was a good morning. I pretty much did the whole program we had planned, even finishing earlier than scheduled, so that's good. There were no problems on the car, which was obviously something we were looking at after the first few days. The car still feels very good. We're still trying things, testing things, and getting the mileage in. I think we're fairly happy with where we are."
"I was happy to get a lot of laps in this afternoon, and more importantly, I felt comfortable in the car. We can see how the car's improving and we enjoyed some consistent running today through both sessions. Of course, there's plenty more work to do, but I'm looking forward to driving the VF-19 again next week. We've definitely got something positive to build on as we prepare for the second test."
Team principal, Guenther Steiner also chimed in:
"The end was better than the beginning of our test week. We're happy with the mileage achieved, happy with the results. We ran our full program today, the first time we've been able to do that this week, so it feels like we've got something back that we lost at the beginning of the week with our technical gremlins. They seem to be sorted now. We're pretty upbeat and we look forward to test number two next week."
Red Bull have described this week as the "best week of testing we've had", and Pierre Gasly was in the RB15, clocking 146 laps with a best time of a 1:18.780. This is amazing reliability for the Honda engine, given how badly it went for McLaren in every year of their terrible partnership. Pierre Gasly also made up for his incident on the second day, putting in a flawless display on-track today.
Red Bull have been heaping praise on Honda this week, and I suppose why wouldn't they. Like I said in the opening paragraph, the both the performance and the reliability of the Honda engine have been amazing over the course of the past week. The engine is also very tightly packaged into the back of the Red Bull, which brings major aero advantages with it.
I think it is worth a minute to try and predict how Pierre Gasly will get on against Max Verstappen this season. Many are expecting Max to further build the team around him, and are viewing Gasly as both the underdog and the de-facto second driver at the team. I wouldn't be so sure of this however, as the young Frenchman proved last year how well he can cope under pressure, driving a perfect race to finish fourth in Bahrain.
"It was a really productive day. We managed 146 laps, so a lot of long runs but also a lot of tests done for the Team. The overall feeling with the car is really good. It doesn't show on the lap times today, but it is testing and we know what we're doing, so I'm pretty happy. This week has gone well. I managed to do a lot of laps, which was important for me, and I was able to get used to the car and my new engineer. We've done some good work in that regard this week and there's a lot more to come next week as we get ready for Melbourne."
It has been another case of same story, different day for Racing Point. Aside from the Williams disaster, they have racked up the least amount of laps out of any team. They have also admitted to using lots of parts from last year's car, so things aren't looking amazing for everybody's favourite pink team. Lance Stroll had a little spin on his way to completing 72 laps, with a best time of a 1:19.664 which was enough to place the Canadian in twelfth on the timing sheet.
I have a suspicion that this is by no means the car that will start the season for Racing Point, as they are hard at work developing new parts of the car with their new-found money. I don't know if you remember, but a few years ago now (2014/2015?), the team (when it was known as Force India) brought a B-spec car to the Spanish GP, and it turned their season around. As they didn't have the money to design some of the parts for this car, I think there will be a similar thing happening this season.
Stroll had this to say:
"It's great to have a week of testing under our belt and I am feeling positive. We covered some good mileage today and went through most of our test programme: it's been a good start and we can build on it next week. My confidence and comfort with the team have grown: they have given me all the tools I need as a driver. They have been very supportive and this is what helps me get the best out of myself and the car. I am looking forward to next week and doing more set-up work so that we can bring the quickest possible car to Melbourne."
Williams continued their delayed start to testing in 2019, this time with Robert Kubica sitting in the FW42 for the morning session, and George Russell back in the car for the afternoon. Kubica was mainly just conducting aero testing, meaning that he managed 48 laps on his way to setting a 1:21.542. However, George Russell pushed his Williams a tad bit further, and finished the session with only 17 laps but with a best time of a 1:20.997.
I think as the team moves into the next test, I think for the first few days they'll be conducting more aero tests, but then they should start to push the car. This will be boosted when they get the new aero parts for the car, as both drivers have admitted that the current one is a bit "compromised".
"It was my first time out in the car, so it does not feel like day four of testing, but day one. This morning we spent the time gathering data, signing off tests for the engineering department and trying to put mileage on the car. I had 12 performance laps in the car, so it is too early to talk about feelings, those will become clearer next week. It would be better to have more time in the car as Australia is not far off, from both a driver and a car point of view. Everybody has their own job in the team and I must concentrate on mine to ensure that we are in the best possible shape for the first race."
"It was very important to get some mileage under our belt and get a feel for the car. It gives us a good understanding of where we are at, our limitations and what we need to work on next week. The car felt stable and I had a good feeling, but I am still yet to reach the full performance from the car. We are all excited to get back out on track on Tuesday but first we have a lot of work to do to make sure that the car is in the best possible state, that we have no issues and we can get the laps because we have some catching up to do."
Paddy Lowe also gave a lengthy interview:
"The start of our first proper pre-season testing with the FW42. The final few parts had arrived overnight, so we started the day with a complete car. The main focus of the programme has been data gathering particularly around aerodynamics with only a very modest amount of performance running for the drivers just to get some initial feedback. Neither driver was able to get enough laps to really find the limits of the car. The morning was a much better session for Robert in the sense of objectives achieved.
Unfortunately, we had a small fault at the end of the morning session which took a long time to correct and so we were late out for the afternoon and had a mixture of other small problems and red flags. This meant we didn't achieve all our intent with George. Nevertheless, both drivers have had their first look at the car with some interesting feedback already and we have some valuable data to take back to the factory. Our focus will now move to achieving a solid programme in the four days of testing next week. Thanks once again to all the team for the huge effort they have put in over the last week. It has been a very difficult process for everybody, but we are now moving forwards."
I hoped you enjoyed reading this and the other ones I've done this week. I'll be doing the same everyday next week so make sure that you've joined the tribe to be the first to see new stuff.
I'll (probably) also do a test one round-up, as well as a few other articles that are due to be finished over the weekend.
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