Much like I said a week ago, I think pre-season testing has come and gone pretty quickly, with now only two weeks to wait until the teams arrive in Melbourne for the first race of the season. Last week in test one we saw amazing reliability from the teams, but as the times have been tumbling in test two, we have also seen more on track stoppages. However, I think most of the teams appear to be in good shape, so it should make for an interesting race.
Just a note before we start, all teams set their fastest laps today on the softest, C5 tyres (hypersofts).
Here's the timesheet for today:
1) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:16.221, 110 laps
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:16.224, 61 laps
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 1:16.561, 71 laps
4) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 1:16.843, 51 laps
5) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:16.898, 131 laps
6) Carlos Sainz, McLaren, 1:16.913, 134 laps
7) Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:17.076, 73 laps
8) Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, 1:17.114, 52 laps
9) Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, 1:17.239, 132 laps
10) Kevin Magnussen, Haas, 1:17.565, 94 laps
11) Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:17.709, 29 laps
12) Sergio Perez, Racing Point, 1:17.791, 104 laps
13) Robert Kubica, Williams, 1:18.993, 90 laps
Now, let's see how each team got on.
Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheets for the final time in pre-season testing, posting a best time of a 1:16.221 from his 110 laps. However, he did not have such a good day in terms of reliability, as he stopped his Ferrari on track. This was about two hours before the end of testing, and the team did not have enough time to fix the electrical issue in order for him to get back out on track.
Even with the reliability problems that they have suffered in the second week of testing, the general consensus is that Ferrari are ahead of the field. However, many think that they also had the fastest car for the majority of last season. This means that their failure to win the title was mostly down to errors made by the team and the drivers (looking at you, Vettel), not by how well the car performed. Mercedes proved themselves to work better as a team last season, and with new leadership from Mattia Binotto, let's see if Ferrari can make the tough decisions when it counts.
Only team principal, Mattia Binotto, gave an interview from Ferrari:
"These past days have been very intensive and interesting. We are still focusing on our car to understand its limits in terms of performance and reliability."
"Overall, I am pleased with the work we have carried out. I am pleased with how the car behaves and it was well balanced at this track. However, we cannot be completely satisfied at the moment as we would like to be faster and more reliable. So there's still a lot to do. Our programme didn't always run as smoothly as we would have liked, due to reliability issues and Sebastian's crash when a wheel rim broke. There are still many issues to be addressed and we must push forward on the performance front. The fact that our car is running properly is a good starting point, but we are still not ready for Melbourne and I'd say it's a case of a work in progress."
"Both drivers set very similar lap times. We already knew that Charles is a very fast driver, as we have seen throughout his years with the Ferrari Driver Academy and last season in Formula 1. As for Sebastian, his performance shows him to be the multi-world champion we already know."
For the first time in the two weeks of writing these articles, I can say that Mercedes showed some of the true pace of their car. Both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were driving the W10 today, with Bottas completing 71 laps in the morning and Hamilton managing 61 laps in the afternoon. However, it was the Brit that managed to set the faster time, with a 1:16.224 edging Bottas who set a 1:16.561.
Personally, I think that Mercedes are much closer to Ferrari than people think. For example, I am not only talking about the 0.003s gap between the two teams today, I am talking about the almost perfect reliability coupled with an extremely rapid rate of development. The Silver Arrows brought a massively overhauled car to the second test, with more improvements expected for Australia. Even if Ferrari are slightly ahead in testing, it's a long season, and the cars will change so much over the course of it.
"That's the final day of testing done, next time we'll drive the W10, it will be in Melbourne. We've used our time on track here in Barcelona efficiently, learning a lot and improving our performance over the past two weeks. We've also learned that the competition is going to be very, very tough this year, but we're looking forward to the challenge. We need to keep pushing and find more performance if we want to be competitive in Melbourne, but we have a strong team and have made good progress in the last days. We have a few days left to work on the car, so we will give it everything. I'm looking forward to Melbourne!"
"The last couple of days have been very positive: it felt like the changes we were making helped us progress and gave us clear feedback of when we were moving in the right or the wrong direction. Today, it was nice to feel the car on lighter fuel and to discover it a little better; I really enjoyed the day and got a good feel for the tyres as well. I'm not the biggest fan of testing, as everybody knows, but it has been a positive week overall. Even so, there is still a lot to do and we are not there yet; there are lots of areas that we are working on and we are heading in the right direction."
Renault were another team that chose the last day of the test show their pace, with both Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo setting their best times of the two weeks. Hulkenberg was the faster of the pair however, as he clocked a 1:16.843 to go fourth in the timesheets. Ricciardo was a few tenths behind on a 1:17.114, which was good enough for eighth place. They both completed roughly half a century of laps, with the Hulk on 51 and the Honey Badger on 52.
I may have already made this point at some stage over the previous seven articles, but I think it's worth repeating. From what I have seen in the past fortnight, I am highly doubtful that Renault have managed to gain enough to improve on their fourth place that they achieved last year. Yes they have clearly improved the car, both on the aero side and the power unit, but so has everyone else. I watched a good video about it earlier today (Autosport made it I think), but Giorgio Piola made the point that they haven't quite got enough investment in order to challenge the big three. I hope this isn't the case, but I think it could be...
Hulkenberg had this it say:
"I leave Barcelona feeling encouraged after a busy eight days in the car. We’ve made good progress as a team from last year in particular on the power unit. Our reliability has been decent, we had a few small issues here and there, but the team dealt with anything like that quite well and still managed a high lap count. We know the competition is extremely tight, but we only want to focus on ourselves. We head to Melbourne feeling relatively confident, but in the meantime, we have a lot of analysis to look at to ensure we maximise the potential from the car."
"It’s been a pretty good week and we’ve done a decent amount of laps with some consistent running. It will take some time to catch the front teams but that is not what we expected to happen at winter testing and we are very realistic about that. At the same time, it’s impossible to make accurate performance predictions. We still have work to do and things to improve on and that’s what we’ll focus on now. We will dissect the data we’ve harnessed over the past days back at the factory. We are making progress but the bigger steps will happen gradually going forward. I’m heading to Melbourne feeling that I belong here and I just want to go racing now!"
Daniil Kvyat was back in his Toro Rosso for the final time before Melbourne, and the young Russian set a best time of a 1:16.898 from his huge 131 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya. He also enjoyed a better day in terms of reliability than he had on Tuesday, with Toro Rosso moving past the "small issues" that they had last time he was in the car.
I'm still not sure what to make of the pace of the Toro Rosso, as they have been consistently quick over the last two weeks, but I think that they may have been on a little less fuel than others. Another possibility is that they have been pushing the Honda engine a bit more than Red Bull in order to find out how well it can cope under more stress. They also could actually have made big gains this year, but even with the rear end from the Red Bull, I see this as the least likely option.
Kvyat told the media that:
"We've had quite a successful pre-season test. We were able to complete many laps, so I think we can be satisfied with the work put into these past two weeks. We did our homework between the two tests which is important, and that resulted in the car being comfortable to drive by the end of the second week.
"We tried some new bits and different setup approaches to see how the car would react as it's testing, because trying this during a race weekend would be too risky and time consuming. We evaluated these items and found solutions to make the car as quick as it could be, so I would say we made the most out of winter testing. Today we did some short runs and qualifying simulations in the morning, while in the afternoon we moved to a race simulation. Both went quite well, so now we can focus our attention to the start of the season in Melbourne."
Team principal, Franz Tost, added:
"Despite the cold temperature in the mornings, the weather in general has been kind to us for the two pre-season tests here in Barcelona. This gave the team the chance to learn a lot about the new STR14, different setups, and the tyres in favourable conditions. The synergies project has delivered what we expected, which means we had quite a reliable car from the very beginning, having covered 4,352 km between the two tests without any major problems. We experienced some little issues here and there which is normal at this stage of the season, but all of those were immediately addressed and certainly didn't create any reason for concern."
McLaren had another encouraging day of running, with Carlos Sainz setting the most laps by a single driver with 134, and more importantly he did this without any obvious reliability problems. He completed a few qualifying simulations in the morning - much like most of the other drivers - and set a best time of a 1:16.913.
I think that McLaren have done pretty much all that they set out to do in the last two weeks. This is because they were aiming to have a pre-season of reliability, something which they have been majorly lacking in the last few years. It gives me a bit of confidence that they were able to start setting quicker lap times earlier in the week than most teams, as it suggests that they are confident with the package that they have. Whether it is enough to move a bit further up the grid, only time will tell.
"It's always nice to go to Australia finishing the test on a bit of a high, having covered a lot of mileage - the most for me in all four days of testing. I also finished my first race simulation without any issues, and did some performance runs in the morning which were useful for our understanding of the car.
"Now I'll go back to the factory to do some final work with the team so we can feel fully prepared before the first race. We've been very focussed on our own preparation and performance, so it's impossible to tell exactly how that compares to our competitors.
"Thank you to the team for their hard work over the past two weeks, and now we look forward to getting the season properly started."
Sporting director, Gil de Ferran, added:
"We came to testing with a few goals in mind - to do a lot of laps to ensure reliability and sign off systems, to understand our new car and the new Pirelli tyres, and perhaps most importantly, to integrate our new drivers into the team and prepare them as best we can for the season ahead. I think we've accomplished all of these things satisfactorily.
"From a competitive perspective, it's difficult to gauge exactly where we are. People are doing different things all the time - at different times of the day, with different fuel loads and tyres, so it's hard to confidently be precise about where we rank compared to the rest of the field.
"Next stop, Australia, which we've been working hard towards all winter, and the beginning of what hopefully will be an exciting Formula 1 season."
Haas had a much stronger day than they did yesterday, again running both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. The team a set a lot of laps, with Grosjean covering 73, and teammate Magnussen managing 94. Grosjean was the faster of the pair however, setting a best lap time of a 1:17.076 with Magnussen on a 1:17.565. They finished in seventh and tenth respectively.
Haas have confused me a bit in testing this year, as they haven't been setting headline times as they did in 2018, but surely you've got to assume that they haven't dropped down the order over the winter? It also makes writing articles such as this difficult as I can't make any predictions with confidence. However one thing I can be confident about is that the team have had their fair share of reliability problems over the last two weeks, and they will be hoping that they can move past them in time for the first race.
Grosjean said after the morning session that:
"It's been a good morning. We ran our full program, which is very positive. We're finding a bit more time in the car, run-after-run, which is great. I'm generally very happy with winter testing to-date. Maybe we've had a few more issues than we'd have liked, but if we react well and sort them out, there are many things we've ticked in the box. I think we're ready for Melbourne, I'm looking forward to getting there."
Magnussen added in the afternoon:
"Overall, I think it's been a productive two weeks in Spain, today's been another good example of that. From the start the VF-19's felt good, and I can see how we've continued to make progress each day in terms of balance and performance. Of course, you never get enough miles in testing, that's just the way it goes, but I'm happy with what's been achieved. There's a lot more work to do before we hit the track in Melbourne, but from my side, I can't wait to start the season and go racing again."
Aside from causing a bit of a stir with their radical front wing concept, Alfa Romeo have been keeping under the radar, quietly going about their business. Over the past two weeks they have been consistent high-milers, and today was no different. Raikkonen was back in the car, and he set 132 laps with a best time of a 1:17.239. He finished in ninth place on the timesheet.
From watching how Alfa have performed over testing this year, I get the impression that they haven't shown us much of what the car is capable of. I think that they could have made a big jump from where they were last year, possibly even to be at the front of the midfield pack. These are only predictions however, so take what I say with a pinch of salt.
Raikkonen admitted that the team haven't yet reached their full potential:
"I don't think we are where we probably want to be exactly but also the conditions here are different to race weekends because of the cold weather here, and we didn't really push for best lap time."
"Obviously, we tried different tyres, and sure we have things to learn from the tyres as it was a bit tricky to get the lap time out of the softer tyres. We'll learn here and see what the warm weather hopefully in Australia will changes things."
Red Bull had what was perhaps their worst day from all of pre-season testing, with Max Verstappen only able to complete 29 laps after the team discovered a gearbox problem on his RB15. This must be especially annoying for the team due to the fact they lost out on quite a bit of running due to Gasly's crash yesterday. He finished the day in eleventh place on the timesheet, with a best time of a 1:17.709.
Even with the setbacks that they have faced, I still tend to agree with the team when they say it is the best pre-season that they have had. This is because they have been very reliable on the whole, and they also seem to have a very strong car aerodynamically. They could not have asked for a smoother first two weeks with Honda, so let's see how it can perform when turned up to the max (no pun intended) in their very tightly packaged chassis.
"The guys in the garage did an amazing job to turn the car around after yesterday's crash and get it on track this morning, but unfortunately we had a gearbox issue and the nature of it meant we had to stop. I think overall we've had a really positive test here. If you look at the longer runs it looks pretty promising. I think we have a good package and the engine works really well, so I'm very happy and I'm looking forward to just going racing now."
Guillaume "Rocky" Rocquelin, Head of Race Engineering, added:
"We came here with a new car, a new engine partner and a new driver, and we leave Barcelona with all of those elements working extremely well together. Problems such as today's inevitably arise during testing and it's a shame that it disrupted our final day. However, I don't think we should let it colour what we have achieved over these two weeks in Barcelona. We've had an enormously productive period of testing and we've learned a great deal about the RB15 and the direction we want to go in as we head into the season. Honda have been outstanding throughout, we have had great reliability and the rapport with the team is exceptional. It's also a big task for Pierre coming into a new team and he's learned a huge amount - about the car and procedurally. As for the car, the balance is good, the performance is there and we're ready to go racing."
Racing Point had a good day in terms of mileage, with Sergio Perez racking up 104 laps, but with a best lap time of a 1:17.791 only good enough for twelfth place on the timesheet. It is hard to judge this team however, as they are waiting for a substantial upgrade to their package in Australia. They have had the reliability in this second week though, which must be encouraging for the Silverstone-based outfit.
I hope that the Pink Panthers are able to get their promised update ready in time for the first race, as it would be a real shame if they missed out on a decent result. However, I do think that they are a bit lacking in understanding of their RP19 as they haven't got the full package, and they (apart from Williams obviously) have set the least laps out of everybody.
"It's been a positive final day in the car for me. We did a lot of work and I think we have a good idea of where we stand with the car. Today was about final race preparations with lots of long runs. Every time we go out, we learn more and more and I feel ready for the season ahead. It's been a long winter and I'm extremely motivated: I can't wait to go racing again. Starting the season with some points would be good, but in the end it's a long season so we need to get to Melbourne and see how we really compare to the other teams."
Tom McCullough, Performance Engineering Director, added:
"It's been a successful eight days of testing where we have achieved all our main test objectives. We were able to get a good understanding of the RP19 launch car and also of the five tyre compounds we will be using throughout the season. Today was a useful day: the car ran reliably again, as it has done all week, which is encouraging. Our race runs were slightly hampered by the timing of the red flag, but we still finish the day having learnt a lot about our car. We have plenty of work to be done between now and Melbourne, but we can look forward to the start of the season. Overall, it has been a huge effort by everyone in the team, both at the track and back at base."
Williams were yet again at the bottom of the timesheet, with Robert Kubica only managing 90 laps (this is small compared to what they have been doing), with a fastest time of a 1:18.993. The Pole was not happy with his running today either, going as far to say that the team had "lost another day" and the car was not representative of what it should have been.
I think it was a nice tribute to everybody that works at the team to print their names on the rear wing (as shown above), as it is a way of thanking them for working so hard to get the car onto the track. However, the engineers at the team should never had been put into this position in the first place. The car being late is a failure of leadership in my opinion, and somebody has to take the blame. They still haven't been able to run their full 2019 package, and they also haven't had much time to see what they can do over one lap.
I'll end this by repeating what I said about Williams on the first day of the first test: WILLIAMS, GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER.
Kubica wasn't happy:
"We lost another day today," Kubica said. "Of course we did some laps, but the car's state was far from optimal.
"We had some issues. Unfortunately the car was not representative to what it should be, and this had a big impact on our test, our running programme of today. All the information was misleading and in some way also was difficult to get any information for [the opening race in] Australia."
"It is a pity to end testing with a difficult day before we head to the first race. Out of the runs that we did, we managed to learn some things, but it hasn't given me the level of confidence that I would have liked ahead of Australia. It wasn't the day that I was hoping for after the delay to the start of testing, but you have to take the positives out of these difficult situations."
I hope that you have enjoyed my coverage of testing this year, and let me know if you want me to do the same sort of thing after each race. It is a bit different to what has been traditionally posted on this tribe, but don't worry, normal articles will resume next week.
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