So the first 3 days of the 2020 cars being put through their paces in anger are behind us and we have a fascinating 3 days to dissect, as we got our first indication of what we are to expect in this upcoming 2020 season. Here is a team-by-team review of the first 3 days in Barcelona.
Unsurprisingly, it was the silver arrows who made the headlines, but not for the reasons you’d expect. It was mostly because of one thing. Their innovative Dual Axis Steering, or DAS system. The rest of the grid were dumbfounded when they saw Lewis Hamilton pulling his steering wheel back and forth via onboard footage, to adjust the angle of the front wheels on the fly. As its legality continued to be discuss, their pace was also strong. Finishing 1 and 2 in both Day 1 and Day 3, with Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheets in the former and Valtteri Bottas in the latter. Trackside, their car looked visibly better than their rivals through the corners, and it is safe to say their pace and innovation looks ominous for the rest. Despite an electrical fault at the end of Day 2, it was a good start for Mercedes
On the other hand, Ferrari did not have as smooth a week. They did not have a smooth week, which included an engine shutdown on Friday morning, and the team claim they believe they are behind both Mercedes and Red Bull, which is safe to say is giving their fans some course for concern. However they did not go for any headline times. Are Ferrari saying what they are saying as a bluff like many believe Mercedes did last year? The aggressive car has more downforce than last year, and there have been reports that Charles Leclerc is more confident in the SF1000 than he was in the SF90 last year. Their pace in Week 2 will be intriguing.
Red Bull have been fairly understated over the first 3 days and haven’t shown their full pace yet, but the vibes coming from them seem to suggest they are fairly confident about their RB16, with Max Verstappen stating they were fast in all circumstances. The car did not look aerodynamically sound though the corners. Verstappen had a couple of spins at the tricky Turn 13 and trackside, the car did not look as planted through the chicane. Like with Ferrari, what they pull out of the bag in Week 2 will be interesting.
Last year’s ‘F1.5’ champions were fairly quiet during the first 3 days of testing, as they appeared to be simply getting on with their own programme and not going for laptime, so we don’t have much to go by when it comes to what the indications are. However Carlos Sainz did voice concern and state that it will be hard to fight with their rivals that are working with top teams, which could possibly be seen as an indicator that he doesn’t believe McLaren will be as fast as they were last year.
It hasn’t been a smooth week for Renault, Daniel Ricciardo completed the second least laps out of anyone, partially as a result of a stoppage towards the middle of the afternoon session on Day 3. However early indicators is that the car is good, some good laptimes were set, the car looked fairly stable from trackside, and Daniel Ricciardo was having ‘a bit more fun than I thought,’ as he said on the team radio, indicating the Australian has confidence in the car which he lacked as much of last year.
Like McLaren, they appeared to be simply going about their programmes, but they also set some good times as well, with Daniil Kvyat posting the fifth fastest time on both Day 1 and Day 3. The car looked stable from trackside in most corners, and both drivers looked to be as comfortable with it as its predecessor. Overall looks like a reasonable start for Red Bull’s renamed sister team.
The pink panthers created some headlines this week by turning up with a car that had a lot of similarities to the Mercedes, with some even referring to it as a Mercedes painted in pink. Sergio Perez beat his Q2 time from last year on Day 1, and they were in the top 4 of the timesheets on all 3 days of the test, which is a solid start for them as they strive to return to the top of the midfield this year.
It has been a very fluctuating week for them. Trackside, the car was looking like a bit of a handful. Particularly at the final chicane on Day 2, Kimi Raikkonen appeared to be understeering a lot, getting stuck on that exit kerb quite a lot, and he would bring out the first red flag of the week with a precautionary stop a couple of hours later. But Alfa Romeo did set some good laptimes, with Kimi topping Day 2, although that was likely an extremely low fuel run, it is hard to read much into their pace.
Judging at the timesheets, it appears they did not go for any low fuel runs, as they often were towards the bottom of the order. Their week wasn’t without hitch, with Romain Grosjean having an off at Turn 4 at the end of Day 2, suffering a water leak at the beginning of Day 3, before a broken wheel spacer caused a puncture which sent Kevin Magnussen into the gravel and a light impact with the wall in the afternoon of Day 3. However Gunther Steiner has stated this was a good start for Haas as they look to recover from a tricky year in 2019.
It is no doubt they have a mountain to climb to be able to latch on the tail of the back of the midfield. But their start couldn’t have had more of a contrast to 12 months ago, where they were 3 days late with their new car. This year, George Russell as first out on track on Wednesday morning, and despite a stoppage for Nicholas Latifi after an engine problem towards the end of Friday morning, Williams were fairly pleased with their start and hope to build on it in Week 2.
Week 1 in Barcelona certainly threw up its headlines, with the two most notable words from the 3 days being Mercedes and DAS. Will it be the same in Week 2 or will another team steal the headlines from the Silver Arrows?