Week 2 of preseason testing in Barcelona saw the teams and drivers put their cars through their paces for the final time. This week saw some interesting developments in terms of pace, technically and reliability wise as well.
Mercedes continued to show good pace but the big story about them is they are not bulletproof, most notably illustrated when Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes broke down on Thursday, and they reportedly had to use 3 engines during testing. The reliability concerns were not only with them, Williams, which uses Mercedes engines also, they endured a fair few breakdowns as a result of engine troubles.
It has been an interesting and turbulent week for the prancing horse. The doubts about their pace kind of died down slightly when Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time on Thursday, and Charles Leclerc showed respectable pace in a long run on Friday. There was interest off track as well, with a mysterious “settlement” was reached with the team regarding their power unit, raising speculation that the FIA was not happy with something they were doing with the engine.
Like last week, Red Bull were very quiet for the majority of the 3 days, just going about their programme, which did however include a suspension problem on Wednesday morning where Alexander Albon was garage bound for a long period of time. Then came Friday afternoon, where Max Verstappen began to really push his RB16 to the limits and get within a tenth of Valtteri Bottas’s time, indicating Red Bull may be close to the Silver Arrows.
McLaren turned up the wick a lot more in Week 2, as whilst they did not set any headline times, they did appear to be fairly confident leaving Barcelona. However Carlos Sainz did still state that he was worried about his rivals, such as the Racing Point, when coming to Melbourne. Having said that, their test has been described as their best preseason in years.
Renault put in a fairly underrated performance come testing. Whilst all midfield attention has been on Racing Point, Renault, albeit having set this time on the C5 tyre, set the third fastest time out of any team, courtesy of Daniel Ricciardo on Day 3. Renault cannot be written off when it comes to the midfield battle in Melbourne.
Other than a problem with the pipe cutting short Pierre Gasly’s running on Monday morning, they appeared to be just going about their programme for the 3 days, with Gasly setting the second fastest time on Day 2 on the C4 tyre. However it is still relatively unknown where they may stack up in the pecking order.
The positivity about their pace and controversy about their similarities to the Mercedes, the latter of which is resulting in a protest from both McLaren and Renault, continued into Week 2. There was speculation that they could even be close to, or even ahead of Ferrari throughout the week, as they continued to show incredibly solid pace, and look like they are ‘F1.5’s favourites going into the season.
Not much is known about the pace of the C39. Both drivers seemed to be getting on with their programme and kind of blending in whilst all the midfield talk has been about the likes of Racing Point, McLaren and Renault. They did however top Day 4 after they allowed their test driver Robert Kubica to do a fast lap
There have been worrying signs from Haas. They had the slowest fastest lap out of all the teams, having set it on the C4 tyre, and many are suggesting that they could be even battling Williams in the upcoming season. Whether that is true or not we will have to see in Melbourne, but the signs aren’t good for F1’s newest outfit.
Last year’s backmarkers have clearly made a step forward. The car seems to be running nicely, and their long run pace, as well as their fastest laptime of a 1.16.871, courtesy of George Russell, indicates they could be much closer to the rest pack than they were last year, which bodes well, especially with someone like George Russell who outperformed the car on many occasions last year at the wheel.
So preseason testing has come to a close and now all attention heads to Melbourne. Of course all talk could be seen as pretty academic right now considering the uncertainty regarding the coronavirus situation, but indications as of now are that all systems are go for Melbourne. Stay tuned for some exciting all new content in the run up to Melbourne here on Absolute Motorsport, as the first season of the new decade approaches.