“The temptation for us was just to keep polishing that one [W10], after all it finished the season really strongly and it was developing very fast all the way through the year, so there was still lots of opportunity to make that one quicker,” Allison explained in a video released on Sunday.
“That conservative approach was very, very tempting. But in the end, we decided that wouldn’t be enough.
“We were feeling the breath of our opponents on our shoulders. We know their hunger and we know that if we don’t do something impressive with this car, they will eat us up and leave us behind.
“So, we decided that we would make a car that was aggressive.
“Despite the fact that there is no change in the regulations, we would take every part of the car and see if we could challenge ourselves to make it better.”
Relative to last year’s car, Mercedes’ W11 features changes to the front suspension that give “more aerodynamic opportunity in the front end”, a revamped bold rear suspension that helps create more downforce and an upgraded engine that can run at cooler temperatures, which in turn allow for smaller radiators that produce better airflow.
“You’re not going to see all the detail, but I can tell you that the rear suspension on this car is extremely adventurous,” Allison added.
“We have put into the back, specifically on the lower rear wishbone, we have put a new geometry in there, a new geometry that gives us more aerodynamic opportunity, allows us to get more downforce on the car.”
In terms of overall downforce, Allison insists that W11 is a big step forward compared to its predecessor.
“We have got a car here that is streaks ahead of that one in terms of downforce,” he said.
“We have got a car here whose development slope has kicked up, is steeper than the one that we finished last year’s with, in that very, very good car from 2019.
“And we’ve got a car here that we hope will be fertile ground to develop strongly all the way through the 2020 season.”
AlphaTauri drivers Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly were both feeling very positive about their 2020 prospects, after a positive first pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“It was productive as we squeezed the most out of it, said Kvyat. “We had a lot of high-quality tests and tried to cover as many laps as we could.
“Now we need to analyse everything and work on more tests to be ready for next week.
“The car feels like it’s in the ballpark and we’re still fine-tuning it like everyone else is,” the Russian driver continued. “But the initial feeling is we’ve made some progress compared to last year.
“It’s hard to say how much or if it’s enough, but we’re still trying to unlock the full potential of the car, both on short and long runs.”
His enthusiasm was match by that of his team mate, who retuned to the team last summer after an ill-starred stint at sister team Red Bull.
“It was a really positive afternoon,” said Gasly after the chequered flag was shown at the end of Friday’s session. “I had a few more laps in the car and completed some more tests. We managed to do all of our long run programme.
“Unfortunately, we had a small delay toward the end of the day which meant we couldn’t finish our performance runs, but it wasn’t too big of an issue as it was already covered by Daniil in the morning session.
“All in all, it was a positive three days for the team, there are a lot of things to analyse for next week, so we can find even more performance.”
Chief race engineer Jonathan Eddolls elaborated on the reasons behind the ‘small delay’ that Gasly had experienced in the afternoon.
“Pierre took over the AT01 for the afternoon and planned a number of mechanical and aerodynamic tests over short and long runs,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we lost some test time at the end of the day as we had to renew a fixing in the floor. It was a simple part, but time-consuming to repair.
It certainly hadn’t taken the gloss off the week’s activity as far as team principal Franz Tost was concerned.
“It’s a pity we lost some track time today due to a little issue toward the end of the day,” he said. “[But] we had three very fruitful test days here in Barcelona, completing more than 100 laps every day – 384 in total
“[We] learned a lot about the car, but we still have to work on the final setup. However, I think we are going in the right direction which is a good sign.
“We got a good understanding of the new aerodynamics on the car. We also ran a few long runs which meant we could get a clearer picture of tyre wear and degradation.
“The engineers now have a lot of data to analyse to come back well prepared next week for the second test.”
Last season, the then-Toro Rosso squad finished in sixth place in the constructors championship, which saw Kvyat and Gasly clinch podiums in Germany and Brazil respectively.
Tost suggested that the current driver line-up was the best the team had ever had, and capable of clinching even more podiums in 2020.
“Yes, I would underline this,” he told RaceFans.net’s Dieter Rencken. “Kvyat has a fantastic natural speed. He won races, he won championships, remember back in GP3.
“And Pierre Gasly as well, he won races, he won the GP2 championship and he drove last year – in the second half of the season – some fantastic races.
“Just remember his second place in Sao Paolo when he managed to keep Hamilton behind him one lap.
“In general, I must say that Scuderia AlphaTauri seems to be in a good position for the upcoming year.”
A provisional ruling by the FISA suggests that DAS does indeed meet this year’s rules and regulations, although it will be banned in 2021 when radical new technical specifications are introduced.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo applauded Mercedes managing to find another new way to stay ahead of the rest of the field this season.
“Hats off to them,” the Australian told F1 TV. “They have been dominant this whole turbo era, yet they are still the ones pushing everyone else.
“It should be us and everyone else pushing them, but they’re not getting complacent,” he added. “I think that’s why they’ve been so dominant.
“They’re setting an example right now, and as a competitor I certainly respect that. It’s good for everyone to see how far they’re willing to go.”
Ricciardo added that the revelation of DAS has caught pretty much everyone in the paddock by complete surprise.
“I don’t think maybe anyone had really thought about it,” he said. “I don’t want to say anyone, but probably not many people talked about that.
I don’t know if it was ever a conversation had, but I’m sure the conversation’s happening in every team right now,” he added. “I’ve never heard of a system that talked about!”
But while DAS might meet this year’s technical rules, it might fall foul of the regulations in another way.
“They will undoubtedly have consulted with Nikolas Tombazis of the FIA,” Renault sporting director Alan Permane said in conversation with Motorsport.com.
“They will have said that they are satisfied with the legality of the system, and I agree with that,” he stated. “But there is also a parc fermé issue.”
He pointed out that according to Article 34.6 of the regulations, a car is under parc fermé conditions from the moment it leaves pit lane until the start of the race. Adjusting the toe angle during that period might therefore fall foul of the rules.
“The question is whether it is a steering system or a suspension system. There are different rules for that,” Permane explained.
Renault itself had a subdued first week of testing, completing 373 laps of which Ricciardo contributed 188 despite suffering a brief engine scare on Friday.
He ended the week tenth fastest of the 21 drivers taking part with a best time of 1:17.574s putting him almost half a second behind his new team mate Esteban Ocon. Even so, he was pleased with how it had gone.
“Today was okay for me, I felt good in the car and I’m pleased with the work we completed,” he told the team’s website.
Ricciardo had been sporing a special purple helmet for testing in tribute to basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter accident at the end of January.
“I’ve never played basketball and I can’t relate to that but it doesn’t mean I can’t admire someone of that calibre and how he changed the game,” he told the official Formula 1 website. “I would have loved to have seen him play, I would have loved to have met him and been able to know him as a person.
“I was a fan of him and what he represented, what he brought to the sport,” he explained. “I idolise him creating such a legacy, his work ethic, him standing out from the pack. I think anyone trying to be great at something can recognise that and appreciate that.
“There’s quite a lot of significance when someone from the outside shows a bit of care. Obviously I’m not doing it for what the image looks like, but I think it’s nice that it’s touched Formula 1 drivers.”
But a feature in Mercedes’s end-of-week press notes suggested that this statement should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
It explained that Ferrari are probably holding back and not showing their true potential, unlike last year, where they were the stars of the show and it was Mercedes looked to be in trouble.
“You can say with some confidence that your competitors are ‘at least as fast as X’, but you do not know for sure how much faster they could have gone,” the team pointed out.
“No-one wants the egg on their face of claiming that they are faster than another team, because they can never know for certain what was hidden or what is coming next.
“For example, will Red Bull bring a significant upgrade package to the second test? Why have Ferrari spent this test running their power unit consistently at much lower levels than their partner teams?”
Sebastian Vettel had already addressed the Scuderia’s engine strategy in comments made to the media in Spain this week.
“I think right now the target is not to prove the maximum power of the engine, the target is to do as many laps as possible,” he explained. “Ramping up the engine and so on, it’s probably not something you want to do in testing and certainly not to show everyone.”
Binotto acknowledged that Ferrari had “changed the approach to the testing and the programme” compared to last year, when it hit the road with all guns blazing only to fall flat on its face in the first races of the season.
With so much ‘sandbagging’ going on, it would be easy to entirely dismiss the relevance of how well or not teams do in testing sessions such as this. But Mercedes said it would be a mistake to take that view.
“Testing times are not meaningless, they are a goldmine,” the team stated. “If you look at them long enough, they gradually give up their secrets.
“Far from discounting testing time analysis as meaningless, every team in the pitlane pores over the data as it emerges in order to build up a picture of the competitive pecking order
“If you’re prepared to sift through them with care and caution, a clear picture begins to emerge.
“Using techniques that have been built up over a number of seasons it is possible to figure out, with surprising accuracy, what lies beneath the headline laptimes that we see during winter testing.
“If we see a car jump up or down in pace by meaningful amount, then we will tentatively conclude that this was a jump to one of the other fuel loads,” the analysis continued.
“For example, if it gets a chunk faster, we can assume that this was an adjustment to the “performance” level for a run that will be nearer to a qualifying effort.
“What we can say is that we predict the battle in Melbourne at the front is going to be tight.
“We can also see that the midfield have closed on the front and that there is some considerable midfield swing compared to last year’s competitive order.”
The Mercedes team has successfully topped the charts again following the first week of 2020 pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The Silver Arrows had already set the pace in terms of raw speed, with Valtteri Bottas’ best Friday time of 1:15.732s proving to be the quickest of the entire week. That’s almost half a second faster than the team was running at this point last year. His team mate Lewis Hamilton was second fastest overall.
And the team is not only proving to be quick but also durable, after the two drivers between them racked up a total of 494 laps (or 2299km), despite losing running time on Thursday afternoon with a suspected engine issue for Bottas.
Hamilton was individually responsible for 273 laps, which was the most of any driver during the first week in Spain, compared to 221 for Bottas. Despite the effort required, Hamilton said afterwards that he was feeling fresher than ever, which will surely be cause for concern among his rivals.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon were almost a match for the world championship squad and completed 471 laps between them, with Verstappen personally putting in 254 laps making him the second-most travelled driver behind Hamilton.
Red Bull finished ahead of McLaren and Alfa Romeo, who were tied on 423 laps for the three-day test. Carlos Sainz completed 237 laps in the MCL35 while Antonio Giovinazzi was just behind with 230 laps after a day and a half in the C39.
It was a somewhat underwhelming first week for Ferrari however, with the SF1000 managing only 353 laps. Sebastian Vettel missed the opening day of testing due to illness and subsequently suffered an engine issue that cost him time on Friday.
As a result, Ferrari were almost a full day’s mileage behind their their title rivals, and 95 laps behind their averaged three-day count at the midway point of last year’s test. And not only that, their pace was almost two seconds slower than last year when they were the stars of pre-season testing.
Like Ferrari, Williams was also handicapped by the need to perform an engine change. It meant that George Russell and Nicholas Latifi completed 324 laps between them – but that’s still a huge improvement on last year, when the team was unable to even take part in the first two days of the test. Their 2020 total is a whopping 258 laps more than their disastrous 2019 first three-day average!
The lack of red flags on the first two days in this year’s testing helped Racing Point to a major improvement on last year’s longevity, with 369 laps from Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll combined proving to be 185 laps better than their equivalent calculated three-day total for 2019.
Red Bull were likewise up 115 laps, McLaren to the good by 89 laps, and Renault 55 laps ahead of where they were 12 months ago.
The lowest amount of running was the 314 laps notched up by Haas, after a puncture caused Kevin Magnussen to crash out at the start of the Friday afternoon session. Even so, they were 28 laps ahead of where they were 12 months ago.
In terms of engine manufacturer reliability, Mercedes-powered cars once again came out top with a total of 1187 laps from the works team, Racing Point and Williams combined.
Ferrari comes out better in this calculation with 1090 laps undertaken by the Scuderia and customer Alfa Romeo and Haas teams, while Honda is someway back with a total of 854 laps from Red Bull and AlphaTauri. Renault and McLaren accounted for 801 laps this week.
“For my first testing day, it was an okay one,” Räikkönen confirmed afterwards. “The important thing is that everything seems to be working well with no major issues.
“There is still a long way to go,” he cautioned. “But I think we made a step forward compared to last year. Who knows where this is going to take us, but so far so good.
“The immediate feeling is pretty positive,” he added.
The team’s reserve driver Robert Kubica had been the first person out on track in the new car on Wednesday before handing over to Antonio Giovinazzi in the afternoon. The Italian also took over driving duties for the whole of the Friday stint, and went on to complete a total of 231 laps without issues.
“I am pretty satisfied with our work,” he reported. “The first outings in a new car are a very exciting moment.
“But you can’t really take your eyes off the main objective, which is to get good mileage and give the team the feedback they need,” he continued. “We were able to run without issues and that’s the main thing.
“For me, every new lap, every new run means getting more confidence with the new car: I am looking forward to more of this feeling next week.”
Alfa Romeo’s Head of Track Engineering reiterated Giovinazzi’s comment that despite topping the timesheets on Thursday, the team was yet to focus on finding the true speed of their new car.
“The first days of testing are not specifically about finding performance but understanding the new car and the way it behaves,” Xevi Pujolar commented.
“Our programme was tailored to these aims and we can be satisfied with our first day of work,” he explained. “The car ran reliably, and we were able to tick all the boxes in our list. We definitely hope it is a sign of things to come.”
“People may look at the times, but these are of little value right now,” added Alfa Romeo sporting director Beat Zehnder. “The main thing to focus on is the data we are collecting and listening to the drivers’ first reactions.
“It’s still just the beginning of a very busy process of learning about the new car,” he added.
Racing Point technical director Andrew Green insists that the team’s new 2020 car is not simply a carbon copy of last year’s Mercedes.
Green explained that despite a superficial similarity, much of the RP20 was still the result of original research and development within the team.
“We decided that anything to do with the chassis – which is effectively a non-transferable component, a listed part – we would prefer to keep all that in house, because it’s all linked,” he told Autosport magazine.
“We want to keep it to ourselves, so we kept it to do our own,” he continued. “All the suspension systems, chassis-wise, wishbones. All Racing Point, because it’s all linked to a chassis – and the chassis is ours.
“It’s what we think we’re good at,” he added. “If we can take some of the mechanical components and develop aerodynamically around it, that’s our strength. That’s what we’re basically built for.”
The team’s new car has been criticised by rivals including Haas for being too similar to the 2019 world championship-winning entry. However Haas itself has made great use of technology sharing with its partners including Ferrari and Dallara since arriving in F1 in 2016.
“It’s not the full blown Haas model, it’s the Haas Mk2 – and it’s what suits us,” Green responded. “We don’t have huge production facilities, so I think the model we’re doing works for us.”
One of the motivations for looking to the W10 for inspiration was that Racing Point uses Mercedes customer engines. As a result they already use the same gearbox and external suspension elements.
“Trying to fight [against it] and try and develop a car using a different philosophy from the hardware that you’re getting, we found it to be a real struggle,” Green acknowledged.
“It made a lot of sense for us, because of the hardware we’re having to run,” he added. “You’d be foolish to then think I’m going to try and go in a different direction because you think you know better.”
Racing Point CEO Otmar Szafnauer picked up on that theme in comments made to the Formula 1 website during the first week of pre-season testing in Barcelona.
“We’ve had the Mercedes gearbox in the back of our car for many years,” he said. “Because they run a different aero concept to us it was always a compromise, so we ran a high rake with a gearbox that was designed for not a high rake.
“We were always compromised, especially at the rear end aerodynamically,” he admitted on Friday. “That meant we had rear instability
“Because of where we are financially, it’s the first opportunity we’ve had to actually switch concepts because it takes quite a bit of effort and resource to do that.
“This was our opportunity to do it – the sad thing is we will have a year of it, and then the regulations change,” he noted. “It’s a risk, because the other concept we understood quite well.”
However the team is yet to be convinced about reproducing the new Mercedes Dual Axis Steering concept in 2020.
“It looks like a clever bit of ingenuity,” Szafnauer acknowledged. “I’m sure everyone now will see how quickly we can get it on, depending on the effort and the benefit.
“If it’s a huge effort for little benefit then probably not, because we have limited resource,” he said. “But if it’s a small effort for a big benefit, than probably yes.”
Mercedes’ productive first week of pre-season testing in Barcelona wasn’t as trouble-free as it appeared to be on the surface, with Valtteri Bottas allegedly suffering an engine failure on day 2.
Mercedes concluded its week at the Circuit de Catalunya with a comfortable margin over its rivals, in terms of both performance and mileage as Lewis Hamilton and Bottas worked diligently through their respective programmes.
The only minor delay in Mercedes’ schedule was an apparent electrical issue encountered by Bottas on Thursday afternoon.
However, according to a report from Motorsport.com, the setback was worse than initially thought and required a full power unit change on Bottas’ W11.
The exact nature of the problem was not revealed, but earlier this month, Mercedes engine boss Andy Cowell admitted “fighting a few little issues” over the winter as his Brixworth department worked on the development of its latest-spec unit.
Cowell also alluded last week to cooling issues encountered in 2019 that had compelled Mercedes to raise the operating temperature of its engine.
Mercedes wasn’t the only team to be hit with an engine issue in pre-season testing as customer outfit Williams also undertook an engine change on Nicholas Latifi’s car on Friday.
And in the Red Bull camp, Honda swapped power units on Alex Albon’s car when suspicious data justified the precautionary measure.
Robert Kubica’s reserve role with Alfa Romeo is a homecoming of sorts for the Polish driver as Hinwill is the place where it all once started for him in F1.
Kubica’s miraculous comeback with Williams last year was an impressive feat, even if it left the 35-year-old with little to show after a frustrating campaign with the beleaguered British team.
While many believed his career in F1 had come to a definite end after Abu Dhabi, Kubica has survived to perhaps fight another day in the sport, having been named as Alfa’s official reserve driver for 2020.
The position even allowed to put the team’s new C39 through its initial paces on the opening day of pre-season testing in Barcelona. And Bobby K felt immediately at home with a team rooted in the Sauber BMW outfit he drove for – and won with – during his early days in F1.
“When I started my Formula 1 career in 2006, I started in Hinwil so I am 14 years older – I am in a bit of a different role but it’s nice to see so many of the same faces, same people who actually made everything happen for me,” said Kubica earlier this week.
“A lot of things have changed because F1 has changed actually, quite a lot, and the team is developing but the DNA of the team is still the same.
“I’m finally back home and I hope we have a good year.”
Kubica’s on-track duties with Alfa will obviously be limited, but he will embed with the Swiss squad for most of the season. And be ready to spring into action just in case.
“As a reserve driver I will have a few duties, not racing, but it doesn’t mean I will be on holiday,” he explained.
“I will attend probably most of the races or nearly all races as a reserve driver so in case, hopefully not, something happens to Kimi [Raikkonen] or Antonio [Giovinazzi], I will step up.
“It is big difference here from 14 years ago with BMW but the team was Hinwil so I get back to the same factory where I started my Formula 1 career.
“Also, on track is still the same so a few emotions driving for the first time the new car. It’s a big difference to what I am used to driving in the last two years.”
Newey says the jury is still out as to whether the new rules will succeed in improving the show. But he makes clear that they were decided by Formula 1’s chiefs and the FIA without the overwhelming consent of his peers.
“It’s been pushed through regardless of what people think, so whether it’s good for the sport or not, only time will tell.”
“It could happen,” Grosjean contends. “I mean, I was already lucky to be 10 times on the podium, I should have won I believe two Grands Prix, things didn’t come my way.”
The performance gap that continues to exist in F1 between its unassailable trio of front-runners and mid-field contenders such as Haas means that winning will likely remain a distant dream for Grosjean who wonders if F1 should even be called a sport.
“I think, we call Formula 1 a sport, is it a sport? I am not so sure,” he said last week in Barcelona.
“It’s a show, but a sport is supposed to be fair and Formula 1 is not fair.
“It’s very physical to drive a Formula 1 car, it’s hard, it’s demanding, it’s a lot of effort going [in] from everyone, but it’s like asking Roger Federer to go with a ping-pong racket to Roland Garros. He won’t have a chance.
“And would you call tennis a sport if they were not coming all with the same rackets, or if the court was wider on one side than it would be on the other side?”
To clearly demonstrate his point, which in all fairness is undisputable, Grosjean points to Daniel Ricciardo’s demotion from race winner to “also ran” since the Aussie’s transfer from Red Bull to Renault.
“I mean, look at Daniel Ricciardo,” he said. “If you only take his time at Renault, he hasn’t even scored a podium.
“But he’s been winning races, he’s a great driver, and he’s been on the podiums. It all depends what you’ve got between your hands.”
Grosjean hasn’t lost all hope of standing one day on the top step of an F1 podium. And perhaps next year’s regulation overhaul and budget cap will reset his chances, or convince him to finally call it a day.
“Yeah, could well happen that I won’t win a grand prix,” he added. “I will do my best to get some opportunities in the future, there’s obviously a lot of drivers out of contract at the end of the year, there could be drivers also retiring.
“I think that [retirement] is a decision that, I believe for me it will come quite quickly
“If I see maybe half a season or three-quarters of a season if I see I don’t have the passion anymore, I don’t really want to be travelling the world and being far from my family, then I could see me retiring and going somewhere else.
“It could happen to other drivers. There could be other opportunities.”
Mercedes AMG F1 boss Toto Wolff wasn’t the least bit convinced by his team’s novel DAS concept when he first heard about it, but a simulator session turned the Austrian’s opinion around.
Mercedes ‘Dual Axis Steering’ device was the talk of the paddock this week in Barcelona when on-board footage of Lewis Hamilton pushing and pulling his steering wheel was posted on Twitter by a few eagle-eyed F1 fans.
The benefits of the system are believed to be two-fold: a reduction in drag as the front wheels’ toe angle is altered on the straights, and a tool by which tyre temperatures could be controlled.
But when the DAS was first explained to Wolff by Mercedes’ engineers, the Austrian was anything but impressed according to a report from Auto Motor und Sport.
“It’ll never work,” was Wolff initial reaction. “As a driver, you don’t want to pull and push and steer at the same time.”
However, after the team’s creative engineers built the first prototype, Wolff tested the device in the Bracklet simulator.
“I was surprised at how easy it was,” he remembered. “It’s an unnatural movement, but the stroke is short and you’re only doing it on the straight.”
The system is being debated at length by teams and engineers who were caught off guard by the innovative concept.
While the FIA has given the green light to the device, but outlawed it for 2021, it’s expected that Mercedes’ ruse could be challenged by teams this year, if the Silver Arrows squad decides to use it.
The crux of the matter is whether DAS will be judged as a steering system or part of the car’s suspension rig.
In case of the latter, the concept could contravene F1’s stringent ‘Parc Fermé’ rules.
Indeed, Article 34.6 of the technical regulations states the following: “A competitor may not modify any part on the car or make changes to the set-up of the suspension whilst the car is being held under parc fermé conditions.”
So altering the toe angle of a car’s front wheels on the fly could potentially be construed as a breach of the ‘Parc Fermé’ article.
Many are those up and down the pitlane who will have frowned upon Mercedes’ ingenious ploy. But Racing Point tech boss Andy Green was full of praise for the Silver Arrows squad’s technical stratagem.
“It is a brilliant idea because it is so simple in principle,” said Green. “You just have to figure it out!”
The performance wasn’t a headline-grabber, but the 22-year-old insists it’s early days still as Red Bull continues to lay the groundwork for its RB16.
“We got another good amount of laps today and for this first week of testing that’s really important as we try to understand the new car,” Verstappen said.
“We’re not chasing lap time; it’s not about that. It’s about scanning and testing everything on the car, making sure everything works well and that it’s reliable.
“It’s been really positive and the car has felt good all week.
“We still have a lot of things to learn on the car and that will continue next week, but at the end of this first test I’m happy and can’t complain.”
Red Bull head of engineering, Guillaume Rocquelin was also satisfied with the outcome of the Milton Keynes-based team’s programmes this week at the Circuit de Catalunya.
“It’s been a very successful test for the whole Team and in my opinion one of the most satisfying first weeks of pre-season testing we’ve had in some time,” commented the Frenchman.
“We had no issues, and the car ran very smoothly throughout. We did have a small issue on the car in the morning but it was an easy fix and Max was able to complete a full race simulation. “We were on course for the same with Alex in the afternoon, but unfortunately there were a few red flags so we didn’t quite get everything done.
“Despite those delays he was still able to get through more than 80 laps so we’re very happy.
“We’re in good shape and we’ve now got a very good platform heading into the second week where we’ll hopefully add some more performance.”
After last year’s painful preparation debacle, it was a relief to everyone in the paddock when the Williams FW43 was the first car to hit the track at the start of pre-season testing for 2020.
Things had also been looking good for the team in terms of reliability, with drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi completing 136 laps between them on Wednesday, and Russell adding another 166 on Thursday.
But unfortunately Latifi’s return to the cockpit on Friday was somewhat more limited, when an engine problem saw him grind to a halt on the front straight during the morning session, after completing just 44 laps.
“It wasn’t the day I had hoped for in terms of running,” Latifi sighed. “I mirrored George’s programme from yesterday in terms of the sequence, with a lot of aero runs in the morning.
“Then I was able to get a few pushing laps, before we saw some potential problems in the PU data.”
“Nicholas was back in the car today and we had a full programme planned for him,” picked up Williams’ head of vehicle performance Dave Robson.
“Unfortunately, during the morning we saw something in the data which gave us concern over the power unit. A subsequent investigation meant we couldn’t get back on track until late in the afternoon.”
After changing the engine, the car was ready for Latifi to add a further 28 laps to his total during the final hour of the session.
“The mechanics did a great job of rebuilding the car to get us back out in time to complete some useful new tyre running,” Robson acknowledged.
“We were able to complete the day with a series of pitstops, which was a valuable experience for Nicholas and gave him an appreciation of how quick the stops will be once we get to the serious business of racing in Melbourne.”
Latifi – the only rookie on the grid this season – was pleased to have got that extra time in the car at the end of the day, experience which might prove crucial to his fortunes next month in the first race of the season in Australia.
“The guys did a great job to rebuild the car and get me back out there,” he said. “We had a busy last hour of the day, testing lots of items and maximising the running time.
“The lack of track time was unfortunate, but that’s how testing goes sometimes,” he noted. “Hopefully we can make up for the mileage we missed next week.”
All ten F1 teams return to action for a further three days of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya next week, from February 26-28.
Pirelli will assess a special prototype front tyre in Barcelona which could be used at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.
Pirelli’s new tyre has been engineered to cope with the specific load factors that F1 teams will encounter at the Dutch track where two corners have been reprofiled to feature an 18-degree incline.
The banking of the Turn 4 Hugenholtzbocht and the final right hand Arie Luyendijkbocht will no doubt get the drivers’ attention and Pirelli wants to make sure its tyres will be up to the task of handling the track’s specific constraints.
“I’m going to tell the teams that we’re going to test prototype front tyres in the next session,” explained Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola.
“This prototype had been designed with a slightly different construction because we are still analysing data coming from Zandvoort.
“We made some analysis on the banking, and the plan is to use these tyres with a slightly higher pressure.
“So in preparation for that, because we are not fully aware of everything, we do not have final data on the circuit, on the tarmac roughness and so on, the idea is also to test a slightly different construction here. It’s working in a slightly different way – it’s more resistant.”
Isola says Pirelli disclosed its plans to the FIA, insisting the sampling of the front rubber next week was not the result of a “panic” decision.
“It was discussed with the FIA and agreed with the FIA. I don’t want to hear comments like ‘panic, panic,’ there is no panic,” said Isola.
“It is part of a serious and professional process where we need to be ready in case.
“Finally, we may go with the normal tyres, with the appropriate prescriptions, but we prefer also to test the driveability of a different construction, and we have the opportunity here in Barcelona during the pre-season test.
“In the regulations it is written that during the race weekend we can test an additional prototype, two sets per car.
“We are going to give two sets per car of additional prototypes here at the next test. We’ll supply the whole set, but just the front tyres are different.”
Valtteri Bottas came away from the first three days of 2020 pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with the fastest lap time of anyone, after having ‘fun’ on Friday stretching the legs of the W11.
While much of the spotlight on Mercedes this week has been on its controversial new Dual Axis Steering system, it was a nice change for Bottas and his team mate Lewis Hamilton to be able to get back to work setting top times.
Bottas finished the first week of testing by setting a new milestone of 1:15.732s after completing 65 laps in the morning. Hamilton was second fastest for the day with a time of 1:16.516s set during his post-lunch stint, having previously been fastest on the opening day of the test on Wednesday.
“It’s been really fun today, especially getting to do some shorter runs and being able to push the car a little bit closer to the limits,” said Bottas.
“I enjoyed it and it felt really good out there,” he added, saying he was pleased to get to see “a little bit more of the performance of the car.”
“It feels like we made a step with the set-up since yesterday. The car is very driveable and I’m sure with some more hard work next week, we can make it better, which will be the goal.
“Overall, it’s been a really good first test,” he said. “A big well done to every single team member to deliver the car and engine – great job! I’m looking forward to getting back in the car next week.”
While reliability was generally excellent, the team did hit a problem on Thursday afternoon when Bottas found his track time curtailed by an electrical issue.
“After the brief hiatus of yesterday, it was good to get a solid day of uninterrupted, reliable running today,” noted the team’s technical director James Allison.
“It’s been a good first week, the car has been broadly reliable, and the performance has been reasonably good throughout the week.
“Both drivers completed a programme of set-up work and an early look at the softer compound range. Just a very quick glimpse of that, but really useful preparation for the second week of testing where we have more of the soft rubber to bring.
There are, of course, many things to work on and we’ll be trying to do that in week two, but it’s a really good baseline.”
Allison was understandably reluctant to extrapolate how Mercedes stood in relation to their rivals such as Ferrari and Red Bull at this point.
“At the end of this first week, we start to get some sort of feeling for where all the teams are in the pecking order,” he said. “Especially now a few race distances have gone down.
“But it will be really interesting in the second week as our estimates start to refine further.”
The McLaren F1 squad is feeling upbeat and positive after what team principal Andreas Seidl declared to be their best first winter test in years when it comes to reliability.
Over the course of three days of pre-season testing this week, Carlos Sainz completed a total of 237 laps of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in his time in the MCL35.
Team mate Lando Norris added a further 186 laps to the total tally, with neither driver encountering any significant reliability issues over the course of the test.
“If you look at the number of laps and into the reliability we have shown so far, it’s by far the best start [in] many, many years for McLaren in a winter test,” Seidl told the media after the end of Friday’s session.
“That’s a great reward for everyone in the team, and proof that the hard work done over the winter is paying off,” he added.
However the new car has yet to show its true pace, with Sainz finishing the week 12th fastest overall and Norris ending up 20th of the 21 drivers taking part, after focusing on long distance run on high fuel loads and hard compound tyres.
“The car behaved as expected given the different steps and tests we completed over the last three days,” Seidl insisted. “It’s great to see this correlation, so I’m very happy.
“I’m very happy with the outcome of this test, thanks to thorough preparation and very disciplined and focused execution by the entire team.
“We were able to tick all the boxes we had on our job list for this first part of the winter testing campaign,” he continued. “We’ll use the next few days until the second test to analyse all the data we have collected in detail.
“We’re continuously bringing new parts to the car as well,” he pointed out. “Today we tried a new front wing in the morning, for example.
“It’s great to see this momentum we are having,” he said. “We’ll come back next Wednesday and keep working on our preparation for Melbourne and extracting more performance from the MCL35.”
As for the drivers, the word of the day was clearly ‘positive’.
“It’s been another good morning going through the whole test programme, still understanding the new car and working through our test items,” said Sainz. “I’m looking forward to going into a second week of testing after a positive first one.”
“On the whole, it was a positive day,” echoed Norris. “It wasn’t perfect, with a few little setbacks here and there, and a few red flags too which meant we didn’t get to do as many laps as planned, but we only missed a few.
“Apart from that, I got a better feeling for the car and I feel more confident. We’ve taken a few little steps forward.
“These first three days have been a positive way to start the season and to set us up for next week,” he added.
Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were in imperious form on Friday, on the last day of the first 2020 pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Bottas had set the best time of the morning session, with a lap of 1:15.732s on the C5 soft Pirelli tyre, just three tenths off his pole time in last year’s Spanish Grand Prix qualifying. It put him over a second clear of the rest of the field, before handing over the W11 to Hamilton at lunch.
Although mainly focussed on longer runs, Hamilton did also undertake a number of speed trials using the controversial DAS innovation and the softest compound. However he ultimately finished almost eight tenths off of his team mate’s pace by the end of the day’s running, despite exceeding the Finn’s total tally for the day by eight laps.
Between the two drivers, Mercedes completed 138 laps with no sign of a recurrence of the electrical issues that forced an early end to the team’s running on Thursday.
Esteban Ocon held on to third spot in the day’s overall timings for Renault with his morning stint. That put him ahead of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, who confirmed the team’s strong pace with the fourth quickest time after completing 116 laps.
Daniil Kvyat was fifth fastest for AlphaTauri, while Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi completed more laps than anyone else and was ultimately sixth fastest following 152 tours of the Spanish track.
Friday morning had seen the first two ‘genuine’ red flag stoppages of the test, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi both grinding to a halt out on track with mechanical issues.
Vettel was back in action at the wheel of the SF1000 soon after lunch and went on to complete a further 60 laps before the chequered flag, although he remained a disappointing 13th in the overall classification for the day and a worrying 2.652s off Bottas’ benchmark time.
An engine change on Latifi’s FW43 meant that the Canadian rookie was forced to sit out much of the afternoon, but he was finally able to return to action in the last 45 minutes and improve his lap count to 72.
There had been a further red flag shortly after lunch when Kevin Magnussen suffered a puncture and spun through the gravel and into the barrier at turn 8 after completing just four laps. The most serious incident of the test to date, it meant that the Haas VF-20 needed major repairs and the Dane was not able to take any further part in the day’s activity.
A fourth red flag materialised with 75 minutes remaining in the session, when Daniel Ricciardo pulled over in the Renault in the run into turn 9 with a suspected engine issue on the R.S.20. The team described it as a ‘precautionary stop’ and he was able to get back out on track in the final hour, duly rising to seventh place in the timesheets after completing 93 laps. With Ocon’s tally it meant that Renault has run a total of 169 laps on Friday, it’s best performance of the week.
Lando Norris was also sidelined for a spell late in the afternoon while the team worked on the MCL35 in the team garage. Although he was able to get back out before the end of the session, he completed just 49 laps after taking over from Carlos Sainz at lunch time, and was only 14th fastest ahead of Latifi and Magnussen having focussed on long runs using the hardest C1 compound.
Furthermore, the Swiss engineer would also like some clarification from the fIA which has given the green light to DAS for 2020 only.
“I’ve seen that there is a lot of discussion about it,” said Binotto. “Personally myself, I didn’t really look in detail, what it’s about, but I think we trust fully the FIA.
“I’m pretty sure that they have already done the right decision, or they will do it. But I completely trust on what FIA will judge.
“We will do [talk with the FIA] for clarification, important for us to understand, but as I said, we will not challenge the FIA on their decision, because we trust them fully on what will be or has been the decision on that.”
Binotto highlighted the fact that if Maranello decided the DAS was worth an engineering effort, there would be no fast-tracking the development of such a system.
“It’s an entire first concept design: design, producing, homologation,” Binotto explained. “It has to be safe. So if it is, I think it can be like mid-season, not earlier.
“I think we need to first understand how it works and understand what could be the area of performance benefit.
“I don’t think at the moment we’ve got any ideas. But we will look into it, no doubt, and [whether] it is worthwhile developing or not.”
Binotto also downplayed the potential for DAS to represent a “game changer” for Mercedes this season.
“Certainly, the Mercedes has great car, and it has shown to be fast,” he said.
“There are a lot of innovations on cars, and I think that a few of the solutions, which are on the Mercedes have been copied from the Ferrari and vice versa.
“So I think at the end, the one you’ve just mentioned is certainly visible. As a game changer, I don’t think so. I think it’s part of the entire package and as such I think it’s a good package they’ve got.”
Mercedes and Valtteri Bottas turned up the heat on the final day of pre-season testing, with the Finn leading the field by a comfortable margin at the mid-day point.
Bottas set a new benchmark on Friday morning, laying down a 1m15.732s on the C5 soft Pirelli tyre that left Renault’s Esteban Ocon 1.370s behind, while Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was third, 1.606s adrift from the Mercedes.
Bottas’ impressive time was just over three tenths shy of the fastest lap ever achieved around the Circuit de Catalunya, also courtesy of the Mercedes driver in 2019.
AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat concluded his morning fourth, just a few tenths ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, with the Dutchman’s best effort 1.904s adrift from Bottas.
Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi was sixth, edging McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
“We had another very productive day with the RB16 and although we didn’t complete quite as many laps as Wednesday, we once again got through all of the test items on the list,” said the Red Bull engineer.
“We did have a small issue just before lunch when the Honda guys noticed something in the data and we, therefore, elected to perform a precautionary engine change.
“They’ve done a thorough check and there are no problems, so the original PU will be back in the car on Friday.”
Despite the engine change, Albon still managed to tack on a healthy 134 laps and the fourth fastest time of the day.
“It was a good first day with the RB16,” said the British-Thai racer.
“After Max’s running yesterday, we carried on the work today and tried a few things that he tried. Comments wise we were very similar which is always positive.
“We lost some time in the middle of the day due to an investigation on the power unit but other than that it was pretty smooth.
“Over the winter we have addressed some of the areas where we felt we were struggling, and I felt pretty comfortable in the car straight away.
“It’s always nice to get back in the car and you always feel it on your first day back but it was good out there and the car is feeling strong.”
George Russell expects his “underrated” Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi will be a hard driver to beat despite the Canadian’s rookie status.
Williams promoted Latifi to a race seat for 2020 after assessing the 24-year-old in seven FP1 outings last year and a campaign in the FIA Formula 2 Championship that delivered a runner-up spot behind title winner Nyck De Vries.
Last year, during his maiden season in the sport, Russell comfortably outpaced teammate Robert Kubica, but the Briton is expecting a bigger challenge from the man that will be sitting on the other side of the Williams garage this season.
“You’re only as good as your last race so it’s a fresh start,” said Russell.
“I think Nicholas is definitely very underrated, you know. He’s incredibly prepared. And he’s going to be a tough driver to beat, so he is going to keep me on my toes. I’ll be pushing.”
Russell underscored Latifi’s level of preparation as represented by the Canadian’s testing experience with Williams which was preceded by F1 mileage he enjoyed in the past with Force india and Renault.
“He’s driven a Force India, he’s driven a Williams, he’s driven a Mercedes, he’s driven a Renault. He’s been testing for three or four years now in F1,” added Russell.
“On paper he’s a rookie, but the reality is he’s not, and he’s definitely going to be tough to beat. I’m ready for the challenge and looking forward to that battle.”
Notwithstanding his expected rivalry with his new teammate’s, Russell knows that with a sophomore year in F1 comes higher expectations, from his team as well as from himself.
“I’ve got some specific goals I want to improve with my driving with what I think will make me go faster,” he said. “I think it’s work in progress.
“I was a better driver in Abu Dhabi then I was in Melbourne. I’m sure I’ll be a better driver in Melbourne than I was in Abu Dhabi, and it’s constant evolution.
“But I need to reach the levels I think I can, and I think I am on the way.”
One only hopes that Williams’ new FW43 will do justice to both its young drivers’ burgeoning talent.
Lewis Hamilton has yet to enter contract talks with Mercedes, but when he does the six-time world champion will be focused on the fine print and the long-term impact of a potential new deal.
Hamilton ambitions to win his seventh world title this season and equal the record of the great Michael Schumacher.
But 2020 is also the last year on his current contract with Mercedes. While speculation ramped up in January that Ferrari could make a move for Hamilton, extending his deal with his Silver arrows squad appear to be the most likely outcome of the upcoming negotiations between the two parties.
“I’ve seen it and we talked about it at lunch,” said Vettel. “It obviously looks interesting. I guess the fact that they’re running with it means it’s legal.
“I don’t know, but it’s called steering wheel, not push or pull wheel!
“I don’t know if it works. I guess there’s quite a lot of work to bring it to the track and it’s probably not as easy as it looks for the driver to work with it. For sure it was a novelty for us to see.
“I don’t know if it’s easy to do or not, I guess no, because these things are never easy, but also guess it’s not easy to operate it.”
Assessing the complexities involved with operating the DAS, Vettel compared the system to the f-duct which was once part of F1’s designs and which forced drivers to use their hands and knees to block specific ducts in the cockpit to enhance a car’s aerodynamics.
“I could just imagine it feels weird,” he added. “But for sure if it’s faster and there’s no concern you go for the faster option.
“We had the f-duct many years ago, like 10-11 years ago, and we drove around with one hand most of the tracks.
“So that wasn’t safe, but it was fast. So you do what you’re pushed to do, but then that’s why we have the FIA obviously, to look after us and make sure things make sense, and we have got our hands on the wheel.”
For Vettel, getting used to operating the DAS is perhaps akin to learning to run with flip-flops!
“Imagine you are used to doing something,” explained Vettel. ” Imagine you’re used to running and you put on your running shoes, and then somebody asks you to run with your flip-flops.
“You can also do that, but it just feels very different.
“It’s not quite that extreme, but it’s just that you add something that’s completely new and feels probably strange and weird at first, but obviously if it gives you an advantage, gives you an edge, you can fulfill the task, and you have the capacity to do it and with enough practice, then why not?”
While intrigued with Mercedes’ ploy, Vettel doubts the gains generated by the system are anything more than marginal.
“I don’t know, maybe I’m underestimating, but I don’t think that this is the ticket to win;” he said.
“I think there’s a lot more elements to building up a competitive car, but for sure it’s an innovation, and we will see whether it’s something that everyone has to pick up on or not.”
The FIA will allow Mercedes or any other team that implements the novel Dual Axis Steering device to use the system this year, but DAS will be outlawed for 2021.
F1 teams were caught off-guard on Thursday in Barcelona when Mercedes was forced to reveal its innovative ‘dual axis steering’ after on-board footage of Lewis Hamilton exploiting the system appeared on social media.
The clever trick allows for the W11’s steering system to alter the toe angle of the front wheels, a ploy that helps reduce drag on straights as well as impact tyre temperatures.
The FIA gave Mercedes the green light because the innovative system only alters the toe angle of the front wheels. But teams will now likely think twice about developing a device that won’t be allowed next season.
The crux of the matter apparently resides within Article 10.5 of F1’s Technical Regulations which states the following:
“The re-alignment of the steered wheels, as defined by the position of the inboard attachment of the relevant suspensions members that remain a fixed distance from each other, must be uniquely defined by a monotonic function of the rotational position of a single steering wheel.”
The FIA has awarded Mercedes a period of leniency, but next year’s ban is consistent with F1 managing director Ross Brawn’s recent comments about introducing a new governance structure that would prevent teams from exploiting loopholes in the sport’s regulations.
“If one team stands out there with a solution that had never been conceived and had never been imagined, and destroys the whole principle of what’s trying to be done, the governance would allow, with sufficient support from the other teams, to stop it. And this is a whole different philosophy,” said Brawn.
“And what then happens, someone who has a loophole thinks to themselves, do I want to use it and risk it being stopped? Or do I want to tell the FIA about it because it wasn’t intended?”
In short, Mercedes’ “trombone steering” as labeled by Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz is toast. At least in the long term.
It will nevertheless be interesting to see if Mercedes exploits the device this season, and more importantly, if it gains a significant edge.
Sergio Perez’s encouraging start to pre-season testing has boosted the Racing Point driver’s hopes for a good start to the 2020 season in Melbourne.
Racing Point’s new RP20 was the focus of most teams’ attention on the opening day of running in Barcelona, with everyone noting the car’s resemblance with last year’s Mercedes W11, a fact not denied by the Silverstone squad’s tech boss Andy Green.
Racing Point’s 2020 design has made good use of the team’s technical relationship with engine supplier Mercedes, with Green exploiting several fundamental components and an aero approach transferred from last years’ Silver Arrow.
Formula 1 will return to South Africa next month as part of an immersive Fan Festival organised at Johannesburg where fans will enjoy demo runs from several F1 teams and local hero Jody Scheckter.
The exhibition, organised in partnership with Heineken and Gauteng province, is set to take place on March 29 and will see the Mercedes, Red Bull Racing and Renault teams roar through the streets of Joburg, with Valtteri Bottas and David Coulthard on hand to please the fans.
An array of fun-filled activities will also take place on the day, including a fan zone featuring a ‘DHL esports Challenge’, the ‘Pirelli Pit-Stop’ Challenge and car displays including supercars, SA Karting, F1600 and historic single seaters.
But the real treat for the local residents will likely be supplied by one of South Africa’s favourite son, 1979 F1 world champion Jody Scheckter who won’t be alone as the F1 legend will bring along his championship-winning Ferrari 412T.
The Heineken F1 Joburg Festival will be broadcast live on SuperSport and will feature live track activity starting at 1:30pm with the main F1 Live car run commencing at 3:30pm. From 5pm, Festival-goers will be treated to live music, with the festival closing at 8pm.
McLaren isn’t taking any risks regarding the coronavirus threat, restricting the entry to its motorhome in Barcelona to anyone who has visited China in the past 14 days.
The novel virus epidemic in China recently prompted Formula 1 to postpone the Chinese Grand Prix which was scheduled to take place in Shanghai on April 19, a decision that followed the cancellation of most upcoming public and sporting events in the country.
McLaren issued a statement in Barcelona clarifying its stance on a global coronavirus threat.
“Given the coronavirus outbreak and based on recent updates to UK government and World Health Organization directives, McLaren has issued a policy setting out restrictions and conditions we believe prudent to safeguard the health and well-being of our people, contractors and customers and protect our operations.
“Among these measures is a precaution that anyone who has traveled from China in the last 14 days is not permitted to enter a McLaren operated building or facility for up to 14 days. We continue to monitor the situation closely and will revise our policy as circumstances change, while working with Formula 1 and the FIA.”
So far, McLaren is the only team to have implemented such a restrictive policy.
With coronavirus cases popping up in other areas of Asia, Vietnam’s maiden Grand Prix scheduled for April 4 is now being closely monitored by F1 and the FIA, the sport’s governing body.
McLaren boss Zak Brown said his team will think twice before sending its troops to Hanoi.
“It is very nearby (to China) so we are going to monitor the situation,” said Brown. “We would never do anything that puts our people at risk, and I don’t believe Formula 1 would as well.”
With regard to allocating a new slot to the Chinese Grand Prix later in the year, Haas team boss Guenther Steiner says teams – assuming a new date can be assigned to Shanghai, which remains to be seen – will need reassurances before heading back to China as the sport can’t afford to take any risks.
“We can put a triple-header on, but I don’t know when this virus is over,” said Steiner. “I have no idea. But if there is any risk then for sure I’m against it because we shouldn’t race if there is risk.
“I think they [FOM] look into that stuff, hoping that it is over, but I don’t think that anybody can say in November if this virus is gone. I mean, I hope it is gone because it is not good.
“But there is no guarantee of that one. So if it is all gone, we see how it works and if it is possible logistically to do it. There is a lot of ifs.”
Teammate Valtteri Bottas was on schedule to do a full race distance in the afternoon but the Finn’s programme got sidetracked by an ERS issue
“We are all a little disappointed to have taken an early bath today, but we console ourselves with the fact that the problem we encountered will quickly be resolved and we managed a healthy 183 laps before encountering it. That is, after all, why we go testing,” commented Mercedes technical director James Allison.
“It’s encouraging to see that, for the second day running, the car felt honest, good and reasonably speedy.
“Lewis’ race simulation in the morning was tidy and Valtteri’s, until it was interrupted, was on a good trajectory.”
The big story of the day was Mercedes’ inadvertent revelation, thanks to footage posted on Twitter, of its novel Dual Axis Steering system, a device that allows the driver to vary the level of toe-out alignment of the W11’s front wheels;
“We also had an interesting day activating the DAS system for the first time and we are on a voyage of discovery with the drivers to learn about the system and see what it can bring us for the season ahead,” Allison added.
“We’re now looking forward to the final day of the first test tomorrow and continuing to work through the tasks we have to clear before Melbourne.”
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed the double honour of topping the timesheet on Day 2 of pre-season testing and bringing out the first red flag of the week when the Finn was left stranded out on the Circuit de Catalunya.
Raikkonen demoted morning pacesetter Sergio Perez to second in Thursday’s overall standings while Daniel Ricciardo’s early effort also remained unchallenged in third place.
Raikkonen set his fastest lap with 40 minutes left on the clock and with the help of a set of Pirelli’s softest tyres.
But with less than 17 minutes left to go, the Finn’s Alfa was seen stranded near Turn 9, an event that brought a premature end to the F1 veteran’s day.
Like yesterday, Thursday’s session unfolded with few troubles but the afternoon saw a gremlin creep into the Mercedes garage where Valttero Bottas’ afternoon was curtailed by an ERS (Energy Recovery System) issue.
Still the Silver Arrows camp accumulated a productive 183 laps on the day, with Hamilton’s morning session accounting for 106 rounds.
Romain Grosjean’s day was also cut short when the Haas driver, who put in a massive 158 laps, spun with less than an hour to go and suffered a light contact with the barriers. Overall the Frenchman was left 11th in the day’s ranking.
Sebastian Vettel took over from Charles Leclerc to continue Ferrari’s routine programmes, the German driver ending the day P6 with 73 laps under his belt.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was number two behind Grosjean in terms of overall mileage, the Briton putting 137 laps under his belt, with his best lap placing him 10th fastest.
Esteban Ocon followed Ricciardo at Renault and ended his day 12th fastest, 1.466s adrift from Raikkonen but just ahead of Bottas.
So far, Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren lead the aggregated lap tally for the first two days of pre-season testing.
Mercedes technical director James Allison insists the novel steering system revealed on the team’s W11 on Thursday is legal and known by the FIA.
Some eagle-eye fans posted footage on Twitter earlier today showing unusual movement of the Mercedes’ steering wheel and column which appeared to move toward the driver on the straight and away again under braking.
The footage led to a raft of speculation and intrigue in the paddock, with pundits believing the system was a device that allowed to alter the toe alignment of the front wheels in order to reduce drag on the straights and/or reduce tyre temperatures.
Queried on the innovative trick during a lunch break media conference in Barcelona, Allison acknowledged the system which he refereed to as a “DAS” (Dual Axis Steering). But more importantly, the Mercedes man insisted the device was legal as far as he was concerned.
“We have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” Allison said. “We’ve got a name for it. It’s called DAS, if you’re interested.
“It just introduces an extra dimension to the steering, to the driver, that we hope will be useful during the year.
“But precisely how we use it, why we use it, that’s something we’ll keep to ourselves.”
For Mercedes’ rivals, the crux of the matter is whether the system is legal. And Allison insists it is as far as he is concerned.
“This isn’t news to the FIA. It’s something we have been talking to them about for some time. The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems.”
Lewis Hamilton, who was also in attendance, admitted he was still getting acquainted with the system.
“I’ve only had one morning with it so I don’t have a lot to really talk about it,” said the Mercedes driver.
“We’re just trying to get on top of it, and understand it.”
Nothing gets past the peeps on social media, with Mercedes’ new W11 and its intriguing steering quirk the scrutiny of a few eagle-eyed F1 followers.
A post on Twitter showing an onboard of Lewis Hamilton heading on to the pit straight at the Circuit de Catalunya reveals a for and aft movement of the W11’s steering wheel.
The wheel moves towards the driver as Hamilton accelerates on to the straight and then away again as the Briton enters the braking zone. But a closer look also reveals a slight front-wheel movement simultaneously with the for and aft change.
While many believed the quirk was perhaps the troubling result of a loose steering rack, former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestly responded to the post with the following explanation.
“So…it could be that the actual steering rack and therefore the track rods move, reducing toe-out to close to zero on the straight, which would reduce drag and improve tyre life…”
F1 techie Craig Scarborough also chimed in on the fascinating trick.
“Lots of videos now emerging of the Merc steering wheel being moved backward when joining the straight, with some apparent effect at the front wheels, then bring moved forward before braking,” wrote Scarbs.
“It could be just play in the assembly. Perhaps the column also moves the steering rack. Which could alter toe angle and thus perhaps ride height, for speed on the straight? Pure conjecture at this stage.
“Wholly expect rival teams to be hopping up and down right now. The rules as published do not account for this sort of solution.”
Watch this space as Mercedes’ rivals will likely be all over this today, perhaps questioning the innovative system’s legality.
Haas boss Guenther Steiner has taken a dig at Racing Point, insisting its rival’s new car which was closely inspired by last year’s Mercedes W10 absolves the US outfit from the pink outfit’s past criticism of its tight collaboration with Ferrari.
Racing Point team boss Otmar Szafnauer was among the most vocal critics of Haas in 2018, blasting Steiner’s team for fielding a car back then that many considered a mere Ferrari clone.
But this year, Racing Point has followed a similar approach, with tech boss Andy Green taking his cue from Mercedes with regard to the RP20’s aero concept and the design of its front and rear suspension elements. The car also logically gets its transmission from its ppower unit supplier.
The irony of Racing Point’s choice wasn’t lost on Steiner.
“Sometimes you have to think before you talk, I will say that one, because maybe one day it’s your turn and then you cannot go against [it],” said Steiner, commenting on Racing Point’s W10 lookalike.
“As we all know, they complained quite heavily a few years ago, so now it is going full circle. It is up to them. I don’t really care.”
Indeed, Steiner admitted to not being surprised by Racing Point’s coherent design approach, which he readily accepted as legitimate.
“I would put it like this. They use a lot of Mercedes parts on their car, so why would they go and copy a Red Bull? It’s the same with us,” said the Italian.
“We buy a lot of parts from Ferrari. So which car are we going to copy? I guess a Ferrari. I mean, if you will copy a Toro Rosso or a Red Bull we would be pretty stupid because we would try to invent something which is not there.
“So I think they’re just doing what we are doing: just trying to get the best out of it and use that model.”
Miami Grand Prix organisers surmounted on Wednesday a final legal hurdle blocking F1 from racing around the Hard Rock Stadium in 2021, but local residents aren’t giving up on their battle to keep the sport away from their city.
A proposed Miami Gardens ordinance seeking city input into zoning rights that would have jeopardised the planned F1 event resulted in a 6-6 split vote, a dead heat that paves the way for the race to take place around the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium.
Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez called the failure of the proposed ordinance a win for the community.
However, a number of concessions to local residents were necessary to secure the commissioners’ tied vote.
Among the compromises was the removal of part of the planned track from public roads, mainly NW 199th Street, and keeping the circuit layout limited to the Stadium’s confines, including its vast parking lot area.
Previous concessions relating to noise pollution and the absence of track activity during school hours were also confirmed.
Tom Garfinkel – Miami Dolphins & Hard Rock Stadium vice chairman and CEO said:
“We are happy that the commissioners reaffirmed again today that the Hard Rock Stadium entertainment complex is a regional facility that exists to benefit all of Miami Dade County.
“We are glad to put this long delayed vote behind us so we can begin to make the multi-million dollar investment required to bring a race here, and have positive and productive conversations with local leadership about the many benefits that a global event of this nature brings.”
Initially, the vote was indeed good news for Formula 1 and billionaire race promoter Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins and the Hard Rock Stadium complex.
But another legal headache popped up moments after the anti-F1 legislation was defeated, when Miami Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan, a staunch opponent of the F1 race, filed a lawsuit against the Dolphins and Hard Rock.
“This fight is not over,” Jordan said during a protest rally at the County Hall. ““Formula One, I don’t think they want this kind of publicity. But they better get ready.”
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez confirmed the pre-season form of the team’s RP20 on Thursday morning at the Circuit de Catalunya, the Mexican clocking in with the fastest lap ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull’s Alex Albon.
Perez’s best effort during the opening four hours of the session was a lap in 1m17.347s set on Pirelli’s medium C3 compound that edged Ricciardo by 0.402s and Albon by 0.808s.
Once again, it was a tight field in terms of performance with the first seven cars covered by a second. However, Perez’s fastets lap was a little under half a second slower than Lewis Hamilton’s pace-setting lap set on Wednesday.
The Mercedes driver, who was the center of attention of the morning session for his team’s adoption of an innovative steering system that was uncovered by a few eagle-eye followers on Twitter, enjoyed a productive morning, totaling 106 laps as he focused on long runs on-board the Silver Arrow W11.
Pierre Gasly’s pace with the AlphaTauri was good enough for fifth while George Russell was just a tenth down on the Frenchman, the Briton confirming the solid foundation of Williams’ FW43.
While Renault’s pace was encouraging, the new R.S.20 remained confined to its garage – its doors shut – during the middle part of the session.
McLaren’s mileage was also somewhat limited, with Lando Norris clocking in P10 and 1.190s adrift from top man Perez, the Briton running mostly on the hard C1 tyre.
Once again, it was a clean session, with no red flags or stoppages.
Testing will resume after the lunch break at 2pm, with Sebastian Vettel on duty for Ferrari.
“I think we changed a little bit our approach compared to last year,” Leclerc said. “Last year the testing was great, but the first race was a bit less great.
“And yeah, I think we’ve learned a few things on this, and this year we decided to focus more on ourselves, trying to learn the car as much as possible in these first few days, and then focus on performance a bit later on, and we’ll see if that pays off.”
Leclerc’s comments mean that Ferrari was likely running a low power mode and high fuel levels for most of the day as the team’s engineers worked on “correlating the numbers from the factory and the track”, as the 22-year-old put it.
“We haven’t pushed the car, but I’m pushing myself to try and know this car better,” said the two-time Grand Prix winner.
“So, the more laps that we do with it, the more confident I’ll arrive in Melbourne.
“So on that side, on the driving side, I’ve learned a lot, and then the different tests we’ve performed today, I think they’ve been very positive.”
Ferrari’s new SF1000 was designed to retain part of its predecessor’s straight-line speed qualities while improving downforce and cornering strength.
“I feel quite quick in the corners, but it’s always difficult to compare one year to the other,” assessed Leclerc.
“I think the good benchmark will be at the first race when the tyres will be in the right window.
“It’s still very cold now, and the downforce has quite a big effect on tyres.
“So it’s all about having the aero that puts the tyres in the right window. And for now we can’t really know, so we just focus on ourselves.”
Williams charger George Russell enjoyed a positive opening morning of pre-season testing in Barcelona where he got acquainted with his 2020 contender that he says is a big step forward compared to its predecessor.
Williams was up and running with its new car from the outset at the Circuit de Catalunya on Wednesday, with the British squad spared the painful drama and delays that undermined the debut of its Fw42 twelve months ago.
Russell unwound the laps – 73 in total – and clocked in with the sixth fastest time, just 0.855s behind Mercedes pace setter Valtteri Bottas. The young Brit’s best effort was half a second faster than his qualifying time at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
“I’d say definitely the general handling of the car is much better,” Russell said during Wednesday’s lunch break.
“From lap one today, I had confidence to push the car to the limit, whereas last year, it wasn’t a nice feeling in the early laps. It was quite scary to drive actually last year in the opening laps, trying to build that confidence.
“Already that’s better, but not always a nice car to drive is a fast car. So it’s a laptime-based sport, and it doesn’t matter how you get around the lap, as long as it’s fast, that’s what counts.
“It’s been improved in that area, now we just need to see if we have managed to put more downforce onto the car to compete with the guys around me.”
After last season’s early trials and tribulations, the timely the performance recorded on Wednesday morning went a long way towards boosting the morale of Williams’ hard working troops.
“[It’s] massively important. Last year was far from ideal, the team have done a really great job to achieve that,” Russell added.
“The build quality of the car is a much better standard than last year. Things fit properly, the car looks better from the design perspective, so I think overall it has been a very positive morning.
“Everybody was a bit lost last year because they didn’t know what to do as there was no car here.
“We’re definitely excited for the new season. It was a character building year last year. I’m confident we can go racing this year and have a bit more fun than we did last year. That’s what we’re all looking for.”
“That was a very positive start to our winter testing campaign, with both drivers able to get a very decent amount of work done through the day,” said Allison.
“We were able to tick several of the procedural items off our list that we need to get done before Melbourne and also run through some of the main set-up items on suspension settings today.
“We’re happy that alongside the good reliability we’ve shown today, both drivers have reported the car to have sweet handling characteristics and are looking forward to leaning on it a bit harder over the next several days of testing.”
Bottas kicked off the day for Mercedes and initiated the team’s aero programme.
“I’m very impressed that we could start at 9am, going straight out and doing some longer runs without any issues and really execute our plan for the morning perfectly,”said the Finn
“We could get everything done which is just impressive considering how much work goes into our cars.
In the morning when it was still relatively cold, we focused mostly on aero tests with rakes on the car. Later on we did some work on set-up changes – bigger changes than we would normally do on a race weekend when it’s more about fine-tuning.
“I had a very good feeling, the car feels good and fast, but I’m sure we can make it a lot faster. It’s been a really nice starting point, but it’s early days, so it doesn’t mean a whole lot.”
Hamilton echoed his teammate’s positive feedback but the six-time world champion remained focus on the work ahead.
“It’s been a good day and a really good start for all of us, considering we had a long break,” explained the Briton.
“So to come back and clock in over 170 laps just shows how hard everyone has been working over the winter. We will just take it one step at a time, getting good feedback from the car.
“We have a lot of data to download and analyse and we’ve got to keep pushing on.”
Hamilton also paid tribuite to the outstanding work conducted over the winter by the Mercedes crews.
“A huge thank you to everyone back in Brackley and Brixworth for the incredible effort that’s gone in over the winter to make sure we come here and have a car that’s reliable to start with so we can get this mileage done,” he added.
“I hope everyone back at the factory is happy with how the day went and we’re just going to keep churning out as many miles as possible.”
Max Verstappen was delighted with his opening day at the office in Barcelona, insisting his new Red Bull RB16 is “fast everywhere” around the Circuit de Catalunya.
Verstappen clocked in with the fourth fastest lap, just 0.540s off the days’ best time set by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. But the Dutchman was at the top of leader-board in terms of mileage, with 168 laps achieved on the day.
A superficial glance at the new car reveals a very slim front nose, the tightest of all the 2020 designs, and equally slender bodywork.
Renault has continued to invest in its team and resources in the past year as it aims to catch up with its ambitions of bridging the performance gap with the sport’s top-3 teams.
After relinquishing last year its position at the top of F1’s midfield to McLaren, its engine customer team, Renault will need to recapture that spot or conquer a podium or two to maintain its hopes of eventually fighting for race wins down the road. And to keep its star driver, Daniel Ricciardo.
Formula 1 chief executive Chase Carey says talks are still ongoing with teams over the elaboration of a new Concorde Agreement but insists discussions are “constructive”.
For decades, Grand Prix racing’s binding commercial arrangements between the rights holder and the teams have been regulated by the successive variants of the historic document.
After agreeing on a new technical platform that will be introduced next year, F1 teams and the sport’s’ chiefs are now focused on securing the all-important legal contract that will serve as the basis for F1’s commercial future.
“We’ve got agreements on the table, and we’re comfortable. We’ve put together a proposal that is fair to everybody,” Carey told Motorsport.com.
“We’re in discussions with the teams, I think they’re constructive. I think the sport will be better for the fans, better for the teams and better for everybody.
“We think it’s a real step in the right direction on all the fronts we’ve talked about before.
“We haven’t finished it, but we’re in a good place, and we’d like to get it done. It’s for 2021, so there obviously is time. All along we’ve tried to make it more of a partnership, understand the various issues.
“We weighed all those, put forward what we think is again a fair and balanced proposal for everybody, and we’ll do our best to get it finalised as soon as possible so we can focus on what is most important which is growing the sport.”
The task of reaching a compromise that serves the interest of the big teams and the smaller outfits has been a complex and lengthy process.
But Carey insists that everyone’s view was taken into account over the past year, while the American executive insists that the document will remain a work in progress going forward.
“I think we’ve listened to everybody; we’ve tried to be responsive to everybody,” he said. “At some point, this is how we’re going to race in 2021.”
“I think we’ve said all along that this is not like we’re done,” Carey said.
“It’s a big step, but it’s a step. There’ll always be more to do. I think there’ll be things in what we’ve done that you continue to modify as things evolve.
“I think this is an important step to put the sport in a much better place as a sport, and the health of the sport, and the sport for fans, but it will be an ongoing process.
“Clearly we’re not done. We’re not claiming that.”
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen is confident his team will field a competitive car this season in F1, thanks to the hard lessons learned from last year’s mistakes.
After it achieved a top 5 finish in the Constructors’ standings in 2018, Haas sunk to 9th among its peers last year, its season undermined by the US outfit’s inability to solve the chronic aero issues that impacted its 2019 car.
Magnussen is obviously anxious to get his hands on Haas’ 2020 contender, although he will remember that last year his team headed to Melbourne boosted by its performance in pre-season testing. A degree of caution is therefore warranted.
Racing Point has apparently drawn the ire of a few of its rivals for fielding a car that closely resembles last season’s championship winning Mercedes W10.
The Silverstone-based squad gave its new RP20 in baptism of fire in Barcelona on Wednesday morning, with the car raising a few eyebrows as it rolled down the pitlane.
The pink charger’s copycat duckbill-like Mercedes nose was the first indication of where the inspiration for the RP20’s design had come from, although Racing Point tech boss Andy Green described the car as “entirely new”.
“There’s very little carryover from our 2019 car,” said Green.
“For 2020, we designed the car from scratch, starting from almost a blank sheet of paper – which is very exciting, because the team hasn’t been in a position to do this in a very long time.
“We’ve applied everything that we’ve learnt over the past seasons, combined this with what we’ve seen adopted by some of our competitors, and we’ve given it our best shot at optimising the final season of these present regulations.”
Still, Green admitted that some of the car’s major components had been sourced from Mercedes, the pink outfit’s engine supplier, while most of the RP20’s aero design was done by Racing Point’s own engineers.
In addition to the power unit, transmission and hydraulics, the suspension elements also come mainly from Brackley, as the techncial rules allow.
“Front and rear suspension and the transmission come one to one from the 2019 Mercedes,” Green told Auto Motor und Sport’s Tobi Grüner.
Next year’s big regulation changes incited Racing Point to work with a proven concept for this season, which included shying away from the high-rake approach favoured by Red Bull.
“We have been working in the Mercedes wind tunnel since May last year,” added Green.
“It makes more sense to follow their concept than to build a Red Bull. All the tools and test procedures in the Mercedes channel are tailored to this concept.
“If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we’ve lost one year, but I don’t think we would have lost anything relative to not doing it. The downside of not doing it was much greater.”
In a post on social media, AMUS‘ well informed Grüner alluded to the discontent expressed by several of Racing Point’s rivals although the German reporter refrained from naming those frowning upon the RP20.
One will recall that Racing Point was at the forefront of the protests directed at Haas several seasons ago, when the US outfit, which enjoys a technical partnership with the Scuderia, fielded a car that was labeled a Ferrari clone.
It looks like Racing Point boss Otmar Szafnauer decided to give Haas a taste of its own medicine. In other words, “if you can’t beat ‘m, join ’em!”