Daniel Ricciardo deserves better than languishing in the midfield, says his former Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.
Verstappen, who won three races in 2019 — his first since Ricciardo left for Renault — was asked by The Age if the sport would be better with the Australian still in contention for victories.
“It doesn’t really matter if the sport would be in a better place, but Daniel would be in a better place if he was fighting at the front,” he said.
“Daniel is smiling a lot and he’s a very happy guy, but I think he would be smiling even more if he was winning races and being on the podium. I know Daniel and I know Daniel is very fast, so I can imagine last year was not the easiest for him.”
In his first year with the French constructor, Ricciardo finished ninth in the driver’s championship with 54 points, his best finish a fourth at Monza. It was his first year without a podium since his final season at Toro Rosso in 2013.
Now on the eve of the 2020 season, Ricciardo will have to content himself with another rebuilding year, while Verstappen has championship aspirations. Nevertheless, the Dutchman feels for his former teammate, who he believes is among the best drivers the sport has to offer.
“It’s very hard to compare against someone like Lewis [Hamilton], because there is no real comparison. But Daniel was faster than Seb [Sebastian Vettel] in the year they raced together [at Red Bull in 2014], and I’ve raced alongside him long enough to know that he’s a very fast guy.”
“When I first joined Red Bull I was very inexperienced and throughout the years I became stronger and more connected in the team, but he was a nice teammate because we were pushing each other very hard,” he said.
“That was very good for the team because we were trying to fight each other to find that final tenth [of a second], and the whole team lifted because of that.
“He was nice to work with, and I loved that time.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc must step-up to the plate and challenge Lewis Hamilton for the 2020 Formula 1 driver’s championship, according to former champion Jenson Button.
Button, who won the 2009 championship with Brawn, believes the 22-year-old Leclerc must aim higher in his second year with the Scuderia than just beating teammate Sebastian Vettel.
“Charles has gone through that honeymoon period at Ferrari and now it is about knuckling down and this year has got to be the year he fights for the championship,’ Button told the Daily Mail.
Leclerc, who took seven poles and two victories while outscoring Vettel 264 points to 240, was the breakout star of 2019, going from from the Scuderia’s number two driver to equal status by season’s end.
However, 2020 has seen Ferrari endure a rocky start, with the new SF1000 struggling to match the front-runners in the first week of testing. Nevertheless, Button is remaining optimistic.
“I really think they will pull it together and take it to Mercedes,” he said.
Equally, the former teammate of Hamilton’s at McLaren is hopeful that the pair’s squabbling that culminated in their incident at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix will be a thing of the past, with both understanding the new intra-team dynamic.
‘There were some races where Charles was making quite a few mistakes at the start of the year. He had massive speed but even he said, “oh sorry guys, that was my fault”. It’s like, maybe back off saying it is your fault every time.
“Sebastian, I think, found it a little tricky having a younger team-mate who was so quick. I think the dynamic was just wrong within the team.
“I think now they have a much better understanding of each other and I really feel they are going to be a strong team in 2020.
“As soon as they realise they have to be fighting Lewis, rather than each other, they will have a great chance of being at the front of the fight, and fighting for the championship.”
At the same time, Button sympathises with Vettel for losing his top-dog status, but suggests he has no choice but to adapt.
“When you are beaten by a young kid in your team it hurts, a lot. How many hours he has put into working with Ferrari, four world championships with Red Bull, that really does hurt.
“I think he will be a much more confident driver and will make less mistakes in 2020. If he doesn’t… he probably won’t be at Ferrari in 2021.”
Mercedes’ technical director James Allison has offered a peak behind-the-curtain on their new car for the 2020 Formula 1 season, suggesting it is far more than just an evolution of its title-winning predecessor.
In a video released by Mercedes on Sunday, Allison said the team decided to “make a car that was aggressive” in the new W11, instead of taking the “conservative approach” of merely improving 2019’s W10.
“The temptation for us was just to keep polishing [the 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,” he said.
“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.”
In the video, Allison highlights multiple areas of innovation, namely the aerodynamic concept around the front wheels, the side impact structure, the performance and packaging of the engine, and the “extremely adventurous” design of the rear suspension.
“We have got a car here that is streaks ahead of that one in terms of downforce,” he promised.
That said, there was one notable subject Allison did not touch on, with no discussion of DAS — dual axis steering — included.
Aiming to win their seventh world championship on the trot, the message from Mercedes seems to be that they remain as hungry as ever, and with a car Allison hopes “will be fertile ground to develop strongly all the way through the 2020 season”, it will take some doing for anyone to beat them.
Ferrari reserves the right to use team orders in the event of a “clear situation” that benefits the entire team, says team principal Mattia Binotto.
Heading into the 2020 Formula 1 season with Charles Leclerc now on a level-pegging to teammate Sebastian Vettel, Binotto revealed that does not mean the team are always free to duke-it-out as they see fit.
“I am not saying that they are free to race with no team orders,” he told reporters after the first test in Barcelona, “so there might be team orders for the benefit of the entire team. But it has to be a clear situation.”
In 2019, the Scuderia started the season with Vettel as the clear-cut number one driver, but Binotto acknowledges that Leclerc’s performances throughout the season have earned him equal consideration.
“I think Charles drove a fantastic season last year and he has reached the same level of Sebastian as well in terms of final results,” he said. “So it is right that they are on the same level to start in 2020 and I think they know as well the team has the first priority so team orders may still be there.”
Asked whether he fears giving his drivers equal status could lead to a repeat of their clash at the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, Binotto insisted the pairing’s improved working relationship should help avoid such incidents.
“I think that the two drivers know each other much better now,” he explained, praising the openness of communication between the pair. “Generally speaking, there’s not much I need to tell them because they understand perfectly what the path must be to win on the track.”
“On the other hand, it must also be said that it is taking longer than we hoped. It’s frustrating because we’ve invested a lot of time, but there seems to be increasing complexity.”
“I think we have to come to terms with the reality that it is a time frame of more than five years. The goal now is a race over the next five to ten years from today. Within this framework, 12 months [delay] is no big deal. But that doesn’t mean it’s [not] increasingly frustrating.”
The issue for Liberty and their partner, the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, is that there is a movement, led by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, that wholly objects to the hosting of the race in what is a mixed commercial and residential area.
“There seem to be some changes in the political process that we need to get a grip on. …that we need to get in balance,” Carey admitted.
On Wednesday, F1 and the Dolphins won a minor victory when the vote on a local ordinance to force them to seek public approval to use the team’s Hard Rock Stadium ended in a 6-6 deadlock, but Jordan announced plans to file a lawsuit against them soon after.
As a result, development of the race will continue, but only at a trickle.
By the time Miami is ready, Liberty — who has been vocal since purchasing the sport in 2017 of its intent to have a second American race — could have its sights set elsewhere, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske rumoured to be interested in the track making its F1 return.
“I know the Penskes and had contact with them before they bought Indianapolis,” Carey admitted. “But I have no comment on any conversations.”
“We’re aware of their interest. Of course, it’s an iconic track in the world of motorsports. It’s part of the ‘Triple Crown’ with Monaco and Le Mans. That says everything about the importance of this track in motorsport.”
Hands up those of you who are still Mad magazine Spy vs. Spy fans? If so, you may be better equipped to deal with the imminent skulduggery as we head deeper into what promises to be the most Machiavellian Formula 1 test season of all time.
Whether it’s Mercedes’ ‘wass ist DAS’ wheel alignment trickery, Ferrari’s cloak and dagger lack of pace or Red Bull’s slippery as a fish approach to testing so far, you would need to be Nostradamus to predict what’s coming in Australia in a few weeks time.
Ten years ago — even five — it would already be plausible to put your cock on a block as to what was to follow through the season and you’d still have your whole cock come December.
Barca cloak and dagger
Alas, that’s not quite the way it works anymore and it’s all down to deception, smoke, mirrors, Kiel fences, flow-vis paint and a handy dollop of good old F1 bullshit too.
Let’s start with the obvious. Ah! There you go — do you really think ‘wass ist DAS’ is all that it is made out to be? Of course, everyone is blaming Mercedes’ controversial Dual-Axis Steering for its allegedly mesmerising pace. But hang on a second — that pace in not quite mesmerising and is that device all that it’s made out to be? Not everyone believes that — I certainly do not — if anything DAS is nothing more than a cunning stunt to deflect attention from what really counts.
Never mind that ‘wass ist das’ is German for ‘what is that’. Cute, innit?
So what is it that really works on that Merc? Well, I can’t tell you. Yet. But what I can tell you, without doubt, is that Valttieri’s quickest lap Friday was three-tenths off his pole at Barca last year and most pundits are convinced that the current cars will be significantly quicker than they were last year. So who’s fooling who here? So I’m also prepared to bet that you ain’t seen nothing yet…
Before we move on, that Merc is a splendid thing, is it not? F1’s new live TV may and new rules preventing obscuring the cameras gives us a brilliant opportunity to take a far closer look at all latest F1 tricks from the luxury of our lounger throughout the test days. That also helped revealed quite a few über-cool new details on that W11.
Merc nice and tight
Tighter packaged, it boasts a tapered nose that has even sprouted a carbon shroud ahead of the bulkhead to confuse what you are looking at, while aero enhanced suspension uprights force airflow through the slot between the brake drum shroud and rim to cool the wheel rim and thus lower the tyre temperatures.
Some say that the controversial DAS system further contributes to optimising tyre temperatures, but what actually works in that black art of rubber, aero and geometry remains unclear at this stage, Great effort has however gone into achieving weight-saving around the front axle and that certainly will cull unwanted unsprung mass
Whether it showed its cards or not in Spain, Mercedes appeared imperious in the first three days of testing as Bottas topped the week’s timesheets with a 1:15.732 Friday lap over Hamilton, who ended up a good eight-tenths off the pace.
But that’s still three-tenths off Valtierri’s Spanish GP pole at Barca last May, so who knows what’s still lurking in that silver arsenal. “We’ve made good improvement every day with the car,” Bottas admitted. “It’s been quite good — there are no real negatives, so it’s positive, but to say more is a bit too early.”
Before we move on to the next great 2020 F1 testing deception, it would be remiss not to consider a cause of clear copyright infringement. The ‘Pink Mercedes’ proved another keen Barcelona pitlane theme last week as customer team Racing Point rolled out a new car that was, well, not much less than a works Mercedes painted pink!
Literally everything about the new RP20, from its needle-nose to that rear wing and even its brake and suspension assembly seems a carbon copy of last year’s Merc. So far it seems to have worked with Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez an encouraging fifth and sixth overall last week.
Ferrari – all tuned down?
Moving into the red corner, Ferrari makes no bones that it was not chasing banzai laps last week as it learned about its new SF1000, correlating track data with its sim stats back at base. A little scratching reveals that the Scuderia indeed turned its PUs down — both comparisons between Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo speed trap pace and independent data hints that Ferrari was running at a second or more a lap off its real potential to further skew that Barcelona playing field.
The data does not lie — Ferrari’s 193mph best was over 7mph down on Raikkonen’s like-powered Alfa Romeo on Wednesday and 9mph off on Thursday. Then Vettel out of a the blue popped up at 204mph shortly before the Ferrari broke on Friday morning, so the concerned Tifosi may indeed have nothing to worry about after all.
That tenet is reiterated by Ferrari chief rival Mercedes scratching its head deep down in a piece of post-Friday test propaganda: “Why has Ferrari spent this test running its PU at much lower levels than their partner teams?” the champion team quizzed, continuing: “Nobody wants egg on their face claiming that they are faster, because they can never know for certain what was hidden or what is coming next,” the piece reads.
Sebastian Vettel meanwhile reiterated his team’s benign 2020 winter testing philosophy thus far: “You can play around with engine modes, but our target this week was to do as many laps as possible,” the four-time world champion pointed out. “Ramping up the engine is probably not something you want to do in testing and certainly just to show everyone our cards.” As such, Ferrari’s week 1 times were not even worth considering.
The new Ferrari SF1000 however revealed quite a few secrets to those freely prying cameras. The new car’s front wing has for example benefited much marvellous new detailing, while its bargeboard arrangement is intriguing — not least of all those boomerang panes.
Ferrari has also spent considerable effort on its front brake ducts to see them pushing far more airflow out through the front wheel rims, in an effort to deliver various aerodynamic advantages further back along the chassis.
Before we move on, we may as well take look at the new Alfa Romeo now. Perhaps surprisingly, the Sauber-run team ended up being the second quickest team overall as Kimi Raikkonen put in the third quickest lap over the three days when he topped Thursday’s charts and Tonio Giovanazzi went 8th.
Whether the Italo-Swiss team can continue its early aace relative to the rest remains to be seen, but the far sweeter C39 features a few neat novelties, including the return of an integrated halo winglet and a good few Ferrari like cues around the car.
It was not all that different to Ferrari a little further down the pitlane at Red Bull, where while its drivers never delivered anything near the pace that would warrant it, there was a visible spring in its drivers’ step. “I am very happy with the new car” Max Verstappen reported, “It is fast everywhere, which is a good thing, and the reliability seems even better, so that’s all very positive.”
A closer look at the Red Bull RB16 revealed that the car likely leads the 2020 aero trend toward far tighter-packed radiators and ancillaries in search of an even slimmer sidepod profile for optimal aerodynamics while still amply cooling that Honda power unit.
The only concern in this regard is how efficient cooling can be in the event of a super-hot race day — it would not be the first Red Bull to suffer the overheating side effects of Adrian Newey’s manic chase of absolute packaging.
Like Ferrari the Red Bull also delivers an enhanced outward draught through its brake and hub duct assembly, while other notable updates include a greedier-looking S-duct, a significantly raised rear suspension and an all-new exhaust layout.
All that said, Verstappen and Alex Albon were hardly pace setters in the first week, but pitlane tongue-wagging also suggested that Red Bull will likely bring a significant upgrade package to the second test week, so once again, watch this space!
For the rest, perhaps unsurprisingly the all-new AlphaTauri AT01was another car in the carbon copy (or is that incest) limelight for its similarities to kissing cousin Red Bull and there seems a lot more to the similarities than that both cars use the same power unit.
The AT01 shares much of the Red Bull’s curves, gradients and lines too and if week 1 is anything to go by, its pace is quite similar — Daniil Kvyat emerged quickest of the Honda cars in seventh. ahead of both Red Bulls, which Pierre Gasly also managed to split in the overall week timesheets.
There was also quite some interest in the new Renault RS20, which broke cover at last on Wednesday morning to reveal a few cool novelties including a narrow nose with a significant cape under its chin, a much more waisted profile and what appears to be a far more raked stance.
The Renaults showed good pace with the returning Esteban Ocon an encouraging fourth and Daniel Ricciardo tenth overall over the three days, but the test was not without trouble for the Enstone squad with a few niggles interfering with its week’s progress.
McLaren meanwhile quietly got on with its week’s work without any histrionics or drama as it too kept to its own program and devices. The team tried a new front wing on Friday among several tests and experiments and Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris’ overall pace was like certain other teams, not even worth considering.
For better or for worse?
One team looking much better was Williams, which not only exorcised last year’s ghosts by getting out first of all cars Wednesday morning, but the team showed encouraging pace through the three days of testing as George Russell escaped the team’s default bottom of the timesheet laggard status to wind up 14th quickest for the week and even rookie Nicholas Latifi was two places away from the bottom of the leaderboard.
Haas, however, endured a frustrating and crash-infested week, before packing up early with Romain Grosjean 17th and a compromised Kevin Magnussen slowest over the two and a half days.
One thing seems sure however — the tighter F1 midfield may not even have a tail this year, but upfront, it would be a fool who hazarded a guess at this stage.
In reality, none of the big three have shown their cards yet and two of them have not even tried to turn a quick lap. With a little luck that will change in this next week’s test — and what is a new F1 season without speculating as to how it will run? So let’s hope there are a few little signs we can hang our predictions off come this time next week. Bring it on!
McLaren boss Andreas Seidl has revealed he is pleased with his team’s first week of testing for the 2020 Formula 1 season, suggesting it is a sign that their long-term plans are starting to bear fruit.
Speaking to journalists after the final day of the first week of testing in Barcelona, the 44-year-old did not try to hide his excitement.
“To be honest, I’m really, really happy with how it went so far for various reasons,” said Seidl. “First of all, if you look at the number of laps and the reliability we have shown so far, it’s by far the best start for many, many years for McLaren.
“That’s a great reward for everyone in the team, and a sign for the entire team that all of the hard work in the last month in order to make this step is paying off.”
Having only joined the team mid-way through the 2019 season, Seidl was merely an observer as McLaren struggled with pace and reliability during its tumultuous years with Honda from 2015-18, but now on the inside, has helped build a team that is firing on all cylinders.
Over the first three days in Barcelona, the Woking outfit prioritised mileage over raw pace, and the 423 laps the MCL35 racked-up (fourth most of anyone) have Seidl expecting his team can lead the midfield for the second year running.
“The car behaved as expected given the different steps and tests we completed over the last three days,” he said. “It’s great to see this correlation, so I’m very happy.
“We were able to tick all the boxes we had on our job list for this first part of the winter testing campaign. 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.
“It’s great to see this momentum we are having. We’ll come back next Wednesday and keep working on our preparation for Melbourne and extracting more performance from the MCL35.”
Niki Lauda would have been 71 today and for Formula 1 fans of my generation, who started following the sport since the early seventies, it is hard to remember life without the famous name being around.
He was the mainstay of a sport that killed so many of his peers and friends – our heroes – and almost stole him too early in dramatic fashion back in 1976. But he pulled through to hang around with us for over four more decades before he passed away last year.
I had the privilege of photographing him when I turned pro in the early eighties (after his Ferrari days) when he was around for the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, also many times between then and the last time a few years ago when he and some of the Mercedes entourage, including Adrian Newey, visited the Dubai Autodrome where I worked as Communications Manager.
After his retirement, and a whole Netflix style drama series career in aviation, Niki’s partnership with Toto Wolff in the takeover of the Mercedes F1 operation resulted in the most potent team in the history of our sport.
This is a small tribute from my archives (many more Nikis to scan!) to one of the great Legends of our sport, whose exploits, survival and remarkable comeback to another F1 title will forever be etched in the folklore of F1.
Today Niki was also remembered fondly on Twitter:
Today we celebrate Niki’s 71st birthday. It would have been so nice to have him there at testing earlier this week. He would always say “Give it a**holes” before a race. I hope we can continue to make him proud Happy Birthday Niki pic.twitter.com/Thv6KKrFV1
Reigning Formula 1 champions Mercedes suspect Ferrari are considerably faster than the Italian team let on in Formula 1’s first pre-season test in Spain, with the gap between the top three and the rest closing.
Teams have six days of testing before the season-opener in Australia on March 15 and the engineers have plenty of data to crunch at the halfway stage.
On paper, Mercedes were more than a second quicker than the next team at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and also covered the most distance.
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto told reporters he was less optimistic than last year, when his team’s pace was evident to see, “The others are faster than us at the moment, I believe.”
Mercedes, who are chasing an unprecedented seventh successive title double this year with Lewis Hamilton also out to equal Michael Schumacher’s record seven crowns, were not about to crow.
“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,” the team observed in an assessment on their website.
“Will Red Bull bring a significant upgrade package to the second test? Why have Ferrari spent this test running their PU (power unit) consistently at much lower levels than their partner teams?
“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.”
Valtteri Bottas’s fastest lap on Friday was one minute 15.732 seconds, compared to Sebastian Vettel’s best for Ferrari of 1:18.154 on Thursday. The Reds were only eighth fastest of the 10 teams.
However, the quickest time by a Ferrari-powered car was Kimi Raikkonen’s 1:17.091 for Alfa Romeo, on the same C5 tire as Bottas, when the 2007 champion was top on day two.
Alfa were second fastest overall, just ahead of Renault and Mercedes-powered Racing Point.
Ferrari did not hide the fact that they were taking a different approach to last year when they sent expectations soaring with their testing times only to see Mercedes win the first eight races.
“This year we’ve decided to focus more on ourselves, trying to learn the car as much as possible in the first few days and focus on performance a bit later on and see if that pays off,” Charles Leclerc said on Wednesday.
Teams can run whatever fuel load they want in testing and also try out concepts and devices that would be illegal in race conditions.
If Ferrari were hiding their true pace, worried fans could take little comfort from the total number of laps covered, however.
According to figures published by tire supplier Pirelli, Mercedes did 494 laps over the first three days while Ferrari completed 354. That placed them eighth overall, ahead of only Williams (324) and Haas (316).
There is no doubt also that Mercedes, causing a stir with an innovative new dual-axis steering system (DAS), are flying.
Bottas’s time was half a second quicker than Hamilton’s best of 1:16.224 in the entire eight days of 2019 pre-season testing. It was also only three tenths slower than the Finn’s record lap in qualifying for last year’s Spanish Grand Prix.
“It’s been a good first week, the car has been broadly reliable, and the performance has been reasonably good throughout the week,” said technical director James Allison.
There were also smiles at Williams, looking more competitive after a dismal 2019 in which they scored only one point, and at Mercedes-powered Racing Point whose pink car looks just like Hamilton’s 2019 title-winner.
Red Bull’s Adrian Newey has hit-out at the new regulations for the 2021 Formula 1 season, suggesting they stifle the innovation the sport should pride itself on.
The engineer behind ten championship-winning cars, Newey’s reputation for thinking outside-the-box with his designs is well established.
However, he fears the incoming ruleset could make such innovations a thing of the past.
“In many ways I look forward to regulation change because it’s an opportunity to try to understand new things. What I don’t like is the general trend in successive regulations to become ever more restrictive,” Newey told inews.co.uk.
“What was very nice about the last major change back in 2009 was that it wasn’t more restrictive. But these new ones for 2021 are very restrictive and prescriptive. And I think that is an awful shame.
“It makes it a little bit GP1 which is not what I think Formula 1 should be.”
Introduced as part of F1 owner Liberty Media’s attempts to increase competition in the sport, Newey suggested he speaks for many in the paddock.
“It’s been pushed through regardless of what people think, so whether it’s good for the sport or not, only time will tell,” he said.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas has revealed that the team’s dual axis steering (DAS) system has been a year in the making, and expects it to withstand protests from rival teams.
Speaking to journalists on Friday in Barcelona, the Finn revealed the effort that had gone into implementing the device, indicating he expects it to be difficult for other teams to catch-up.
“I have been aware of it for a long time,” he said. “First time I heard something about it was nearly one year ago. It’s not a quick project.
“It’s not an easy thing to start making it, designing it and actually make it work. For us, it was a pretty big project, so it would be a pretty difficult thing to just copy.
“It’s very nice to be on the team running these kind of systems, and it says something about the great minds our team has.
“I hope we can have an edge with that, but how big the edge can be is a compete question mark. We are in a good place with that, obviously.”
As was inevitable, the legality of DAS has been questioned by rival teams, but Bottas sees no cause for concern.
“I don’t think our team will start making and designing something that they will think it will get banned,” he quipped.
A system that allows for adjustment of the toe angle of the front wheels by pushing and pulling the steering wheel, DAS was likened yesterday by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to “running in flip-flops”, but Bottas maintains it is easy to use.
“To be honest it doesn’t feel that strange. The system just works in very good way. It’s pretty solid, it never does anything funny. You only move the wheel if you want to.
“As it is now, we are still learning about the system and the potential. On the first day we didn’t run it, on the second day yes.
“I think in some circumstances it can be pretty good, but how it can help us and if it can will be shown later on the year in different conditions, different tracks.
The smart money suggests that it would be perilous for anyone to write Ferrari off in spite of the Italian team’s less than convincing opening Formula 1 test week at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“We focused on understanding our new car and how it behaves in all conditions,” Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto pointed out in conversation with Italian media on Friday.
“We ran our new SF1000 at the extremes of its aerodynamic and suspension set-up this week in an effort to better understand the correlation between the car on track and what our simulation equipment suggested back at Maranello.
“So we have not yet focused on performance — that was never in this week’s plan and we did not run anything close to an optimal set-up.”
As anticipated in the off-season, Ferrari will evaluate two configurations of SF1000 though the two test weeks, with an evolution due out in the second week, but Binotto warned, “Don’t expect a huge difference in what you see.”
“The changes are mostly under the skin. “While we have not yet worked to optimise performance, but both drivers reported that the SF1000 delivers improved aerodynamic loading and that the car is easier to set up to their particular driving styles. Sebastian and Charles are also comfortable with the car, so we are happy with the SF1000’s versatility so far.
“Looking at the others, while both Mercedes and Red Bull were are very fast, we doubt that either has yet concentrated on absolute performance — we’re sure that they have room for improvement too, so it is really difficult to understand our prospects for Australia.
“We should have a better idea by the last two test days testing next week, once we have optimised our car’s set-up and performance and carried out race simulations ahead of Melbourne.”
Moving on to Mercedes’ controversial Dual Axis Suspension, Binotto did not rule out Ferrari trying something similar this season: “This system is innovative, but we have had several less visible novelties on our car that were adopted by other teams too.
“The FIA has endorsed the device, yet it seems to be banned for 2021, but with 22 races this year, we need to understand how much performance it can bring and evaluate if it is worth putting onto our car.”
Binotto remained coy when quizzed if Ferrari can beat Mercedes this year: “I think it is too early to tell, but the Ferrari will already be different in Australia. “Mercedes and Red Bull have been very fast, but we will only be able to compare our performance relative to them next week, or in Australia.
“We have 22 grands prix to race in 2020 and while I am less optimistic than I was in 2019, maybe we were too positive last year and we have no idea how the season will start. “Remember, this is a very long campaign and we will fight hard, regardless of our pace at the first race.”
So, while there may have been some dismay at Ferrari’s pace, the team made no bones of the fact that it would not be chasing glory laps at all early on in the tests. Maranello now appears to have fulfilled its promises leaving the team, its rivals and most observers with no idea about the new SF1000’s real pace.
The second week of testing may yet provide a better clue, but as they say in the classics, do not hold your breath — the men in red seem to be playing a canny game and it may yet take a little time for its real potential to come to the fore… – Michele Lupini
So that’s a wrap! The first stanza of the 2020 Formula 1 preseason testing is over and it would be fair to say that most of the teams look well prepared, the overall reliability quite astounding and, of course, many talking points.
On the final of the three days at Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, this is what drivers and teams had to say about their fortunes.
Valtteri Bottas: “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 – seeing a little bit more of the performance of the car. I enjoyed it and it felt really good out there. 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, we have made some improvements every day with the car. 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.”
Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been a great effort from the team and great to see that the reliability is as strong as it is. The car has felt pretty good out there. It’s been a solid first week and we’ve got some good mileage. It’s a true showing of all the incredible work everyone has done back at the factory and here at the track. I’m really proud of everyone. We’ve got to keep working hard, analyse all the data from this week and figure out how we can move the car forward and build on everything next week.”
James Allison, Technical Director: “After the brief hiatus of yesterday, it was good to get a solid day of uninterrupted, reliable running today. 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. It’s been a good first week, the car has been broadly reliable, and the performance has been reasonably good throughout the week. 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. 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 and 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.”
Team Report: “The final day of the first pre-season test at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit turned out to be more demanding than expected for Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow. Sebastian Vettel completed a total of 100 laps, equivalent to 465.5 kilometres, which was less than planned, because of a problem with the power unit on the SF1000, midway through the morning. The German started his day at 9 on the dot, putting in some constant speed laps to acquire specific data. Sebastian then continued running to evaluate the SF1000 in various configurations, using the C2 and C3 compound tyres and it was on the latter that he set his best time in 1:18.384. Vettel did another run shortly before 10.30 but after a few laps there was a problem with the power unit. The team told Vettel to park the car immediately at the side of the track, to limit the damage so that a thorough investigation of the problem could be carried out later. Once back in the garage, the team immediately got on with changing the power unit, sending the damaged one straight off to Maranello. At this point, Vettel had done 40 laps. At 14.18 the SF1000 was ready for action again and Vettel continued with the programme, doing some practice starts. In the afternoon, the German did a further 60 laps, bringing the day’s total to 100. In his day and a half at the wheel, Seb completed 173 laps, equivalent to 805 kilometres (almost three race distances). In its first three days on track, the SF1000 did 354 laps, or 1,648 kilometres. The second and final pre-season test takes place from next Wednesday, again for three days at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit. The first Grand Prix of the 2020 Formula 1 season takes place in Australia on 15th March.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal: “We adopted a radically different approach to this first pre-season test compared to last year’s. So far, we have concentrated on evaluating every aspect of the car’s potential, running several different configurations, both aero and mechanical, so as to gather as much data as possible. We will now go home and analyse it all, comparing it to that gathered in the simulations we ran on the computer and on the actual simulator we have in Maranello. In next week’s test, we will begin to investigate the performance side, working on set-up and moving forward with the usual tests in qualifying and race trim in order to be well prepared for the opening round in Australia.”
Alex Albon: “This week we were focused more on reliability and systems checks than anything else and everything went very smoothly. The car feels good and each time we went out it felt better and better. It’s all about gaining experience of the car, learning what we can do with it and getting ready for Melbourne. The main areas we needed to work on have definitely improved. I think we’re looking strong and compared to last year we’ve made a good step forward. I think we’ve hit the ground running and we have a very good baseline now for next week.”
Head of Race Engineering, Guillaume Rocquelin: “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. 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.”
Lance Stroll: “After driving in the afternoon of the opening day, it felt good to be back behind the wheel for a full day of running. We covered lots of laps, collected the data and worked through the job list. The RP20 feels very different to last season’s car and I think we’re in a much better place now than we were this time last year. You never know what the others are doing so we are just focussing on our own work. We definitely have a good base on which to build.”
Tom McCullough, Performance Engineering Director: “We had a positive start to the final day of the first test by completing all of the set-up performance run test items that we had planned. On Lance’s final run in the morning, we encountered a gearbox sensor problem but we fixed this over lunch and got back out in the afternoon, focussing on long-run performance. The issue over lunch and four red flags meant the day was not as productive as we hoped and despite only achieving 116 laps, our learning about the RP20 continued. I think we can say that we have had a positive start to winter testing. From here, we need to analyse the data that we have collected and come back next week to ensure that the final three days before Melbourne are as fruitful as possible.”
Carlos Sainz: “In general, it’s been another good morning going through the whole test programme, still understanding the new car and working through our test items. I’m looking forward to going into a second week of testing after a positive first one.”
Lando Norris: “It’s been a decent day. 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. On the whole, it was a positive day. These first three days have been a positive way to start the season and to set us up for next week.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal: “Winter testing part one, completed. 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. In terms of reliability, it was the best first winter test we’ve had in many years. That’s a great reward for everyone in the team, and proof that the hard work done over the winter is paying off. Regarding performance, the car behaved as expected given the different steps and tests we completed over the last three days. We’ll use the next few days until the second test to analyse all the data we have collected in detail. We’ll come back next Wednesday and keep working on our preparation for Melbourne and extracting more performance from the MCL35. Thanks to the entire team here at the track and back home in Woking, to our colleagues from Renault, and to Lando and Carlos for their hard work and commitment. We go again.”
Daniil Kvyat: “I think today felt quite short, it was only half a day, but it was productive as we squeezed the most out of it. We had a lot of high-quality tests and tried to cover as many laps as we could, so we did well in that respect. 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, 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.”
Pierre Gasly: “It was a really positive afternoon, 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.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer: “We completed another successful testing day in Barcelona to wrap up what has been a fairly intense three days. Daniil drove in the morning and started the day with the typical aero rake running and some further mapping work. Data analysis from last night revealed some interesting setup directions, so these were explored further during the C3 short runs in the morning to confirm the findings. We then gave Daniil the opportunity for some performance running on the C4 compound and the car behaved well in this configuration. He closed the morning with two long runs on the C2 compound, testing items to assist with tyre management to build up knowledge for the season ahead. Pierre took over the AT01 for the afternoon and planned a number of mechanical and aerodynamic tests over short and long runs. 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. We are already half-way through track running prior to Melbourne, but we have gathered a lot of data exploring the envelope of AT01 and already have a good understanding of the behaviour and characteristics of the car. The team will spend the coming days analysing the data in detail and feeding the results into the testing matrix for the final three days of testing next week.”
Franz Tost, Team Principal: “We had three very fruitful test days here in Barcelona, completing more than 100 laps every day – 384 in total – and 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. It’s a pity we lost some track time today due to a little issue toward the end of the day, but 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. In general, I must say that Scuderia AlphaTauri seems to be in a good position for the upcoming year.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director: “On the final day of the first test of 2020, both our teams completed a good number of laps. For Scuderia AlphaTauri, Daniil drove in the morning and Pierre in the afternoon for a total of 121 laps. AlphaTauri continued working on optimising the PU. We now have plenty of data to analyse at the mid-point of the pre-season tests. The fine weather and the fact there were very few red flags over the past three days means that this was a very productive first test for Honda and our two teams. We now have four days until the second test and everyone back in Japan, the UK and here in Spain is going to be very busy analysing a huge quantity of data, to make a further step forward in the final three days of track time before the first race. In total, the four Honda-powered cars completed 855 laps, equivalent to a distance of 3,980.025 kilometres.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance: “Nicholas was back in the car today and we had a full programme planned for him. 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. However, the mechanics did a great job of rebuilding the car to get us back out in time to complete some useful new tyre running. 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. We now have a few days to review the findings from this week before we start the final three days of testing ahead of the opening race of the season. We have a lot of work to do, but we have had a productive opening week with the new FW43 and are looking forward to evolving the performance next week.”
Nicholas Latifi: “It wasn’t the day I had hoped for in terms of running. I mirrored George’s programme from yesterday in terms of the sequence, with a lot of aero runs in the morning, and then I was able to get a few pushing laps before we saw some potential problems in the PU data. However, the guys did a great job to rebuild the car and get me back out there. 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. Hopefully we can make up for the mileage we missed next week.”
Romain Grosjean: “It was a pretty good morning and a pretty good first week. We’ve done a lot of testing and we’ve seen the lap times drop from other people. We’ve kept working on what we wanted to, we’ve trialled as many options on the car as we could. Generally, it’s been very positive, everything we’ve tested has been good. We ran the whole program we had planned for the morning – I’m very happy with that.”
Kevin Magnussen: “Overall, testing’s been positive for us this week. We’ve had two and a half days of good solid running with everything looking as to our expectations – I’m very happy about that. I’m looking forward to next week and getting into some more performance running and pushing the car a little bit harder. We’ll work on more set-up and so on as well. As I said though, I’m happy with this week.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “The first two days of testing were very good for us with no issues and a lot of data, we got a lot of things done. Today was a little bit more troublesome, these things can happen though. In the morning we had a small issue which kept us in the garage for half an hour. After that, testing went well with Romain (Grosjean). Then we had a damaged rim due to a problem with the wheel spacer, which ultimately caused the puncture for Kevin (Magnussen). Unfortunately, the car was too damaged to make it worthwhile to try and get it back out. We could have possibly returned for half an hour but there’s no point. We decided to get properly prepared for next week because we change chassis. To sum it up, it’s not been a bad week, just this afternoon’s been the only bad part – the rest has been very good.”
Jan Monchaux, Technical Director: “We finish the first week of testing with the knowledge we did as good a job as we were planning. We ran without issues for three days, completing all the tests we had on our list and putting the third highest mileage of all teams under our belts. The first week was all about reliability and making sure all systems worked, while next week we will focus more on our car’s performance. Our job is of course far from finished: we will need to keep working hard, both at the factory and here at the track, in order to be ready for the season ahead.”
Antonio Giovinazzi: “I am pretty satisfied with our work, both today and in the whole of the week. 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. 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.”
Test one wrapped up. Still a lot of work to do in the incoming days, but we had a positive first week of #F1Testing.
Mercedes ended the first test on a high and fired a stern warning to their rivals as Valtteri Bottas’s set a scorcher of a lap that was good enough for top spot on the timesheets.
Lewis Hamilton popped to second in the afternoon session albeit nearly a second off his team mate’s blistering flying lap.
With their DAS system still grabbing headlines, Mercedes continued their impressive pace with Bottas setting his leading lap of 1m15.732s on the softest – C5 – tyre compound with Hamilton’s time of 1m16.642s coming likewise on the softest rubber.
Both Silver Arrows drivers managed more than a full Grand Prix distance on Day 3, underlining their reliability as they prepare to fight for a seventh consecutive constructors’ championship.
Ferrari, on the other hand, caused the first red flag of the day when Sebastian Vettel’s SF1000 suffered an engine problem. The problematic power unit was returned to Maranello and Vettel was sent back out in the afternoon to finish 13th, after completing 100 laps.
Mercedes have continued their strong start to 2020 Formula 1 testing, with Valtteri Bottas topping the timesheets before lunch on Friday in Barcelona.
Now 24 hours removed from debuting their innovative dual-axis steering system, Bottas proved in his 65 laps that the Mercedes W11 is as fast as it is clever, his best time of 1:15.732 (set on the fastest C5 tyre) being 1.370 seconds faster than his closest competitor, the Renault of Esteban Ocon (C4).
In stark contrast, rivals Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel endured a dismal session, only managing 40 laps and the second-slowest time before bringing-out the red flag with an engine issue that caused him to miss out on any further running. The SF1000 will be fitted with a new power unit before Vettel continues in the afternoon.
The other member of the big three, Red Bull, enjoyed a solid session, as Max Verstappen got the most mileage of anyone with 86 laps. Ocon and the McLaren of Carlos Sainz were tied for second with 76.
Elsewhere, Racing Point’s “Pink Mercedes” was third-fastest in the hands of Lance Stroll (C4), just over two-tenths removed from the Renault.
Daniil Kvyat was fourth-fastest for AlphaTauri, 9 thousandths faster than the senior-team car of Verstappen, albeit with the latter on C2 to the former’s C4 tyres.
Antonio Giovinazzi was sixth for Alfa Romeo, the first of the C3-tyre runners, the aforementioned Sainz two-tenths slower on C2’s.
Romain Grosjean (C3) was the last of the problem-free runners, narrowly edging Vettel to eighth. The Williams of Nicholas Latifi was slowest, having brought out the other red flag of the session when his car lost drive.
Mercedes’ controversial new DAS system is impossible to implement under the regulations for the 2021 Formula 1 season, the FIA has reportedly clarified.
A device which allows the Silver Arrows to adjust the toe angle of the front wheels by moving the steering wheel backwards and forwards, Autosport has reported that while its legality is still under discussion for the current 2020 season, it will be outlawed by the regulations already written for next year.
Per article 10.5.2 of the 2021 regulations — released last October — changing the angle of the front wheels can only be made by the steering wheel turning in a specific way.
The article reads: “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.”
After yesterday’s debut of DAS, the FIA quickly moved to clarify that such systems would contravene this regulation, meaning any commitment by Mercedes rivals’ to implement it themselves would be hard to justify given the necessary development time, which Racing Point technical director Andy Green indicated would be approximately six months.
Mercedes’ new dual-axis steering (DAS) is a form of active suspension, and therefore illegal, says Red Bull’s Helmut Marko.
The hot topic on day two in Barcelona, DAS has the rest of the paddock trying to figure out both how it works, and whether it is legal. For Marko, the latter question has already been answered.
“If you actively change the camber or toe of the wheels while driving, the contact surface of the tyres changes”, Marko told Auto Bild. “And thus — even if in a very, very small area — the ground clearance. But this is prohibited because the system then corresponds to the mode of operation of a prohibited active wheel suspension.”
Under article 10.2.2 of the 2020 Formula 1 regulations, “any powered device which is capable of altering the configuration or affecting the performance of any part of any suspension system is forbidden”. while article 10.2.3 further states that “no adjustment may be made to any suspension system while the car is in motion.”
Already pressed on questions of legality, Mercedes’ technical director James Allison has responded that it “isn’t news to the FIA. We’ve been talking to them about it for some time”, and he expects it to be on their car come Melbourne. Whether that remains the case, we will soon find out.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has given his opinion on Mercedes’ new dual-axis steering (DAS), suggesting it must be a “weird” feeling for a Formula 1 driver.
Asked for his thoughts after the Silver Arrows debuted the system on day two of the first test in Barcelona, Vettel admitted he was intrigued by the footage of Lewis Hamilton moving his steering wheel forwards and backwards to adjust the toe angle of his front wheels.
“I’ve seen it and we talked about it at lunch,” he said. “It obviously looks interesting.
“I guess the fact that they’re running with it means it’s legal. 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 to work with it.
“We will see, for sure it was a novelty for us to see.”
Getting his first running in the car on Thursday after missing day one of testing with an illness, Vettel indicated he is sceptical as to whether Mercedes’ innovation provides any significant benefit.
“I think it’s much more dependent what you have around it — so the car you are you’re sitting in, the car you have around that.
“I don’t think that this will give you – I don’t know, maybe I’m underestimating – but I don’t think that this is the ticket to win. I think there’s a lot more elements to building up competitive car.
“But for sure it’s an innovation and we’ll see whether it’s something that everyone has to pick up on or not.”
Not unfamiliar with game-breaking innovations himself, Vettel benefited from Adrian Newey’s exhaust-blown diffuser during his time at Red Bull, but thinks the nature of the DAS mechanism makes it particularly disconcerting for the driver.
“I think it’s quite weird, when you have the feeling all of a sudden, you might have the wheel in your hand,” he said.
“I could just imagine it feels weird. But if it’s faster and there’s no concern you go for the faster option.
“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 fulfil the task, and you have the capacity to do it and with enough practice, then why not?”
Drivers and team representatives report from day two of testing ahead of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship season, from the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
Kimi Räikkönen: “For my first testing day, it was an ok one. The important thing is that everything seems to be working well, with no major issues. The immediate feeling is pretty positive, but it’s still early days. There is still a long way to go 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.”
Beat Zehnder, Sporting Director: “Today was another valuable day testing the C39, a day in which we were able to cover good mileage without any issues. People may look at the times, but these are of little value right now: the main thing to focus on is the data we are collecting and listening to the drivers’ first reactions. Having two days of uninterrupted running, minus a red flag at the end of today, is where we want to be right now, but it’s still just the beginning of a very busy process of learning about the new car.”
Pierre Gasly: “I was happy with today, I missed being behind the wheel a lot! The target was to do as many laps as we could, because with pre-season testing two days shorter this year, we have to try to be more efficient and cover more things. Overall, we can be pleased as we managed to complete the programme we set for the day and I felt comfortable in the car straight away. We tested a few more things compared to last year, also on my side in terms of driving, to understand how to get on top of everything, and there were some really positive results. There are many areas we are still exploring, we still need to figure certain areas out as it’s a new car with new parts. I think we found some good directions for the next few days, so now we have quite a lot to study.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director: “The first proper day of running for Pierre went quite well overall. We covered a good number of test items together with some aero data collection with the rakes fitted and the normal systems and PU setting adjustments. The reliability of the car was again very good with a lot of kilometres completed, allowing us to tick all the boxes on the programme. We have taken a further step in our understanding of the car and will be putting this data to good use in the coming days, both here in Barcelona and also back in Faenza and Bicester where the aero, design, and vehicle performance groups are flat out preparing numerous developments for evaluation.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director: “For the second day of testing, our work followed on from what we did yesterday, with functionality checks as well as beginning to work on optimising our PU settings based on yesterday’s feedback and data. Pierre did 147 laps, the second highest number on the day. Overall another solid day’s work with plenty more data to study.”
Team report: As planned, Charles was first in the cockpit, working on suspension configuration, gathering more data and generally improving the team’s understanding of the SF1000. The Monegasque driver ran the C2 and C3 compound tyres. Leclerc thus rounded off his first test of the year with 49 laps, which added to the 132 he did yesterday, meant he totalled 181, or 843 kilometres, which is pretty near to three Grand Prix distances. Watching proceedings here today were Charles’ younger brother Arthur and the Swede Dino Beganovic, who both joined the Ferrari Driver Academy back in January, thus following the same schooling that led to Charles becoming a Formula 1 driver. During the lunch break, the mechanics reconfigured the car to Sebastian’s driving settings and the German’s sixth season on track with Scuderia Ferrari got underway shortly after 2pm. Due to drive yesterday, he swapped with Charles as he was feeling slightly unwell. Today, he carried on where his team-mate left off in the morning, also running the C4 compound, with which he set his fastest lap of 1:18.154. He did 73 laps, equal to 340 kilometres. In total, the SF1000 has now completed 254 laps, equivalent to 1,182 kilometres. Friday is the third and final day of the first pre-season test and Sebastian will be at the wheel of the SF1000 for the whole day.
Sebastian Vettel: “Finally I was able to drive the SF1000 after feeling unwell and having to spend most of yesterday in bed. It was nice to be back behind the wheel and to start getting used to the car. This first half day was definitely positive: we had no reliability problems and we were able to do 73 laps. That’s the most important thing when you’re dealing with a new car. The SF1000 is certainly a step forward compared to last year’s car. For tomorrow, the aim is to get as much track time as possible and to gather as much data as we can, to help us get a better understanding of where we are in our work programme.”
Romain Grosjean: “I saw how many laps we were planning to do this morning and I thought it was a pretty fruity run-plan. That’s a positive though, it shows that the car is reliable. With two days less testing this year over these two weeks we’re trying to do as much as we can. The early morning was tricky trying to get the tires warmed up, similarly at the end of the day when the sun goes down – tire temperatures drop. It was a positive day with a lot of testing. We’re now looking at our options for tomorrow to see what we want to test in the morning.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “It was another good day today in terms of lots of running and data gathering. The car ran without issue, apart from a little accident at the end – it’s better not happening, but it’s part of the game and there were only 40-minutes left on the day. It’s always good to have this kind of mileage and two days of testing without interruption or mechanical problems. It’s been positive, everything’s gone to plan, so that makes us happy.”
Lando Norris: “A good day – we did 137 laps, completing almost everything we wanted to do. I got a good feeling for the car, and it’s not too different to last year in terms of handling, which is a good thing. We got through our programme with a lot learned for both me and the team, making a good start ahead of tomorrow and next week. There are areas we know we need to improve on, but it’s been a productive day overall, which is the main thing.”
James Key, Technical Director: “Another productive day today with Lando covering 137 laps. The morning was taken up with some specific aero measurements, which will give us the first proper overview of the car’s aero flow conditions. We then moved on to a set programme of test items, some of them with new parts. We did long runs in the afternoon combined with some mechanical set-up work and reliability tests. We also completed some general set-up work that has helped us further understand the car, in addition to what we learned yesterday with Carlos. Tomorrow we’ll continue the programme with both drivers, running some more new components and taking the direction we’ve learned over the last two days.”
Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been another beautiful day here in Barcelona and we got some great mileage on the new car today. As a team, we completed a race run in the morning, which is great for reliability and shows the foundation we are starting on. This is probably the first day ever, that I can remember, where I finished a test session and wanted to continue. We had 20 minutes left and I wanted us to maximise and do more laps, but we’d ran out of tyres. It felt good today and I felt physically fantastic. To get through a race run and still feel at the end of it that I could do another 100 laps is a good feeling.”
Valtteri Bottas: “We completed 77 laps this afternoon, which is a good number. But obviously running was cut short because of an issue, which made the day a bit trickier. It was a good day of learning more about the car. We got some good mileage in and I almost completed a full race simulation. So, there was a lot of good experience gained from that and lots of data for us to investigate ahead of tomorrow. For me, personally, there are many learnings to take away from that race simulation and look into further. The car felt good and I’m looking forward to continuing the running tomorrow morning, hopefully we will have a clean day.”
James Allison: “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. 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. 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. 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.”
Sergio Perez: “Today we were able to complete a lot of kilometres – over 650 – which has been our first priority, given the limited amount of testing. We still have plenty of things to work on over the coming days but we have shown that we’re on the right track with good pace and reliability. Hopefully tomorrow is another good day for the team with Lance in the car as our preparations for Australia continue. It’s still very early days – far too early – but I think it’s a solid base and I think we have something to work with for the coming races and for the start of the season.”
Tom McCullough, Performance Engineering Director: “After a positive start to the first test yesterday, our second day of on-track running in Barcelona has been very productive. We’re still getting to know the RP20 more and spent the morning focussing on performance running before switching our attention to long-runs this afternoon. We managed to get through the extensive test plan that we had scheduled for today and have lots of data to go through as the learning process continues.”
Alexander Albon: “It was a good first day with the RB16. 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.”
Guillaume Rocquelin, Head of Race Engineering: “We had another very productive day with the RB16 today and although we didn’t complete quite as many laps as yesterday, we once again got through all of the test items on the list. 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 tomorrow. We also have a change to our usual plan tomorrow in that due to the large amount of laps being run and the compressed nature of these tests, we’ll be splitting driver duties. Max will be out in the morning and Alex in the afternoon. All going to plan, it will be another extremely busy day and hopefully a productive one.”
George Russell: “It was a productive day. We have tested a lot of aero items to understand if everything correlates in the wind tunnel and CFD. We spent this morning doing a lot of rake running, which is beneficial for the short term and productive in the long run. We had an issue over lunch which delayed our running this afternoon. Although everything did not go to plan, it was still productive, and this is what winter testing is all about. We will keep pushing to get the most out of these six days of testing.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance: “George drove the car today and took the opportunity to build on the work we undertook yesterday. We again started the day with aero work, constructing a programme based on yesterday’s findings. Once the track reached a more useful temperature, we started our new tyre work concentrating on more aero development and some tyre compound comparisons. Over lunch we elected to take some time to make some more involved changes before completing a further series of new tyre runs in the afternoon. We also found some minor damage to the rear of the car, which needed repairing before we could start the afternoon programme. Running was hampered a little by the late red flag, but nonetheless we achieved almost everything we had intended to. The Barcelona track remains in very good condition and, with more good weather forecast for tomorrow, we look forward to continuing our meticulous testing programme when Nicholas will again return to driving duties.”
A huge hullabaloo has hit Barcelona’s second day of Formula 1 testing after live in car television images of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes suggested that the toe of the world champion’s car’s front wheel appeared to change in unison with the steering wheel moving towards him on the straights and reverting to its normal position, as the Mercedes turned into corners.
The observations thanks to live television for the first time in testing, immediately led to wild speculation that steering hydraulics are being used to alter the toe in the corners and then revert on the straights to allow the Mercedes a double-edged sword of better turn in the bends and less drag on the straights.
That tied into Mercedes’ incredible pace yesterday has already prompted cries of an unfair advantage, while the team has admitted to testing a ‘steering mode’ at Barcelona.
Formula 1 suspension and steering rules, however, forbid any adjustment to the suspension system, clearly stating that changes can only be made when the car is stationary and further elaborated by the clause” “No adjustment may be made to any suspension system while the car is in motion,” it states.
A further rule clarifies that: “Any powered device which is capable of altering the configuration or affecting the performance of any part of any suspension system is forbidden,” while the power steering law is also patent in its clarity: “Power-assisted steering systems may not be electronically controlled or electrically powered.”
It, however, remains unclear how Mercedes ‘Steering Mode’ works, or if it in fact breaches any of the above regulations at all.
Reuters report that technical director James Allison was coy about the details of a system he said was known within the team as DAS (Dual-Axis Steering).
“It’s a novel idea,” he told reporters. “It just introduces an extra dimension to the steering for the driver that we hope will be useful during the year. Precisely how we use it, and why we use it, that’s something we prefer to keep to ourselves.”
Testing is not bound by the same regulations as grand prix weekends, with teams sometimes trying out developments they may never race.
Asked whether Mercedes were worried the governing FIA might rule the device illegal, Allison said they had been talking about it for some time, safety was not an issue and it was within the rules.
“This isn’t news to the FIA,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what is permitted on steering systems and I’m pretty confident that it matches all of those requirements. I’m just pleased we’ve got it on the car, it seems to be useable and we’ll find out over the coming days how much benefit it brings us.”
Hamilton said he had only one morning using it, did not find it distracting and was encouraged to see his team were continuing to innovate to stay ahead of the game.
Allison said the steering wheel represented “only the tip of the iceberg of similar stuff” hidden out of sight across the car, “Each of the new cars we bring to the track are festooned with innovation. It’s just they are not always as obvious to you as a stand-alone system like this where you can see it with your own eyes.
“One of the things that give me massive pride from working at Mercedes is to be part of a team that doesn’t just turn the sausage (machine) handle each year,” added Hamilton.
On considering the conundrum at play here, the trick appears that because the driver is operating the system via the steering wheel, it is likely perfectly acceptable through the rules.
This is a very interesting loophole – there seems nothing in the rules that prevents the driver from pushing or pulling the steering wheel forward or backwards, or that the steering cannot move in a linear way on top of its rotary function to turn the wheels.
The FIA will need to now consider the situation and decide whether to amend the ruled to prevent any additional movement to the steering wheel, or just leave it.
Lewis Hamilton says small details, and the bigger picture of what he does after Formula 1, will be key to his next contract.
The six-times F1 world champion’s deal with Mercedes runs out at the end of 2020, and the 35-year-old looks set to agree a new mega-contract despite lingering speculation he could move to Ferrari.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the Briton saw no need to hurry as he prepares for his 14th year in the sport, “I think our goals are aligned. So in the coming months, I’m sure I will sit down.”
Hamilton has been at Mercedes since 2013, and driven Mercedes-powered cars throughout his F1 career, and he enjoys considerable freedom to be himself and pursue his varied interests.
He said it was small details that really mattered — being allowed to dress as he liked, or speak out on subjects he was passionate about, and that had helped him be more engaged and become a better driver.
They also helped him map out his longer-term future, “In going more into fine detail, you’re trying to figure out what the next five-to-10-year plan is.
“How the decisions I make now impact the future, and does it allow me to put certain things in place so that when I do stop and hang up my helmet I’m able to continue on to other things?
“That will be in the small print really of what we talk about, but that’s the one we will be talking mostly about,” he added.
Hamilton carries out his own contract negotiations with team principal Toto Wolff and he recalled how his last deal talks had taken place at home on the comfort of his couch.
“He tries to ask for something and I combat it. It’s a back and forth. I think it was like eight or 10 hours the last time we sat down, and we got through it great. Then it goes back to kind of the bad cops, which is the lawyers,” he explained.
Hamilton is the second oldest driver on the F1 starting grid with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, likely to be two of his main challengers this year, still only 22.
Mercedes technical director James Allison said the team was clear on what they wanted.
“He’s reasonably important, I would say,” he declared with obvious understatement. “He’s got a few of our points over the years so we’d love him to stay. I’m sure if we keep making fast cars, he’ll be keen to (stay).”
Racing Point’s new Formula 1 car looks a lot like Lewis Hamilton’s title-winning 2019 Mercedes painted pink but technical director Andy Green says the team have taken a big risk with it.
The RP20 represents a big change of design philosophy for the Silverstone-based team, who use Mercedes engines and gearboxes as well as the same wind tunnel.
“It shares some resemblance in some areas. Lots of cars look like other cars,” Green told reporters during testing at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday when asked about the similarities.
“We have one more year left in these regulations. I think it’s time to try something new, to take a risk, and I think we’ve taken a very, very big risk with what we’ve done with the car.”
Formula One is facing sweeping rule changes next year but this season’s cars are an evolution of those that raced in 2019.
Mercedes, with six-times champion Hamilton, have won the last six drivers’ and constructors’ titles and start as favourites again in Australia on March 15.
Green explained that Racing Point had previously followed a design philosophy closer to the Red Bulls but realised midway through last year that the car’s development was starting to peter out.
“It wasn’t making the gains we were hoping for,” he said of the RP19. “It was clear that if we carried on the route we were going, we were going to end up at best where we finished the championship last year.
“We decided to take a risk and that risk was effectively to tear up what we’ve done in the past few years and start again from scratch, and what we could see MGP (Mercedes Grand Prix) have been doing.”
The team, owned by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, finished seventh overall in 2019 with Mexican Sergio Perez and Stroll’s son Lance.
Perez was best of the rest behind the two Mercedes in terms of speed on the opening day at the Circuit de Catalunya on Wednesday and fastest in the morning session on Thursday.
“I don’t think what we’ve done is particularly new as far as taking a team’s concept and doing it ourselves, that’s been prolific in Formula One since the very first days,” Green added.
Green said the new car would get an upgrade for Australia but after that the team were likely to focus their attention on the 2021 challenger.
“One of the things we were hoping for is we could take a reasonable step forward and not have to continue to develop the car through the season,” he said.
German free-to-air TV broadcaster RTL will cover the Vietnamese Grand Prix remotely due to the spread of the coronavirus in the region, it said in a statement.
The Chinese Grand Prix originally scheduled for Shanghai on April 19 was called off last week, with the hope of rescheduling later in the year, but a street race in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi remains on for April 5.
Local officials told Reuters this month that Vietnam had quarantined a community of 10,000 people near Hanoi for 20 days because of fears the coronavirus could spread there from neighbouring China.
RTL said in a statement on its website (www.rtl.de) that it felt the health risks were too high to send staff to Vietnam for the race.
“Instead, the entire production of the live broadcast will be relocated to Cologne,” it said.
F1 is also broadcast live in Germany by Sky Deutschland on pay TV.
F1 and the teams have already sent sea freight to Vietnam, the third round of the season which starts in Australia on March 15.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told reporters at testing in Spain on Thursday that the initial feedback from Formula One Management was that the race would go ahead as planned.
“We just follow their lead on it,” he said.
Horner sounded doubtful, however, about the chances of the Chinese round being rescheduled or replaced by another venue.
“I think you’ve got to look at the logistics of it. It’s a tough calendar this year and if it were to go Brazil-China-Abu Dhabi, that’s a big ask at that time of year from all the staff.
“We’d have to look at that and consider that very carefully.”
Brazil is due to be the penultimate race of the season on Nov. 15, with Abu Dhabi the final round on Nov. 29.
Kimi Raikkonen was ‘back at work’ doing testing duty in the Alfa Romeo C39, the veteran ending the day fastest of all but also was the first driver to stop on track and bring out the red flags on day two of Preseason Formula 1 testing at Circuit de Barcelona- Catalunya.
The Finn set a flurry late hot-laps late in the afternoon that saw him take top spot on the timing screens with a best lap of 1:17.091 shortly before his car came to a standstill, with 15 minutes remaining in the day’s track activities. He managed 134 laps on his first day in the new car.
Sergio Perez was again in fine form as he put the Racing Point top of the timesheets at the end of the morning, only to be knocked down to second late in the day. The Mexican was a quarter second of the top time with 145 laps on his chart.
Renault gave both their drivers stints in the car with Daniel Ricciardo covering 41 laps in the morning setting the third-best time in the process. Teammate Esteban Ocon completed 52 laps in the afternoon and ended the day 12th.
Next up were two Honda-powered drivers, with Alex Albon fourth fastest during his run of 134laps; he ended eight tenths off the top time and a couple of tenths ahead of Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri.
After sitting pout day one of the test with a bug of sorts, Sebastian Vettel was back on duty for Ferrari in the afternoon, after taking over the cockpit from Charles Leclerc. The German was sixth fastest, with his teammate eighth. They combined to complete 152 laps in the SF1000.
George Russell, clearly relishing his new Williams, split the Reds on the final timesheets, in seventh and 1.24 seconds shy of the top time.
It was an interesting day over at Mercedes as the World Champs got the paddock buzzing with their new steering device. Lewis Hamilton was busy in the morning stanza as he logged 106 laps on his way to setting the ninth-best time, while teammate Valtteri Bottas was 13th and slowest of all.
“Experimenting” and “powder-dry” are words that were bandied about at the end of the day regarding the performance of the Silver cars. The W11 completed 183 laps, easily more than their rivals.
Lando Norris did useful mileage during his day in the McLaren with 137 laps and the tenth best time, fractionally quicker than Romain Grosjean in the Haas in 11th.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez managed to surprise with the best time on Thursday morning in Barcelona, but the real stunner was the tyre-heating device on Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Leading the pack with a session best time of 1:17.347, Perez (C3 tyres) was 0.402 seconds ahead of the next-best time of Daniel Ricciardo (C3), but had his thunder stolen by a display of pure ingenuity from the Silver Arrows.
Only seventh fastest in the session (albeit on the slowest C1 tyre), Hamilton’s W11 still managed to turn heads courtesy of a system that allowed him to adjust the toe of the front wheels inwards by pulling the steering wheel towards him, and pushing it back to reset.
As F1 cars are generally set-up with the toe slightly out, using such a system on the straights counteracts the problem of the outer edge of the tyre being heated more compared to the inside, with a more even contact patch across the whole of the tyre instead generating more heat across the whole of the tyre, in turn providing better grip.
Should the innovation prove effective, it could be a hard one to copy, with Racing Point technical director Andy Green estimating it would take six months to implement.
Aside from their neat trick, it was also an impressive session for Mercedes in terms of reliability, with Hamilton racking-up 106 laps over the four-hour session. The next closest competitor was Romain Grosjean for Haas, with 87 laps and eighth fastest.
Going back to the front-runners, Racing Point is likely to further enrage their critics with the pace they showed, even as they only managed 48 laps. Similarly, Renault are likely to be at least mildly concerned by the session-worst 41 Ricciardo could manage amidst technical problems.
In third, Red Bull and Alexander Albon kept some pace in-hand, opting only to use the C2 tyres on their way to a session-best 1:18.155 in 59 laps. The sister car of AlphaTauri was fourth, Pierre Gasly a tenth behind on the C3’s, having done 77 laps.
George Russell enjoyed another strong session for Williams, completing 71 laps and being the last of the runners within a second of the lead.
Charles Leclerc and Ferrari had another quiet session, only recording 49 laps on their way to sixth fastest.
Behind Hamilton and the aforementioned Grosjean, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkoen was ninth with 65 laps, while McLaren and Lando Norris opted only to run the C2 tyre in recording 48 laps.
AlphaTauri boss Franz Tost has dismissed suggestion that midfield teams are unfairly benefiting from the developments of bigger teams, suggesting that such is the nature of Formula 1.
A popular topic on the first day of 2020 testing in Barcelona, Racing Point’s RP20 came under scrutiny for its similarities to the 2019 Mercedes W10, while Tost’s own AT01 has been likened to the previous year’s Red Bull RB15.
In response, Tost maintained such imitation were nothing out of the ordinary.
“There is a cooperation between Racing Point and Mercedes, with numerous parts being taken over,” he conceded to Speedweek. “I can see that Racing Point has gone in the direction of Mercedes in terms of vehicle development and has logically arrived at similar solutions. But everything is within the rules.”
Indeed, with only minimal changes to this year’s regulations, the door has been left open for teams to significantly outsource their 2020 designs. Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has openly admitted AlphaTauri is a continuation of the senior team’s previous car, while Racing Point is known to use the rear axle, gearbox and front-and-rear suspensions of the Mercedes, with their nose and front wing bearing a striking similarity too.
“We have a stable set of regulations, so it’s normal for racing teams to copy other teams’ solutions,” Tost said. “That’s not new in Formula 1, that’s an integral part of the premier class. When a racing team comes up with something completely new, the advantage it creates takes maybe four or five races. Then the others catch up because they have copied it. Thousands of photos are already being taken here during the test, and the technicians of all the teams are watching the work of the competition with Argus eyes. Then they copy it and test it in the wind tunnel to see what they think is good.
“The important point, however, is this – it’s not enough to simply take over a part of the opponent’s car; you have to understand the vehicle philosophy. If you just copy the front wing and nose of another race car, it doesn’t mean that the aerodynamics of your own car will work further back. Front wing, nose, air deflectors, side boxes, underbody, diffuser, rear wing – everything must be in harmony, work harmoniously together, otherwise it won’t work. As it looks, this seems to be the case at Racing Point, the car was very fast on the first day of testing here.”
George Russell was first on track for the start of pre-season testing on Wednesday and sounded positive afterwards as his Williams Formula 1 team set about banishing the ghosts of a dire 2019 campaign.
They finished the season last, despite having the same engine as champions Mercedes, and with only one point for their efforts from 21 races.
Russell, a rookie last year, indicated that one morning had already gone a long way to restoring his confidence.
“Definitely the general handling of the car is much better,” the 22-year-old Briton told reporters.
“From lap one today I had confidence to push the car to the limit whereas last year it wasn’t a nice a feeling in the early laps. It was quite scary to drive actually last year in the opening laps and trying to build that confidence.”
Russell’s lap time in the morning session was one minute 18.168 seconds on the soft compound – 0.9 seconds quicker than the time he clocked in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix at the same circuit last May.
He did 73 laps, more than a race distance, and was sixth fastest of the 10 drivers at lunchtime, although times mean little at this stage and the Briton was quick to put things into perspective.
“A nice car to drive is a fast car…it doesn’t matter how you get around the lap as long as its fast. That’s all that counts,” he said. “It’s been improving in that area and now we just need to see if we have managed to smash enough downforce onto the car to compete with those around us.”
Russell said leaving the pit lane first was not a coincidence. “It was psychologically important for all of us, and for everyone who’s worked day and night back at the factory, to see their car go out first,” he said.
The Briton said the car looked an improvement on last year’s model, the build quality was noticeably better and parts fitted properly.
“I think everyone’s just pleased to be in this position. Everybody was a bit lost last year because there was no work to do because there was no car here,” he said.
“Last year was a character-building year but 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.”
McLaren have closed their paddock hospitality at Formula 1 testing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to anyone who has visited China in the past two weeks as part of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
One Chinese motorsports journalist, who arrived on Tuesday after mentioning his departure from Shanghai on social media, said the team had sent him an email alerting him to the precaution.
A McLaren spokesman said the measure was a group policy, based on recent World Health Organisation directives and British government updates, and applied to automotive, applied and racing businesses.
He emphasised that it related to anyone of any nationality who might have been exposed to the virus by visiting the country.
“The McLaren Group 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,” he said.
Renault’s Esteban Ocon expects lap records to be smashed in Formula 1 this season after impressive times and remarkable reliability on the first day of testing in at Circuit de Barcelona- Catalunya in Spain on Wednesday.
The Frenchman, a former Force India driver returning after a year spent on the sidelines as Mercedes reserve and test driver, said he had never felt so much grip as he did with the new Renault RS20.
“We’re already faster than the fastest lap time of last year’s first day,” he told reporters. “I think the cars are just evolving year by year.”
The rules are largely unchanged this year, ahead of a major shakeup planned for 2021, and the Pirelli tyres are also the same.
Pirelli’s racing head Mario Isola told Reuters last month that he expected cars to be around 1-1.5 seconds a lap faster due to continued development.
Ocon, who is teammate to Australian Daniel Ricciardo, drove the Renault for the first time at a limited mileage ‘shakedown’ at the Barcelona circuit on Monday and the 23-year-old said even that had been impressive.
“I never went that fast in some corners before, so it feels good. It’s definitely exciting because that’s just going to go faster and faster. We’re going to probably break all the lap times records, I reckon this year,” he added.
As for the RS20 which he sampled for the first time on track, Ocon said, “The car is well-born. At the moment it feels very decent, so it’s a good start and a good solid baseline.”
George Russell was first on track for the start of pre-season Formula 1 testing on Wednesday at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and sounded positive afterwards as his Williams team set about banishing the ghosts of a dire 2019 campaign.
This time last year the struggling former champions did not have a car to test, finally turning up at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya three days late.
They finished the season last, despite having the same engine as champions Mercedes, and with only one point for their efforts from 21 races.
Russell, a rookie last year, indicated that one morning had already gone a long way to restoring his confidence, “Definitely the general handling of the car is much better.”
“From lap one today I had confidence to push the car to the limit whereas last year it wasn’t a nice a feeling in the early laps. It was quite scary to drive actually last year in the opening laps and trying to build that confidence,” the 22-year-old Briton told reporters.
Russell’s lap time in the morning session was one minute 18.168 seconds on the soft compound – 0.9 seconds quicker than the time he clocked in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix at the same circuit last May.
He did 73 laps, more than a race distance, and was sixth fastest of the 10 drivers at lunchtime, although times mean little at this stage and the Briton was quick to put things into perspective.
“A nice car to drive is a fast car…it doesn’t matter how you get around the lap as long as its fast. That’s all that counts,” he said. “It’s been improving in that area and now we just need to see if we have managed to smash enough downforce onto the car to compete with those around us.”
Russell said leaving the pit lane first was not a coincidence, “It was psychologically important for all of us, and for everyone who’s worked day and night back at the factory, to see their car go out first.”
The Briton said the car looked an improvement on last year’s model, the build quality was noticeably better and parts fitted properly, “I think everyone’s just pleased to be in this position. Everybody was a bit lost last year because there was no work to do because there was no car here.”
“Last year was a character-building year but 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,” he added.
Not too long ago, I observed that based on recent form and temperament, Sebastian Vettel should probably go home to his lovely young family for good.
He’s inked himself into Formula 1 history, stashed almost every million he’s earned in a numbered bank account, set up the perfect wood and metal workshop on a farm alongside his vintage Triumph motorbikes, and set his lovely wife and little kids up for a long, happy life post-F1.
The same guy who couldn’t accept that simple ‘Multi-21’ team order some years ago, or stop waving his irritating diagonal pointer finger all over the place in parc ferme, is now facing a slow slide down the Ferrari and F1 flagpole. And the ‘Multi-21s’ he’ll be receiving this year? He’ll no longer have the authority to ignore them.
Do you remember when a furious and disheartened Mark Webber — once again on the sharp end of a Multi-21 — declared that Red Bull “got the result it wanted” by sacrificing him and favouring Seb? Back then, it really was true. But in 2020 and beyond, the result Ferrari wants will be in the form of a big shiny trophy held above Charles Leclerc’s head — and does Vettel need that? Does he want that?
Surely, it’s time to cut his losses, count his victories and his titles and his millions, and go out in style as someone who called it a day as soon as he realised only disappointment and humiliation and subordination would be his rewards at the end of a race weekend.
But I’ve changed my mind.
Right now, I don’t think Vettel is going anywhere. And I’d also like to join the muted voices of those who wish him well ahead of the most formidable challenge of his career — recapturing Ferrari’s heart and realigning his targets. In 2020, he has certainly made a good start.
Yes, Seb’s ‘mission Ferrari’ has been considerably wobbly over the past year or two, and I see a clear reason for that: At Red Bull, he was an unstoppable force. His wild ride of seemingly endless 45-degree victory index fingers hit a sudden and unexpected roadblock in 2014 in the form of a crappy Renault engine and a grinning and winning Daniel Ricciardo.
So Seb thought to himself: “What a perfect time to pick up where my hero Michael Schumacher left off and rattle off a few titles in red and retire as the equal most successful driver in F1 history!” What a fairytale story it would have been.
But F1, as we all know, ain’t no fairytale.
So to me, it is obvious (at least now) what happened: Vettel took a few years to realise that the sport he thought he understood perfectly is not quite so perfectly understood by anyone, him included. Starting from an easy pole, ignoring team orders with no consequence, and blasting off towards the chequered flag with a clear track ahead of you and an Adrian Newey-penned blown diffuser behind you may be quintessentially F1 – but it’s certainly not going to last forever. Nothing like that ever does.
And so, Seb finds himself in the situation he finds himself in: a long, long way away from those heady ‘youngest ever’-branded days, chastised every single week by a hysterical Italian media contingent desperate to hail a new saviour (Leclerc) and safeguard the Prancing Horse, and forced to consider slipping outside the top 3 teams. The alternative is to accept his fate as an ageing water-boy for the new Chosen One who is a full decade younger, has only 2 wins on the board, and an astonishing five-year deal in his pocket. So what does a champion like Vettel do in such a situation?
Answer: he learns Italian.
Now, Seb has been thumbing through ‘Italian for Dummies’ since he first walked through those Maranello gates, and we’ve all heard him say ‘Grazie Ragazzi’ ad-nauseum on the radio. But my understanding is that he’s only now getting really serious about it.
This pre-season, Vettel has really thrown himself in at the deep end. At the Ferrari launch, he launched into a fairly soft, easy and comfortable interview with team ambassador Marc Gene, and the punchline was basically that all pasta is good. Leclerc, of course, put Seb’s grasp of the beautiful language to shame by quipping that he is personally staying away from tortellini as he carefully watches his pre-season waistline. But Vettel went back into battle in the last few days by appearing on an Italian talkshow with both Leclerc and Mattia Binotto — and threw himself under the bus of the full Italiano linguistic challenge yet again.
As an admirer of human language myself, it’s important to emphasise just how important and powerful it is — and Vettel knows all too well that Leclerc has the ‘Italian advantage’ by speaking it pretty much perfectly. And if you speak Italian, you speak Ferrari.
That’s because thinking, planning and executing doesn’t happen in a vacuum — it pretty much all happens in our head first, in the form of one specific language at a time. I recall Jacques Villeneuve (a Quebecois) saying at one point during his career that he’ll prefer to speak to the media in French (because of its eloquence and intricacy), and to set up his car in English (because of its nuance and precision).
And if I’m going to stereotype here, I would imagine that Seb does his maths and spreadsheets in German, watches his Monty Python and listens to his Beatles and Rolling Stones in English, and angles for a bellisimo new Ferrari deal in … you guessed it.
If I was to do even more guessing, I would imagine that Vettel has accepted that he’s never going to be 22 again, never going to speak Italian as well as Carletto Leclercivinazzi, and probably never going to be number 1 again — anywhere. What he can do, though, is win back the hearts of the sport’s most passionate and emotional Scuderia and country, put his head firmly down, and hope to say ‘Grazie Regazzi’ as often as possible after the chequered flag waves — even if he can’t always be waving his irritating diagonal finger at the very same time.
For all this to happen, he’ll have to stop making dumb mistakes each weekend, happily join those who declare Leclerc an obvious star not only of the future but of today, and accept an eye-watering pay cut (even though he’ll still be earning precisely 8,000 times more than the rest of us). If not, we probably won’t be seeing Vettel in a yellow or an orange car next year. We probably won’t see him at all. And probably never again. Let’s see what happens.
Drivers and team representatives report from day one of testing ahead of the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship season, on a bright and sunny day made remarkable by the bulletproof reliability shown by all teams at Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
Although Mercedes appear to have an edge, it is still early days and much is being kept heavily under wraps as teams and drivers evaluate what they will be contending with for the next ten months. Our day one report is here>>>
Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team
Valtteri Bottas: “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. 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. In testing you have the chance to do that and see how the car reacts to those big changes. 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.”
Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been a good day and a really good start for all of us, considering we had a long break. 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. 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. 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.”
James Allison, Technical Director: “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. 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.”
Team Report: “The first day of the first Formula 1 pre-season test went according to plan for Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow, apart from the fact that Charles Leclerc ended up giving the SF1000 its official track debut and not Sebastian Vettel as originally planned. The four times world champion was not feeling too well and so has delayed his turn in the cockpit until tomorrow afternoon and will then continue at the wheel throughout all of Friday. Leclerc did a total of 132 laps, 614 kilometres, the equivalent of two Grand Prix distances. As is usually the case when a new car runs for the very first time in its racing life, the morning programme centred mainly on checking the baseline configuration and getting an overall evaluation of it. Charles then did some runs to check aero settings using the C2 and C3 compounds with different fuel loads. By lunchtime at 1pm, the number 16 SF1000 had completed 64 laps, or 297 kilometres, or almost a race distance. Charles was back on track shortly after 2pm and worked through the rest of the planned programme, doing a further 68 laps, making a total of 132. His best time was a 1:18.289.”
Charles Leclerc: “I was informed at 6.45 this morning that I’d be driving today, but that was no problem for me. It might have been trickier for those in the team who had to change the configuration of the car, which was set up for Sebastian. For a first day, it was definitely positive, because we managed to get through the programme we had set ourselves. We weren’t looking at performance today, instead concentrating on learning about the SF1000 and getting in tune with it. It’s too early to have formed an opinion of the car, but I felt comfortable at the wheel which is a good thing.”
Daniil Kvyat: “I think it was a pretty comfortable day, we didn’t encounter any big issues and we ran reliably. The car felt like home pretty much straight away. We’ve completed the routine checks at the start of the day which made our morning a bit slow, but it’s necessary for the team at the first test. Once that was done we were able to get some good laps in and understand the new car a bit better. We also worked on setup items, some of which you wouldn’t really try on a race weekend. It’s hard to comment too much on the progress made over winter because it’s the first time we properly run the car and you certainly need more time to find the sweet spot.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director: “Overall, we are satisfied with how today went. The morning session was primarily spent gathering aero data and conducting background tests before moving onto some basic setup work in order to begin to understand how the new car responds. This work continued into the afternoon with some longer runs, making good use of the C2 tyre and incorporating some pitstop practice for the mechanics toward the end of the day. In summary, we are reasonably pleased with what we have learnt so far, but at the same time it’s very early in the test program and we still have much work to do in order to understand where we are with the new car and confirm our development priorities.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director: “It’s great to be back on track after a busy winter during which everyone involved in Honda’s F1 project worked very hard to prepare for this season in conjunction with our two teams. Therefore, it was gratifying to complete the first day with no real issues on both cars and it was a bit different to see the Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda livery for the first time on track. It’s the same for everyone but these two tests will be even more intensive than last year, as we have only six days instead of eight to prepare for Melbourne. As usual, with a first day of testing, today was mainly about doing functionality checks for the RA620H Power Unit and also on the chassis side and ensuring everything worked correctly. Both our teams got through the scheduled programmes and we encountered a few minor issues which is what you expect during testing, especially on day 1. We got plenty of data which will now be analysed by the night shift here at the track and back in the factory. There’s much more work to be done over the rest of the test.”
Esteban Ocon: “It feels awesome to be back driving a Formula 1 car. I had a big smile on my face leaving the garage as it’s been a while since I’ve had my own race car. It’s really cool to think about the thousands of hours which have been put into creating this car and then feeling it come alive on track. In terms of our programme, we’ve made a solid start and we have a good base to work from. We know we have to keep working this week and make some improvements ready for the first race. We have to be precise in our work and make everything count. I’m looking forward to continuing the progress through the week.”
Daniel Ricciardo: “It’s great to be driving again and I felt quite comfortable in the car from the get-go, which was cool. Esteban obviously warmed the car up nicely this morning, and I felt I was more or less straight back into it and in a rhythm when it was my turn in the afternoon. There are improvements on the car and we’ve obviously changed it a lot visually, which is quite clear when you look at the front nose. The improvements are there, and ultimately that’s what we’re targeting. It’s too early to make any comparisons, but our reliability was pretty strong, and I would say it’s promising. You can’t ask for too much more from day one, so I’m happy with that.”
Max Verstappen: “It’s been a good day. It’s always important to do as many laps as possible and today was a really good example of how you should do it, so I’m very happy. We have improved the car in the areas we wanted to over the winter and the car feels faster everywhere, which is great. The reliability has been good so far, so now we just have to do a lot more laps, test all the new parts and see where we can improve it further. Hopefully we’ll have done enough!”
Guillaume Rocquelin, Head of Race Engineering: “We had a really good day. We have a compressed test schedule this year so we are focusing on slightly longer runs than normal to get what we need from testing. It’s not always easy, as the conditions in Barcelona at this time of year are never ideal – it is just a bit cold – and the track surface is not really representative, but we got through the whole plan and more today, which is very encouraging. So, we have a tired, but happy driver and a lot of information to sift through. We’ll ramp things up again with Alex tomorrow, but all in all, a very positive start for us.”
Claire Williams, Deputy Team Principal: “Today was just the beginning of our 2020 campaign, but we feel we’ve made a good start. Being the first car out on track this morning may not win us any prizes, but it was a clear statement of intent and lays to rest some of the ghosts of last year. The rest of the day was executed pretty much perfectly, despite the packed programme. We clocked up some considerable mileage without any issues and the team will now work through the gathered data in preparation for tomorrow. It is so nice to see the team back in action, everyone at Williams does such a great job and they have worked hard today. My enormous thanks to everyone in the team, both here and at the factory for the huge amount of effort that has gone into getting the car ready for day one of testing. I look forward to seeing where we finish at the end of day six.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance: “A very promising start to the 2020 season for the team. George was the first car on track this morning and spent the opening few hours collecting aero data in several different configurations. By mid-morning we were completing longer runs on different tyre compounds as we begin to understand the main characteristics of the FW43. Following a successful morning session, George ended his running, allowing Nicholas to take over for the afternoon. Nicholas completed a further sequence of longer new tyre runs, building on the work started by George this morning. In the evening we took the opportunity to collect another round of aero data. Overall, it has been a very encouraging day of reliable running of the FW43, which has been made possible by the hard work and collective effort of everyone at the track and back in Grove.”
George Russell: “I was happy with this morning’s running, completing 73 laps, and the feeling was positive. We had an intense programme planned, and it was important to get out from the beginning so that we could get back into the pits first and get on with the day. The general handling of the car is much better, and from lap one I had confidence to push the car to the limit. The FW43 is an improvement on last year, the lap times are the important thing and we will only know at the end of next week where we are. Overall, it has been a very positive morning, we just need to focus on our programme and get the most out of testing. We are excited for the new season, I am confident that we will be racing this year.
Nicholas Latifi: “Overall, it was a very positive first day testing with the team. I can definitely feel that the car has taken a step forward from last year, so thanks to the team for their hard work over the winter. We just have to keep plugging away each day and learn how the car reacts and see if we can find some more performance. All in all, I’m very pleased with the first day of running.
Kevin Magnussen: “I feel good – but tired, as it was a long day, but that’s a positive thing. We got lots of running in, that’s what we needed for the first day just to get to know the car. It felt good, but it’s always difficult to tell whether you’re competitive or not, but at least the feeling was good in the car even though it’s early days. We had a tight test plan for the day, we got most of it done, I think we just missed one run. It’s going to be interesting to get Romain (Grosjean) in the car tomorrow and see what his feedback is with the set-up changes planned and the various things we throw at the car.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal: “It was a good day of testing today, we’ve completed a lot of laps – more than 100. We got through almost all of the program we had planned, we just missed out a little bit. We’ve gathered a lot of data and now we need to go through it. We’ll work through the next days to understand the car, then we try to go fast.”
Sergio Perez: “My first impressions of the new car are positive. Obviously, there’s still a long way to go with a lot of things we have to get on top of – but it’s definitely a promising start. We spent the morning learning about the car and did a lot of aero testing with a couple of quick laps. Putting mileage onto the car is really important, especially with a limited amount of testing days available, and we have already gathered good information for the engineers. Hopefully we can keep improving in the coming days.”
Lance Stroll: “I feel good but it’s still early days. We had a smooth afternoon and I completed over 200 kilometres of running without any problems. That’s the best way to start a test. It nice to be back behind the wheel again after the winter break. The first day of testing is all about getting comfortable and clocking up the laps on the car. There’s a lot of work ahead of us over the next couple of weeks – but there’s a good atmosphere in the garage after day one.” Tom McCullough, Performance Engineering Director: “As well as today being the first day of testing, it effectively acted as the shakedown of the RP20. We were up late last night preparing the car – but we managed to take to the track for our first installation laps more or less on time. I have to thank the crew in Barcelona and everybody back at base for their hard work. Today we focussed on completing systems checks and putting mileage on the car. Later on we also began the aero mapping. The feedback from Checo and Lance has been positive and there were no significant dramas during the day.”
Xevi Pujolar, Head of Track Engineering: “The first days of testing are not specifically about finding performance, but understanding the new car and the way it behaves. Our programme was tailored to these aims and we can be satisfied with our first day of work. 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 for the remainder of these two weeks.”
Robert Kubica: “As you can imagine, it has been a very special day for the team and also for myself, having worked with Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN for the first time on the track. Driving a new car, the new baby of the team, always represents a lot of emotions, but having a productive day is what really mattered. I think the session was quite smooth for us, although there are still many things to be tested. in the end, though, it has been a good start.”
Antonio Giovinazzi: “I’m happy the start of this season was a positive one. The first feeling with the car is quite good and I can’t wait to be behind the wheel again. We mostly did long runs, so we still need to see how the car behaves with less fuel and a softer compound, but the important thing is that we had no issues at all. Let’s see how we continue in the next few days.”
The 2020 Chinese Grand Prix could become a two-day event as the penultimate race of the season, according to a report from Autosport.
Removed from its original date of April 19 due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, F1 officials are still planning to go ahead with the race in-between the Brazilian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix.
The plan would see the Chinese GP take place on November 22 as part of a triple-header with Brazil and Abu Dhabi, with running reduced from three days to two in order to ease the logistical burden.
In contrast to the regular race-weekend schedule, Saturday would be designated as a free practice day before qualifying and the race both take place on Sunday.
However, the plan’s implementation hinges on the unanimous support of the ten teams, which could prove difficult to attain.
On a related note, organisers of the grand prix in nearby Vietnam reiterated on Tuesday that they expect their inaugural race to go forward as planned. Scheduled for April 5 in Hanoi, the absence of Shanghai two weeks after has left a nearly month-long gap in the calendar, with the next race being the Dutch GP at Zandvoort, on May 3.
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas topped the timing screens at the end of the first day of Formula 1 testing at Circuit de Catalunya Barcelona, as Mercedes fired the first warning to their rivals: they are on it from the word go!
Testing is largely meaningless as last year proved, but it does provide an indication of who is where at the end of the winter arms race, and it would be fair to say that the Mercedes W11 is a neat and rapid piece of kit which is hot out the box.
Hamilton, who earlier this week scooped the Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award, was in the car for the afternoon stint and ended the day on 1:16.976, which was three tenths up on his teammate Bottas on the morning shift. The World Champion did 94 laps in the afternoon and set his best time on the second hardest C2 Pirelli tyre.
The Finn topped the timing screens when he hopped out of the car at the lunch break, with 79 laps on his chart, and you would have to imagine the wick is nowhere fully turned up on the car at this point. Ominous from Mercedes. His best effort was set using the softer C3 rubber option on the very green track that greeted drivers when they were set loose.
In contrast, rivals Ferrari suffered an early blow to their plans when Sebastian Vettel reported in sick, did a photoshoot with fellow drivers on the start-finish straights before leaving the Spanish GFrand Prix venue to recover. Charles Leclerc was instead drafted in to start his duties sooner.
The Monegasque was 1.3 seconds off the pace in the Ferrari SF1000 as he racked up 131 laps during the course of his unexpected first day back at work as they say.
Closer to the Merc drivers was Sergio Perez, four-tenths shy of the top time, in the Racing Point with 79 laps to add to the 50 Lance Stroll added to the car during his stint. The Candian was a second slower than his teammate.
Remarkably the eight hours of track action did not feature a red flag stoppage, suggesting teams are really on top of the reliability in this final year of the turbo-hybrid formula as we know it.
Having said that, Max Verstappen tried hard to caus one but didn’t as he clearly relished his time in the Red Bull RB16, racking up a massive 168 laps, more than any of his colleagues on the day. A spin or two testament to a day tickling the edge with Adrian Newey’s latest creation.
The sweet-looking Alpha Tauri also showed handy pace with Daniil Kvyat ending fifth fastest with 151 laps to his credit.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz completed an impressive 1512 laps and was quickest of the three Renault powered drivers who were in action on today. The Spaniard was sixth fastest, 0.866 of a second shy of the top time.
A mere three-hundredths of a second adrift of Sainz was Daniel Ricciardo in the all-black Renault with 54 laps completed during his afternoon stanza in the team’s new car which broke cover in the pitlane before engines fired up for the business of the day. The Aussie was one of three drivers to set their best time on the harder C2 compound – Hamilton and Stroll the other two.
After a year on the sidelines, Esteban Ocon was back in the top flight and was given the honour of taking the RS20 out for the first stint in which he completed 62 laps and ended eighth. A couple of tenths separated the Renault-powered trio.
Big kudos to Williams for getting their car out on time in the wake of the memories from last year’s debacle. They sent a message by getting their lad George Russell out for the first run.
By the end of the day, their drivers combined to complete136 laps with Russell ninth fastest, 1.1 seconds shy of the top time – they were never that close all of last year! New boy Latifi was soon comfortable and went on to complete 63 laps an ended the day 12th.
The four Ferrari-powered drivers testing on the day hogged the bottom five positions on the final timesheets with Leclerc a tenth up on Alfa Romeo’s new test driver Robert Kubica who broke ion the team’s new car which broke cover earlier in the day before proceedings began. The Pole was 13th, ironically, slower than both the Williams drivers.
Antonio Giovinazzi took over the Alfa Romeo C39 in the afternoon. He completed 78 laps but was 3.1 seconds down on the top time; slowest of all on the day. Splitting the two Alfas on the timesheets was Kevin Magnussen in the Haas VF20.
It was a solid day for teams and drivers with the aforementioned impressive reliability resulting in more laps on the opening day of testing in recent memory.
An unwell Sebastian Vettel was relieved of his duties at Ferrari on Formula 1’s first day of pre-season testing in Spain on Wednesday.
The German, a four-time F1 world champion, had been given the honour of driving the new SF1000 first at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, with teammate Charles Leclerc not due in the car until Thursday.
“Change of plan: Seb not feeling great this morning so Charles is taking over driving duties for the day,” said a spokeswoman for the Italian team.
The test was the first opportunity to see all the new cars on track together and Vettel joined the other drivers in a photograph on the pit straight before the session started at 0800GMT.
Ferrari said he had then left the circuit.
Haas and Alfa Romeo teams had earlier pushed their Ferrari-powered cars out for a pitlane reveal of their new cars.
George Russell, in the Williams, was first out in a major improvement from last year when the team were unable to get a car to the track in time and eventually turned up three days late.
Robert Kubica, Russell’s departed 2019 teammate, returned to the track as Alfa Romeo’s reserve driver while Frenchman Esteban Ocon, who had a year out last year, was back for Renault.
The 2021 rules are little changed from last year but one difference was a new decree barring teams from hiding their cars behind screens in the garages, giving fans in the stands a better view.
After an hour and 45 minutes of the opening session, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas was top of the timesheets.
Bottas’s world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton is hoping to equal Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles this season.
The season starts in Australia on March 15, with only six days of testing before then.
Valtteri Bottas managed to ensure Mercedes picked up right where they left off last season, topping the timesheets in the first session of 2020 Formula 1 testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Leading the way with a time of 1:17.313 on the C3 tyre, the Finn was 0.062 seconds faster than the Racing Point of Sergio Perez (also C3), and 0.474s faster than the third-placed Red Bull of Max Verstappen, who was fitted with the slower C2.
A session with no significant incidents, all teams were able to rack-up decent mileage, with Verstappen leading the way as the first to complete a race distance (66 laps), and going on to complete a total of 91 before the session came to a close. Bottas was second-best with 78 laps, Daniil Kvyat and AlphaTauri had the least with 54.
The stars of testing last year, Ferrari endured a somewhat rocky start to their 2020 campaign, first with scheduled driver Sebastian Vettel forced to withdraw due to illness, and then with replacement Charles Leclerc stuck in the garage for an extended period of time. Ultimately, the Monegasque finished seventh-fastest, 0.976s off the pace, with 64 laps under his belt.
Adding to what looked like a clear reversal of fortunes from this time last year, Bottas’ efforts represented a marked improvement for the Silver Arrows, who were eight tenths quicker than the best time on day 1 in 2019, and almost three seconds faster than their team-best time on that day.
The other big improvement of the session was Williams, who after missing the first two days of testing 12 months ago, were able to complete 73 laps courtesy of George Russell. Additionally, Russell’s best time was good enough for sixth on the timesheets, and nine tenths better than his qualifying lap at the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix.
Elsewhere, McLaren and its engine-supplier Renault were only split by 0.003s, with the former’s Carlos Sainz ahead of the latter’s Esteban Ocon in fourth and fifth, respectively. Robert Kubica’s sole appearance this week saw him eighth for Alfa Romeo, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen finished ninth — his times not helped by an excursion onto the gravel during the final hour — and the aforementioned Kvyat brought up the rear, 1.171s behind the leader.
On 19 February 2007, Jacques Villeneuve, Formula 1 World Champion and now pundit, tried his hand as a muso and released his debut album, Private Paradise.
He reportedly wrote six of the 13 songs himself, one of which was about his father Gilles. He launched the album in his Montreal café. C
Stephen South is 67 today, and in F1 is best remembered for his appearance at the 1980 United States Grand Prix West standing in for McLaren’s Alain Prost who was injured, but the substitute failed to qualify. His career was abruptly ended later that year when he had a leg amputated after an accident during practice for a CanAm race at Circuit Trois-Rivières in Canada.
In 2004, Neel Jani became the first person to drive an F1 car in Bahrain when he took a Sauber for a spin on the streets of Manama. The inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix was held the same year and Jani’s stunt was aimed to fire up the majority of locals who were unfamiliar with the sport.
Last year we reported:
Testing was happening in Barcelona for the second day with Charles Leclerc taking over the Ferrari SF90 from teammate Sebastian Vettel. It was the Monaco Kid’s first outing as team’s second-youngest driver and ended the day fastest of all. And a sign of things to come.
Time went on to show that he did not disappoint and in fact, embodies the foreseeable future for Maranello as far as drivers go. He won for the first time in Red in front of Tifosi at the Italian Grand Prix which alone has etched his name among their greats and he has only just begun.
On the other side of the coin, Williams drivers George Russell and Robert Kubica spent another day watching the action as the Grove outfit’s season imploded before it even began. The only good news for them, on this day last year, was the truck was heading to Spain.
Up and down the pitlane there were a few changes, with Daniel Ricciardo slotting in at Renault while rookie Alex Albon began life in the top flight with an early spin as he took the Toro Rosso out for his first laps on day two.
Renault were flexing their muscles and topped the speed traps with their PU, with Mercedes and Ferrari keeping their powder dry. The reigning F1 World Champs notably subdued and showing very little.
Taken on Tuesday 20 February 1979 on the first afternoon of that year’s Kyalami Formula 1 test, this image appeared on page 3 of the next morning’s Rand Daily Mail.
This was the first time anyone had ever seen the 312 T4, seconds after it rolled out of a closed trailer after being flown straight from Rome to Johannesburg on an Alitalia 747 en route to Kyalami.
This photo was taken behind the pits (that’s the concrete wall adjoining the Dunlop bridge) before we pushed it up to the box under the control tower. They had been running a T3 that morning while they waited for this car to arrive – Jody then tested this car from the Wednesday, while Gilles carried on with the T3 before his T4 arrived over the weekend.
This picture captures the essence of those days so brilliantly — the team lads are protecting the skirt on the right of the car and that’s me on the left rear tyre (far right of the pic). Behind the car looking on from left to right, some proper South African Legends, are Ben Morgenrood in the check-shirt and George Fouche is the school kid, then behind the roll hoop in the blue shirt and dark tie is Jack Nucci and the dude behind him in the short pants, hands on hips is John Love and the guy next right (tan shirt, dark pants, arms folded) is Wayne Taylor!
When I got back to technikon on the Monday two weeks anon and presented my doctor’s note, the lecturer took this edition of the newspaper out, turned to the photo and asked me what the fuck!
For the first time in the 20-year history of the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards, the Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award was given to two sporting greats – Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and footballer Lionel Messi.
Both athletes received the same number of votes from the jury and thus both of them were awarded the prestigious trophy.
The award was given out for their achievements in 2019, a year in which Lewis won his sixth Formula One Drivers’ World Championship and Lionel was awarded the Best FIFA Men’s Player. Both athletes played an important role in the success of their respective teams as well, with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team claiming its sixth consecutive Constructors’ World Championship in 2019 and the FC Barcelona winning the Spanish league title and making it to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Lewis and Lionel were nominated alongside runner Eliud Kipchoge, the first athlete to ever complete a marathon in under two hours, six-time Moto GP Champion Marc Marquez, golfer Tiger Woods, who won his 82nd PGA Tour last year, and tennis player Rafael Nadal, who won his 19th Grand Slam in 2019.
“Wow, this is such an incredible honour,” said Lewis upon receiving the award. “I grew up in a sport that has really given my life meaning and I’m so grateful for what it’s provided me. But I’ve also grown up in a sport that has very little to no diversity. That’s an issue that we’re continuously facing, and I think it’s all of our responsibility to use our platform for that, to keep pushing for gender equality, for inclusivity and making sure that we are engaging and trying to represent where the world is today.
“I want to say a big, big thank you to Mercedes-Benz who have always been such a huge supporter. They signed me when I was 13 and I’m so grateful for them for giving a young thirteen-year-old the opportunity to live his dream. I also want to acknowledge Laureus for all the incredible work they do around the world and for changing people’s lives and for giving people hope – please continue to do so. Thank you very much!”
The World Champ took time out to pose with fellow World Champs from the South African ruugby team which scooped the Team of the Year Award.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team was one of six teams nominated for the World Team of the Year Award. It was the sixth nomination for the Mercedes works team; in 2018, the team won the award.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team was nominated alongside five legendary teams – Liverpool FC, Toronto Raptors, the US Women’s Football Team, the Spanish Men’s Basketball Team and the South African Rugby Union Team who took the accolade.
Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has expressed his confidence heading into the 2020 Formula 1 season, expecting his team to compete for the world championship.
The Austrian energy drinks mogul, who is celebrating 16 years in the sport in 2020, is playing a very upbeat tune after getting his hands on the offseason data.
“Compared to previous years, we clearly have the highest expectations this year,” he told Speedweek. “All the data from the computer and the wind tunnel is better than last year and we are confident that this will be reflected on the track. That means we can hope to compete for the world championship.”
Long considered to have one of the best chassis on the grid with Adrian Newey in the designer’s chair, the V6 hybrid turbo era has seen Red Bull unable to compete with front-runners Mercedes on engine performance or reliability. Now with his team entering its second year with Honda, Mateschitz expects those problems to be a thing of the past.
“Our engine partner Honda did an excellent job in the winter. We managed kilometres on the test stand like never before — about 5000 without any problems. The engine enables us to compete at the front in terms of performance and reliability,” he said.
As to the question of his company’s continued involvement in the sport past 2020, Mateschitz says he expects to be around for a long time to come, even if he is yet to put pen to paper.
“It’s just a matter of writing the details. I don’t expect any problems. There’s no time pressure. We’ve driven a period without a base contract before. But everything is ready to be signed.”
Similarly, he expects the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg to keep its place on the F1 calendar.
“A project like this is intended to be long-term. Last year we extended MotoGP by five years. Chase Carey is happy to be with us and wants to continue the Austrian GP. So it will not be a big problem to extend.”
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto is talking up his troops ahead of Formula 1 pre-season testing starting in Barcelona tomorrow while remaining coy on prospects for the season ahead based on the youth of his team.
Speaking with presenter Fabio Fazio where he and driver Sebastian Vettel were guests on Italian television show Che Tempo Che Fa, while Charles Leclerc joined via satellite link from Monaco after his flight was canceled due to Storm Dennis, Binotto made no bones about his men.
“It is a fact that Leclerc and Vettel are the best driver combination on the grid,” Binotto pointed out: “I am convinced that they are the best couple in Formula 1 — Seb does not need any introduction and Charles is a boy born in our Ferrari Driver Academy nursery, from where we trust he will lead other young drivers into F1.”
Responding to recent Italian press hysteria around development issues prior to the launch of the team’s new SF1000, Binotto admitted, “It is wrong to predict performance — last year we started the F1 tests thinking we were very strong, but then we took a cold shower in Australia and we only recovered later in the season.
“People need to remember that we are still a young team and that we are trying to build, I think the team still has to grow and that there are lessons to be learned from the past. “The important thing is to grow — winning cycles take time to become successful and we must not forget that. “Formula 1 is also very competitive right now, I don’t think the competition has ever been so strong.”
Moving on, Binotto picked on Leclerc for his unauthorised and contentious parachute jump during the off-season. “I told you we have the best couple, but the even the best couple sometimes makes you sweat — that guy jumped in parachute,” Binotto explained gesticulating toward the screen showing Leclerc. “Have I forgiven him? “Actually no — he will never do that again — he has said as much and I hope he understands that!”
Vettel pointed out that he had parachuted before: “The only mistake Charles made was not to invite Mattia to jump with him!” the German joked. “I’ve parachuted before, before I joined Ferrari, so if it went wrong I wouldn’t have been there anyway and also because I know they’d get angry. “I went, I had fun, I just did it once.”
Parachutes are however Binotto’s last concern about his best couple right now — both real racers, lessons learned from the past have already very well proven that neither Vettel nor Leclerc will stand back in battle — even to the detriment of the team. So it remains to be seen if Ferrari can control its best couple on track in one of a few major tests facing Binotto and his young group of men in red through the season ahead…
Ryan Newman flipped across the finish line, his Ford planted upside down and engulfed in flames, a grim reminder of a sport steeped in danger that has stretched nearly two decades without a fatality.
At the finish line, Denny Hamlin made history with a second straight Daytona 500 victory in an overtime photo finish over Ryan Blaney, a celebration that quickly became muted as word of Newman’s wreck spread.
“I think we take for granted sometimes how safe the cars are,” Hamlin said. “But number one, we are praying for Ryan.”
Roughly two hours after the crash, NASCAR read a statement from Roush Fenway Racing that said Newman is in “serious condition, but doctors have indicated his injuries are not life-threatening.”
NASCAR scrapped the traditional victory lane party for Hamlin’s third Daytona 500 victory, rocked by Newman’s accident 19 years after Dale Earnhardt was killed on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Earnhardt was the last driver killed in a NASCAR Cup Series race.
Newman had surged into the lead on the final lap when Blaney’s bumper caught the back of his Ford and sent Newman hard right into the wall. His car flipped, rolled, was hit on the driver’s side by another car, and finally skidded across the finish line in flames.
It took several minutes for his car to be rolled back onto its wheels. The 2008 Daytona 500 winner was placed in a waiting ambulance and taken directly to a hospital, and the damage to his Mustang was extensive. It appeared the entire roll cage designed to protect his head had caved.
Drivers were stricken with concern, including a rattled Corey LaJoie, the driver who hit Newman’s car as it was flipping.
“Dang I hope Newman is ok,” he posted on Twitter. “That is worst case scenerio and I had nowhere to go but (into) smoke.”
Hamlin is the first driver since Sterling Marlin in 1995 to win consecutive Daytona 500s, but his celebration in victory lane was subdued.
Hamlin said he was unaware of Newman’s situation when he initially began his celebration. It wasn’t until Fox Sports told him they would not interview him on the frontstretch after his burnouts that Hamlin learned Newman’s incident was bad.
“It’s a weird balance of excitement and happiness for yourself, but someone’s health and their family is bigger than any win in any sport,” he said. “We are just hoping for the best.”
Team owner Joe Gibbs apologized after the race for the winning team celebration.
“We didn’t know until victory lane,” Gibbs said. “I know that for a lot of us, participating in sports and being in things where there are some risks, in a way, that’s what they get excited about. Racing, we know what can happen, we just dream it doesn’t happen. We are all just praying now for the outcome on this.”
Runner-up Blaney said the way the final lap shook out, with Newman surging ahead of Hamlin, that Blaney got a push from Hamlin that locked him in behind Newman in a move of brand alliance for Ford.
“We pushed Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from the 11 … I was committed to just pushing him to the win and having a Ford win it and got the bumpers hooked up wrong,” he said. “It looked bad.”
Hamlin had eight Ford drivers lined up behind him as the leader on the second overtime shootout without a single fellow Toyota driver in the vicinity to help him. It allowed Newman to get past him for the lead, but the bumping in the pack led to Newman’s hard turn right into the wall, followed by multiple rolls and a long skid across the finish line.
Hamlin’s win last year was a 1-2-3 sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing and kicked off a yearlong company celebration in which Gibbs drivers won a record 19 races and the Cup championship. Now his third Daytona 500 win puts him alongside six Hall of Fame drivers as winners of three or more Daytona 500s. He tied Dale Jarrett — who gave JGR its first Daytona 500 win in 1993 — Jeff Gordon and Bobby Allison. Hamlin trails Cale Yarborough’s four wins and the record seven by Richard Petty.
This victory came after just the second rain postponement in 62 years, a visit from President Donald Trump, a pair of red flag stoppages and two overtimes. The 0.014 margin of victory was the second closest in race history, and Hamlin’s win over Martin Truex Jr. in 2016 was the closest finish in race history.
That margin of victory was 0.01 seconds. The win in “The Great American Race” is the third for Toyota, all won by Hamlin. Gibbs has four Daytona 500 victories as an owner.
“I just feel like I’m a student to the game. I never stop learning and trying to figure out where I need to put myself at the right time,” Hamlin said. “It doesn’t always work. We’ve defied odds here in the last eight years or so in the Daytona 500, but just trust my instincts, and so far they’ve been good for me.”
The Racing Point Formula One team will start the season with a water company as new title sponsor but podium champagne the target.
“I predict that before the race they will both be drinking water,” team principal Otmar Szafnauer said of drivers Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez at the launch of the new, and still very pink, RP20 car at water technology company BWT’s Austrian headquarters.
“And after the race this year both of them will be on the podium at least once drinking the champagne.”
BWT have pledged to donate a well in Gambia for every race at which the team scores a point. They scored in 14 of the 21 last season.
“We’ve got to get both drivers in the points at every race,” said Szafnauer.
“This year we want to be a strong fourth, we want to be closer to the top three than we’ve ever been in the past and we want to be the top of the midfield.”
Canadian Stroll, son of team owner Lawrence, and Mexican Perez make up an unchanged line-up — the latter starting his seventh year with the team — and both have experience of the podium.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and the Toro Rosso pair of Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat all made the top three last season in a championship dominated by Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
In 2018, in Azerbaijan, Perez was the only driver from outside the top three teams to stand on the podium.
Racing Point will become the Aston Martin works team next year, when major rules changes also come into force, after Stroll senior agreed in January to buy up to 20% of the British sportscar maker.
Szafnauer accepted Racing Point faced tough rivals, with resurgent McLaren finishing fourth last year ahead of the works Renault team and Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso.
“A long time ago in America somebody told me that you can’t get busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger. So that’s what we felt like,” he said of pre-season preparations. “It was the busiest winter.”
Spares, he added, would be somewhat limited for the opener in Australia on March 15 but that was more a sign of development being pushed as late as possible rather than any problems.
“I’m confident with the work we’ve done over the winter on the new car and the work Mercedes has done on the powertrain… we’ll have a good chance to hit our targets for the Formula One team as well as the wells in Gambia,” said Szafnauer.
Lewis Hamilton has been declared the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year alongside Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, after the first tied vote in the awards’ 20-year history.
Mercedes driver Hamilton won his sixth world championship in 2019, with 11 race wins and 17 podium finishes, while Messi was crowned the world’s best player for a record sixth time when he won the Ballon d’Or.
American gymnast Simone Biles, who became the most decorated gymnast in world championship history when she won her 25th medal last year, won her third Sportswoman of the Year gong after winning the award in 2017 and 2019.
The South African rugby team, which won the World Cup in Japan last year for the third time in history, were crowned the Team of the Year, beating European soccer champions Liverpool and women’s soccer World Cup winners United States.
German NBA star Dirk Nowitzki, who retired last year after a 21-year career in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks, was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to basketball.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Basketball Federation was recognised with the Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award after the men’s World Cup triumph last year while the women have won three of the last four EuroBasket titles.
German Formula Three driver Sophia Floersch, who fractured her spine in an aerial crash at the Macau Grand Prix in Nov. 2018 that required an 11-hour surgery to fix, made the Comeback of the Year after getting back into the cockpit last year.
Former Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar, the highest run scorer of all time in international cricket, had the support of a cricket-crazy nation to win a fan vote for the award for the best Sporting Moment from the last two decades.
In his sixth and final one-day international World Cup in 2011, Tendulkar finally got his hands on the title as India won on home soil and he was carried on his team mates’ shoulders for a lap of honour.
List of winners:
Sportsman of the Year: Lewis Hamilton and Lionel Messi
Sportswoman of the Year: Simone Biles
Team of the Year: South Africa Men’s Rugby Team
Breakthrough of the Year: Egan Bernal
Comeback of the Year: Sophia Floersch
Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Oksana Masters
Action Sportsperson of the Year: Chloe Kim
Best Sporting Moment: ‘Carried on the shoulders of a nation’ – Sachin Tendulkar
Lifetime Achievement Award: Dirk Nowitzki
Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award: Spanish Basketball Federation
Imola could be making an unexpected return to the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship calendar after circuit director Roberto Marazzi confirmed that they have sent an application to replace Chinese Grand Prix.
The race in Shanghai, scheduled for 19 April has had to be scrapped amid the spreading novel coronavirus that is playing havoc in the region.
Marazzi told RacingNews 365, “We have submitted an application to the FIA and F1 organization to replace the Chinese Grand Prix. We have not yet received a response to this, but I expect it will be difficult to arrange everything.”
Imola hosted the Italian Grand Prix in 1989 which became the San Marino Grand Prix the following year, when Monza returned to the fold.
The 1994 edition of the race proved to be one of the darkest three days in F1 history when first Rubens Barrichello was lucky to walk away from a terrifying accident. In qualifying, Roland Ratzenberger was killed when his Simtek slammed the wall at high speed.
The next day Ayrton Senna died when the steering column on his Williams appeared to snap, spearing the car into the wall and killing the Brazilian instantly.
The last Grand Prix held at Imola was in 2006 which Michael Schumacher won for Ferrari, with Fernando Alonso second in his Renault and McLaren’s Juan-Pablo Montoya third.
Racing Point revealed their 2020 challenger the RP 20 – on Monday and it is still pink! But gone is betting partner SportPesa as title sponsor replaced by BWT, whose logo now features prominently on the distinctive pink livery.
Ahead of Formula 1’s landmark 70th anniversary season, Racing Point F1 Team is delighted to announce an expansion of its long-standing partnership with Austrian water technology specialist, BWT – Best Water Technology.
Having turned heads with the world’s first pink Formula 1 car in 2017 and building upon three successful seasons as Principal Sponsor, BWT and Racing Point have expanded their relationship so that the team will be known as “BWT Racing Point F1 Team”
As unveiled to assembled media and guests today at the home of BWT in Mondsee, Austria, the team’s distinctive pink livery – a firm favourite amongst racing fans across the globe – will remain, with BWT branding featuring even more prominently on the team’s new car, the RP20.
A Fitting Tribute
Situated on the scenic shores of Lake Mondsee, BWT’s Austrian Headquarters provided the perfect backdrop for the announcement of a collaboration built on technological advancement and sustainability.
Race drivers Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez were joined by CEO & Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer and Sporting Director Andy Stevenson, as the partnership was formally launched ahead of pre-season testing in Barcelona later this week.
Media assets from today’s event – including rights-free high-resolution imagery, video footage, and the team’s 2020 press pack – will be available later this afternoon. A media alert containing download links will be circulated as soon as this material becomes available.
A Shared Objective
BWT has long been committed to the reduction of plastics through the adoption of reusable vessels and recyclable filters to reduce waste and pollution in the modern world.
With this objective more sharply in focus than ever before, BWT will continue to support the team in its push to achieve sustainability targets, including cutting down on single-use plastics.
BWT’s innovative technology and outstanding know-how has had an incredibly positive impact on reducing CO2 emissions compared to single-use plastic bottled water. Guests visiting the team’s trackside hospitality buildings to refill their reusable bottles with locally produced – great tasting – BWT Magnesium Mineralized Water will enjoy a first class taste experience combined with a convenient way of drinking.
A Few Words
Otmar Szafnauer, CEO & Team Principal, BWT Racing Point F1 Team: “Since 2017, we have thoroughly enjoyed building a successful partnership with BWT and we’re delighted to be celebrating our fourth year together by welcoming them as our Title Partner. This expanded collaboration truly reflects the loyalty, commitment and energy that they bring to the Racing Point family. I’m pleased we could launch our season here in Mondsee at the home of BWT and shine a spotlight on the valuable work being done by BWT to drive sustainability. We have enjoyed many memorable moments both on and off track already and we now look forward to adding more in the 2020 season.”
Andreas Weißenbacher, CEO of BWT: “Over the past three years we have brought our distinctive pink colour into Formula 1 and built a very strong relationship with Racing Point. We are committed to helping this team achieve its objectives and this is why we have chosen to increase our support by becoming title partner. Working together in this way we believe the team can be much more competitive on the track in 2020. We will also support the team’s push to become more sustainable. Together we will cut down the use of disposable bottles at the track, minimise plastic waste and facilitate the local treatment and consumption of water.”
As seems to be the norm in Formula 1 2020, with the current rule set coming to an end after this season, the teams have not delivered any overly radical changes to the 2020 machinery revealed thus far.
It appears that the need for a long-term planning for next year’s radical new aero and tyre era has indeed sapped up some of the resources normally applied to a regular new car, so, like Ferrari’s evolutionary SF1000, Red Bull’s 2020 RB16 F1 challenger is a refined version of last year’s car rather than a radical move in a new direction.
But don’t be fooled — it is also clear that Adrian Newey and the Red Bull lot have put a significant effort into their 2020 car — there are more than enough detail changes, which combined, should keep the Honda-powered machine right at the sharp end of the F1 grid.
Remembering that Max Verstappen ended last season with triple podiums including that Brazilian GP win to score the most points of all drivers over those three races, this team appears set to enter the new year right on the front foot.
To that end, while the RB16 may seem to start off as a refinement of the best package of the latter 2029 season, there is indeed more than what may at first meet the eye. Starting from the front, on closer inspection the new car’s neat nose already represents some fresh thinking — narrower than before but not quite as narrow and Mercedes and now McLaren’s needle noses, its leading edge is interesting with a mini splitter below quad ducts in a slicker, tighter packaged solution within that blackened technical area.
From there, a pair of shrouded vanes under the nose direct the airflow downward and inward in preparation of its rearward journey, while albeit re-profiled NACA ducts remain to feed a more aggressive S-duct that appears to reintroduce an older RB concept in how it scavenges lower airflow up behind the nose to the upper surface of the car. The S-duct exits between a couple of cute winglets that separate flow rising up the nose, back down the sides.
Like Ferrari, Red Bull has also spent much effort in better packaging its front suspension elements to better cooperate with the general airflow around them, while re-thought camera mounts now appear to perform a better aerodynamic purpose too.
That primed under-nose air is greeted by a subtly revised set of barge boards, splitters and similar elements as it moves down and backward under the raised nose, to separate the flow and split it up before the air runs under, and wraps around the sides of the car.
The Red Bull appears to retain a radical rake angle — or the manner in which the front of the chassis sits low and the rear higher, while much attention has clearly gone into the packaging of the RB16’s flanks. Its tighter-lined side pods now feature even smaller inlets sitting behind a lower-placed postbox slot and atop a rearward-biased undercut.
While slimmer, the side pods retain more bulbous overall contours versus the Ferrari’s flatter-faced bottom side treatment and the Red Bull’s Coke bottled flanks are also even more radically waisted toward the rear. The pods taper sharper inward and downward, clearly in search of even better aero efficiency.
Work has also gone into raising the RB16’s more exposed lower rear suspension wishbones, which sit up at a similar height to the now aero-shrouded driveshafts to allow both those vital mechanical components to better work together in an aerodynamic sense and further ease and manage rearward flow as they also best exploit the outer floor and diffuser.
The upper wishbones likewise shift up in sympathy with the dual needs of the raised lower arms and optimal suspension geometry, all of which brings the rear winglets, fence and brake ducts deeper into a more enveloping and efficient airflow.
That flow is joined by the product of a lowered rear cooling outlet at the back of the car, shifted downward most likely in an effort to better accommodate the raised rear suspension within the overall aero package, while the otherwise uncomplicated rear wing features a curvy double endplate design. Moving back forward, work has also gone into managing upper airflow around the halo, over to the familiar snorkel and over engine cover.
Of course, what was shown at launch and in the shake-down is not necessarily what will roll out of the closely guarded Barcelona Red Bull pit box on Wednesday morning, let alone what sits on the grid in Aussie in a few weeks time, but the basic Red Bull package is indeed an interesting one at this stage. Good enough for Max to seem so smug? Well, that remains to be seen — roll on 2020!
The Australian Grand Prix’s Albert Park street circuit could undergo significant changes before the 2021 edition, according to officials.
A race that in 2020, will celebrate ten straight years as the opening round of the Formula 1 season, Albert Park has long been criticised for its tendency to create processional races, but that could soon be a thing of the past.
Currently planning a resurfacing of the track in the next two years, Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott has revealed that alterations to the layout are under serious consideration.
“In the next year or two we will be resurfacing,” he revealed to Autosport.
“We are having dialogue with Formula 1 about how we evolve the track to make sure the changes that have occurred in the cars since 1996 are reflected in changes or adjustments to the track.
“Whether that be widening in some areas, whether that be camber in some areas, or other aspects. That’s all work in progress.
“We’ll probably know, realistically, at event time more about timelines and when the works are likely to happen – whether it will be in the next 12 months or the next 24 months.”
First opened in 1996, F1 has changed considerably in the time Albert Park has been on the calendar, and now Westacott promises the AGPC is considering a wide range of modifications.
“There’s no doubt the cars have evolved and changed from 1996 to 2020, and they’re certainly going to change again in 2021,” he said.
“Now what we can do is, if we’re going to make a change, look at everything.
“The sorts of things we’re looking at are asphalt mix and its impact on tyre degradation, we’re looking at turns and whether they can be adjusted.
“But we don’t want to diminish the character of the circuit, and we need to take into account that there’s a lake, and there’s playing fields, and there’s massive revenues at, for example, Turns 1 and 2 and Turns 15 and 16.
“So you can’t just go doing greenfield-style changes where you’ve got existing geography and topography and so on.
“It’s not as if we’ll be doing Zandvoort-style banking or anything like that, I can promise that.
“What we are doing is looking at all the different inputs, from speed limits in pitlane, to widths, to asphalt abrasiveness, and we’re in active dialogue with Formula 1 about those.”
Changes that are sure to be welcomed by most, if not all, of the paddock, the Australian GP has seen the winner come from the front row of the grid at six out of the last nine races.