With the best time and a find that surprised the competition, Mercedes, six-time defender of the drivers ‘and constructors’ titles, came out without much surprise favorite of the winter tests of Formula 1, despite the laps played by its engine.
“On the whole, these tests were good but not perfect,” admitted six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who can this year record the world’s seven crowns, after the sixth and final day on Friday. ‘German Michael Schumacher.
“We have had a lot of problems that we are trying to solve,” he admits, while the German team and its client Williams have repeatedly changed their powertrain following failures.
These few disappointments did not, in any case, prevent Mercedes from completing the most laps (903), ahead of Ferrari (844) and McLaren (802).
Above all, on the psychological level, the Silver Arrows hit hard by introducing a revolutionary system, the “DAS” (dual-axis steering), which allows the pilot to directly modify the spacing of the front wheels of his car by pulling or pushing his steering wheel.
Impossible to measure the benefits at the moment, but as Renault Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo from Australia points out, after six years of unrelenting domination, “Mercedes is always the one to compete, not the other way around.”
– Ferrari “not fast enough” –
Info or intox? The other two advanced teams also present the German team as a favorite.
“Their form is good and it is better to have concerns during the tests than in the race,” remarks Christian Horner, the boss of Red Bull, himself “generally quite satisfied” with his tests.
At Ferrari – the only + team + not to have beaten their times of 2019 on the same circuit -, the tone is humble. In contrast to the tests dominated last year before a sudden return to reality at the first Grand Prix in Melbourne.
“We are not hiding,” claims the main team Mattia Binotto. “We are not yet fast enough to hope to win in Australia (March 15, editor’s note). But the season is long: we will have the opportunity to improve and be ready to win”, he said without a however advance date.
In addition, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) announced Friday an “agreement” with Ferrari following “a thorough technical investigation” on the operation of its powertrains.
The latter comes when several Scuderia rivals expressed doubts last year about the legality of Italian engines.
“The details of this agreement will remain between the parties,” it said in a statement. We still learn that “the FIA and Scuderia Ferrari have made a number of technical commitments that will improve the monitoring of all powertrains in Formula 1.”
– Promising Racing Point –
What if, in addition, a surprise guest jostled the Scuderia? Very close to the triumphant Mercedes of 2019, the Racing Point is promising, placing just behind the Renault in terms of time and fourth in the number of laps completed.
Technical director Andrew Green, who claims to have been inspired by the aerodynamic choices of his engine manufacturer last year, is not ready to open the bets but does not hide being “very satisfied with where we are”.
Apart from the jump achieved by the roses, seventh in 2019 after having passed very close to bankruptcy in 2018, the balance of forces hardly seems to have changed behind the three “top teams”.
Renault and McLaren seem a little closer to each other, ahead of AlphaTauri (ex-Toro Rosso), Alfa Romeo and Haas, who completed the fewest laps (649). Leaving from far away last February, Williams, finally, continues to progress.
The first Grand Prix in Australia will confirm or reverse these trends if the evolution of the coronavirus epidemic allows it.
For now, only the Chinese GP, originally scheduled for April 19, has been postponed to a date yet to be determined. The first three meetings, in Australia, Bahrain, and Vietnam, remain on the program.
Ferrari – which is based in the areas of northern Italy from where the virus has spread to Europe – requires assurances that its staff will be able to move freely before flying to Melbourne late next week.