Valtteri Bottas was fastest on the final day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. The Finn set a 16.1 during his seventy-nine laps to put himself seven hundredths faster than the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
Mercedes ended testing as the team to beat, they have proved to be reliable and have the speed when we get to Melbourne to be the team to beat. However, the field was close with less than half a second between the top seven cars.
Bottas’s fastest lap came during the closing stages of the running, he switched to the C5 tyres mid-afternoon going five-hundredths faster than Daniel Ricciardo. He then also used the softest compound to go ahead of the Renault.
Verstappen was next to improve, moving up to second and looked as if he had the chance to go fastest. However, on his final run on a new set of C4 tyres ultimately came to nought, leaving Bottas with the bragging rights.
It appeared as if Verstappen could have gone faster still when he was on a quicker lap at the end of the day, but slowed down in the final part of the circuit. But the 15.7 set last Friday by Bottas remains the fastest time of the winter.
Ricciardo’s time from the morning was good enough to preserve third overall. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fourth fastest managing a hundred and eighty-one laps, just shy of three race distances at the Barcelona circuit, going two-hundredths faster than Lewis Hamilton.
The six-time champion drove during the morning session, managing ninety laps and finishing two tenths down. Hamilton fished the day two tenths faster than the Renault of Esteban Ocon. But he admitted there are reliability concerns for Mercedes to work on before flying to Melbourne.
Headline lap times in testing are notoriously unreliable guides to actual competitiveness because teams do not reveal the specifications in which they are running their cars, and fuel loads and engine settings can make a significant difference to performance.
After an unconvincing first five days of testing, Ferrari finally showed some pace, on both short runs and long, as Leclerc added a strong race-simulation run in the afternoon to his improved one-lap pace.
Hamilton said he was satisfied with his preparations for the season, but was concerned about the reliability problems with engines Mercedes had suffered.
Saying, “We’ve had a good winter test. It’s not been perfect and we’ve found that we’ve got plenty of problems that we are trying to iron out. I don’t know how long it will take to iron out but that’s never a bad thing necessarily to discover them through testing.”
On the final day, Ferrari started to show a bit of its hand, on both short runs and long, as Leclerc added a strong race-simulation run in the afternoon to his improved one-lap pace.
It is still the Italian teams believe that they are weaker and behind main rivals Mercedes and Red Bull at this stage. Team Principal Mattia Binotto said, “We are certainly not the fastest car during winter testing. Our main competitors are faster but it is only the start of a long season. There will be time to address development where we are weak.”
Although testing is unreliable for giving an actual understanding of competitiveness, it is believed that Mercedes remain the team to beat. The teams do not reveal the specifications in which they are running their cars, and fuel loads and engine settings can make a significant difference to performance.
If the times are accurate, it could make for a very competitive qualifying session in Melbourne as the top four teams were covered by just a tenth and a half.
None of the times came close to the 15.7 that Bottas managed last Friday, while Red Bull look to be Mercedes biggest threat. Ferrari may be better on the race runs, Leclerc showing consistent speed on his afternoon race run. The 22-year-old also topped the day’s mileage chart with a mammoth 181 laps.
Sergio Perez was seventh fastest ahead of Carlos Sainz but almost two tenths, but for both the Racing Point and the McLaren the afternoon focused on the long runs both doing over a hundred and fifty laps. George Russell was ninth fastest for Williams, seven tenths off.
The Englishman’s day was focused on conducting aero work for Williams, and trialled new bodywork. Romain Grosjean was eleventh fastest three tenths ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
Kevin Magnussen spent most of the afternoon stranded in the garage with apparent clutch issues but returned for the final half-hour of running. The Haas driver set a 17.4 on the C4 tyre going thirteenth fastest and three tenths ahead of Alex Albon.
Albon went off at Banc de Sabatall during his morning session.
- BARCELONA TEST DAY FIVE – Ferrari top times by two tenths as Mercedes hits trouble
- BARCELONA TEST DAY FOUR – Robert Kubica sets the pace as teams focus on mileage
- F1 Today – Mid Test Review – 24/02/2020
- BARCELONA TEST DAY THREE – Mercedes top the times admit DAS row
- Barcelona Test Day Two – Kimi Raikkonen tops the times by two and a half tenths
- Barcelona Test Day One – Mercedes start the season fastest by almost four-tenths
- F1 Today – Barcelona Testing Prixview – 18/02/202
- Prixview – Barcelona Testing