After a two month break, the countdown to the 2020 season begins at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya for six days of testing. Barcelona is a place the drivers know very well with testing traditionally taking place, they have been putting in the laps here since it first held the Spanish Grand Prix in 1992.
Barcelona is normally the ideal testing location, it’s warmish and there is little chance of snow. However last year a day of running was lost due to snow, but that is a very rare occurrence. The teams like Barcelona because it has a variety of corners and straights giving them an idea of where they are in the pecking order.
Although teams won’t be focusing on overtaking Barcelona can be one of the more difficult circuits to overtake. But its unlikely that drivers will focus on the outright speed, but Ferrari tends to go for outright speed while Mercedes focus on the mileage. As we have seen over the course of a season Mercedes focus on mileage as it tests reliability and arguably the foundations of their seven world titles.
The thing I will be watching this year, is whether Ferrari switch to just doing mileage in the first six days and then going for speed which Mercedes have done in recent years. Mercedes have proven that until we get to the last day and even until Qualifying in Melbourne you can’t understand where the teams are.
The question however do the top teams continue where they left off at the end of 2019 being able to perform at the same level. Red Bull was a really good example of that coming into the middle of last season, we saw their performance match that of the Mercedes.
Arguably the stability in the regulations mean in the long term you need to say Mercedes remain in front. They have won every race in Barcelona since 2014, excluding the infamous 2016 race, but the mileage is key. You need to be careful not to read too much into the times. Also, there is no third test in May, that means we will have to compare progress since pre-season to qualifying.
For the drivers it’s a chance to understand the new cars, as well as to get back into that feeling of driving again. Remember these cars are built from new every year, so while the regulations it doesn’t mean always that the teams will have the exact s
Barcelona testing has been reduced by two days and the May test isn’t happening either, does this encourage the teams to do more running. We know Mercedes often cover two race distances a day roughly, we see that pay off later in the year. Although the times are a hint of the order, they are a bit unreliable, you need to compare the first and final days to work out the average.
Testing is harder to understand what the teams are doing, you need to have logical guesswork. Normally teams will try to do qualifying and race runs between 15:00-17:00, as that’s the warmest time of day and the time they will qualify in May.
Watch the cars carefully, I find you can learn about the handling and speed through braking zones by the language of the cars and how easy the driveability of the cars are. You need to also watch certain drivers tell how the cars are, like the Lewis Hamilton’s, Max Verstappen’s etc.
Facts and figures
|Test||Formula 1 Pre-Season Testing 2020|
|Venue||Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Montmeló, Catalonia, Spain|
|Circuit Length||4.655KM (2.892 mi)|
|Lap record||01:18.441 (official, Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer, 2018)|
- The circuit is renowned as a true test of a car’s aerodynamic efficiency due to its mixture of corners. With a massive pit straight, long, high-speed corners such as Turn 3 and plenty of medium-speed turns, there is plenty for the drivers to sink their teeth into in Spain
- In the ten-year period from 2007-2016, the Spanish Grand Prix was won by ten different drivers! Lewis Hamilton has the most wins of the current drivers on the grid with four (2014, 2017-19).
- Michael Schumacher’s first win for Ferrari came here in 1996, which coincidentally was the last Spanish Grand Prix to be affected by rain
- Barcelona is a favoured F1 testing venue because it challenges every part of car design. The track configuration tests front and rear grip, across long and short corners, with a range of cornering speeds from the very fast Turn Three, all the way through to the low-speed final chicane
Driver line up
|Day One||Day Two||Day Three|
|Day One||Day Two||Day Three|
What we will be looking for
The first thing we will not look at is who is fastest, its about how the cars handle and the point where they reach the limit. The teams want to find every little problem, but for us and them they need to work methodical and priorities. Its like a Friday every day, but without time limits. Teams, however, look to be on track in the dry and warm conditions, but this isn’t always guaranteed as we saw two years ago.
You need to wonder if Ferrari have decided to change the failed strategy, they have used of going for outright speed in recent years and not mileage. We have been hyped up in recent years by Ferrari, but we shouldn’t read to much into this. I always compare the first and last day, as well as Friday practice in Melbourne for an idea.
I think we should bear in mind that mileage can be very important, the idea is to find out where the cars work and break. I find the final sector of the lap the most interesting as it tells you how good the drivers are on the brakes and handling. The circuit has very different sectors.
What to watch for?
Barcelona layout is good for testing as it has a variety of corners and straights, I always enjoy watching the final day to compare how much progress the teams are making. We know that it is about developing the cars, looking how quickly teams find and fix the problems which are likely to arise.
Race runs and qualifying runs are likely to be done mid afternoon, this will be cooler than in May but the warmest time of day. This will not mean that all race runs will be done, Mercedes traditionally build a reliable car and Ferrari the fastest car. Often, over the season it’s the reliability which pays off. Red Bull’s issue in recent years have been they have been slow out the box, taking until at least the race weekend in May.
Ferrari’s weakness I feel in recent years has been going for speed over reliability. Do they change tack and go for the Mercedes route? I think this will be telling as to the form guide. The midfield has been close in recent years and its tended to start in testing, but how big is the gap between the midfield and top teams is.
Obviously, you cannot see testing as a 100% accurate. Watch progress over the course of the six days. This is just a test, this means nothing when we get into race weekends. We won’t get a full picture until after the Spanish Grand Prix.
2018 vs 2019 Race Data
A lap of Barcelona L. Hamilton 01:16.173
Lewis Hamilton comes out of Catalunya goes to the outside of the track getting one side of the car onto the kerb before lining up to run along the outside of the track. Carries the speed all the way down to Turn One, breaks at the 100m board. Turns in hitting the apex of One, setting him up for Two where he takes it around the apex setting himself up for the long Turn Three. Goes to the outside, before breaking into the long Repsol corner.
On exit he goes to the outside of the circuit before crossing to lining himself up for Five, round the apex before going to the outside hitting the kerb as he opens up the car. Speeds through Six, before going to inside approaching TV3. Breaks into the corner, speeds on exit and through eight where he goes to the outside. Slows slightly through Nine, runs to the outside.
Build speed before breaking a 100M before La Casa, turns in before hitting the apex and runs to the inside. Breaks slightly through Eleven and goes to the apex for Twelve, before running along the kerb breaks slightly into Europcar weaves his way down to Fourteen. Hits kerb then on the exit of fifteen opens the car up before going back through Catalunya and across the line with a 01:16.173