F1 Testing: Whispers after the first day

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F1 Test, Barcelona, Circuit de Catalunyaes

As the 2019 Formula One Champsionship season is fast approaching, teams gathered together today at Barcelona to kick off their on-track preparation for this year’s battle.

Leaving a convincing impression, Sebastian Vettel went fastest with his brand-new SF90. The German set his best time in the morning which went then unbeaten throughout the afternoon session. The quadruple world champion recorded a time of 1m18.161 on Pirelli’s C3 compound which is equivalent to last year’s soft tyres according to the Milan-based tyre manufacturer.

Ferrari with an almost perfect start

Topping the time sheet with a lap time set quite early during the day and covering 169 laps on a relatively long race track is not a bad start to a winter test programme. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel completed a test day which he described as „very close to perfection”. The German hailed his first day of testing, stressing out that the Maranello-based squad did an incredible job over the winter, however the early positive signs could be meaningless come the first race.

"It was unbelievable, I think the car was working really well. We had no issues slowing us down, we actually completed the programme just the way we wanted. We were able to squeeze a little bit more out even. But for now I think huge compliments to everyone back at the factory. How they tackled the new rules and regulations and what they put on track today is very close to perfection in the first day of driving: the amount of laps we did, how the team was handling the car,” Vettel is quoted as saying by autosport.com.

Red Bull hails Honda

Switching to Honda’s power unit, Red Bull Racing faced a daunting task to solve today. The energy drink-owned team said farewell to its long-time engine partner Renault and switched to Honda for the 2019 season. The recent struggles of the Japanese manufacturer both in terms of outight performance and reliability urged many to question the team’s move, but Max Verstappen’ impressive tally of 128 laps during the first testing day was a promising day for the new collaboration.

Team principal Christian Horner was hugely impressed with what he could observe during the first official outing of the new Red Bull Honda. „Honda could significantly reduce its gap (to Mercedes and Ferrari). We haven’t integrated an engine into the chassis so well. It works as a Swiss watch under the bodywork.”

Starting the second year of their collaboration, Toro Rosso also praised the systematic working programme of the Sakura-based engine manufacturer. The Italian outfit completed 77 laps with returnee Daniel Kvyat behind the wheel. Deputy Technical Director Jody Egginton said that “on the PU side, it’s been a smooth test today with the Honda guys working through their program in a systematic fashion so, in this respect, it’s business as normal.”

Draggy rear wing

Renault ended the day as slowest. The French team divided its day into two halves. Nico Hülkenberg brought the new R.S.19 on to the track in the morning while it was Daniel Ricciardo’s turn in the afternoon. The 31-year-old German said that the feeling with the car „it has not changed that much”. However, the bigger rear wing introduced for 2019 felt like „pulling a parachute” along the straight, leading to a significant loss of top speed on the longer straights.

As a reminder: as of 2019, rear wings sit 70mm higher and they are 100mm wider. The DRS open gap is now a whopping 85mm, 20mm bigger than before. The new rules increase the drag of the rear wing, and they also have an impact on the rear wing wake. By adding drag and incrasing the DRS gap, the drag reduction system should prove itself as a more powerful tool when it comes to overtaking.

Mercedes feels “different”

During a filming day, the dominant team of the last five years gave its new car the W10 debut at Silverstone last Wednesday. The Brackley-based squad provided both its drivers with driving opportunities today. Valtteri Bottas brought the W10 to the track in the morning, handing it then over to his team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon.

According to the team, Bottas was focusing on gathering tyre and aerodynamic data while Hamilton was collecting information on how the brand-new car reacted to certain set-up changes. Mercedes-Benz completed today a total of 838km.

On contrary to what Nico Hülkenberg said of his new Renault or Sebastian Vettel of his Ferrari, Hamilton indicated that Mercedes felt different to last year.

“It feels quite a bit different compared to last year and we’re now getting to know it, trying to understand the balance and trying to understand the characteristics we’re working with. It’s been a positive first day, we got through our running plan and there’s lots for us to learn about the new car which we will be working on."

Racing Point with a slowish start

The SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team gave the RP19 its on-track debut with Sergio Perez behind the wheel. The 29-year-old Mexican completed only 30 laps during the day, covering a total distance of 140km. His best time of 1:19.994 was recorded on the yellow C3 tyres which propelled him to the seventh position.

"The mileage wasn’t great but I think it was still a promising start. I am happy with the performance we managed to get out of the car and with its balance. The conditions weren’t great: the track was quite cold and green to begin with, but I end the first day feeling positive. It was important to start understanding the car as much as we could and for me to make myself comfortable with it as a driver. descriped the Guadalajara-born driver his first day.

The on-track action continues tomorrow at Barcelona when the track opens at 9 a.m.