F1 Testing: Whispers after the second day

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F1 Test, Barcelona, Circuit de Catalunyaes

Charles Leclerc made his official Ferrari debut with an impressive performance as Formula One teams carried on their preparation for the 2019 season in full attack.

Full attack except a certain British team. Williams continued playing the role of the absentee. The team first cancelled its shakedown planned for Sunday, then missed the first two days of pre-season testing. The Grove-based squad issued a statement confirming that the problems revolved around delays with the build of their new car. The FW42 should arrive on Wednesday morning, but the team has to prepare it for the on-track appearance, meaning that it won’t hit the track before the lunch break. It would lead to a loss of 31.25 per cent of the entire track time of winter testing.

Happiness and Ferrari – a good combination

Neglecting the struggles of the British squad, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc went on topping the timesheets on the second day of testing. The Monegasque mimicked the programme of his new team-mate Sebastian Vettel from the previous day. The 21-year-old set his fastest time in the morning which then remained unbeaten throughout the whole day.

His best time of 1m18.247 was only a tenth shy of the fastest time of Sebastian Vettel. Instead of getting carried away by the lap times, the team stressed the importance of the consistent lap times which “was useful for the engineers as they evaluated different parameters on the car in race trim.” 73 laps in the morning and 87 laps in the afternoon was not a bad start for Leclerc.

“In terms of feeling, I quickly felt comfortable with the SF90 and I have to say I really enjoyed myself. Emotion? There’s always going to be some when you get into a Ferrari, but today I put that to one side because I had a job to do for the team. Let’s hope we keep going like this over the next few days, because it’s important to make the most of the few on-track testing opportunities we have,” commented Leclerc on his debut running.

The former F2 champion, now, hands back his race office to his team-mate before continuing his acclimatisation in the SF90.

One of his all-time great experiences

That is how Formula One’s absolute newcomer Alexander Albon described his first official day in a F1 machine. The British-Thai driver ran Toro Rosso’s STR14 at Silverstone last Wednesday for the very first time, completing his very first laps in a F1 car. It is quite unusual nowdays that a driver jumps into the sport without completing some mileages in a test session.

The 22-year-old who cancelled his Formula E commitment in favour of the Formula One race seat. completed 132 laps today which made him the second most diligent driver of the 12 drivers.

“The high speed of the car is definitely new to me and it was a bit of a positive shock - I’m enjoying it a lot! I’m still smiling from when I got out of the car and I’ll continue smiling throughout tonight until tomorrow,” said the ever-smiling Thai.

It is not a compliment, isn’t it?

While enjoying his rest day (and missing his new SF90 beauty), Sebastian Vettel commented on Formula One’s new front wing design. The German was far from being enthusiastic about the look of the new front wings which should enable the cars to follow each other closer.

"The front wing looks really ugly, I don't understand why it is so wide. I think years ago we went back [to skinnier wings] because we said it's actually bad for racing. Now we want [to go] back to wide. Maybe we forgot to take notes. If you look at the rest of the car, it's beautiful. The front wing for all the teams looks a bit weird,” Vettel is quoted as saying by autosport.com.

Why are times not slower than during last year?

With the new aerodynamic rules, simpler front and rear wing, simpler bargeboards and brake ducts, teams calculated the performance loss at 1.5s per lap due to the decrease of aerodynamic downforce. However, times were blindingly fast right from the word go as pre-season testing kicked off yesterday. Sebastian Vettel’s 1m18.161 was only a second slower than the 1m17.182, the lap time which he set on Pirelli’s hypersoft tyres a year ago towards the end of winter testing.

Pirelli’s Mario Isola said that the tarmac is responsible for the fast lap times. He believes that the evolution of the tarmac enabled this incredible speed.

"The Tarmac was new at the winter test last year. It was very smooth with a lot of grip coming from the bitumen on top of the Tarmac. For the race it was slightly different with the usual evolution we can see, and now there is another step compared to the race. I believe the influence of the tarmac is higher, and the temperature [it has been warmer this year] is playing a big effect. We know that."

However, Sebastian Vettel indicated that his car is not that much ill-affected by the new aero rules, it actually behaves quite similar to last year’s machine even if there is still a bit of loss of downforce.

The „comfortable” C38

Antonio Giovinazzi took over the racing duties from Kimi Räikkönen. The Italian with a whopping two-GP race experience completed 101 which is equivalent to 470.155km on the relatively long Barcelona track. The work revolved around set-up work and aerodynamic tests. Like yesterday, the car proved to be reliable and showed a good performance.

„I felt very comfortable in it, and we put in a good number of laps,” said the Italian.

During the day, the Hinwill-based team issued a statement confirming its collaboration with the Italian Magneti Marelli company. The company will supply Alfa Romeo Racing with their high-quality products which will be integrated in the team’s cars competing in the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship. With a presence in 20 countries and 44000 employees, Magnetti Marelli’s production work includes electronic systems, lighting, powertrain, exhaust systems, suspension and shock absorbing systems.

McLaren –the absolute unkown

Starting on a high, ending on a low. During the 2018 pre-season testing, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso could dictate an impressive speed towards the end of the on-track preparation, but the whole team went then downwards come the start of the season. The 2019 winter testing has been reminiscent of that so far. Carlos Sainz Jr went second fastest yesterday with his new team while the Woking-based team’s newcomer Lando Norris did exactly the same. The Spaniard’s time was 1m18.558s while the young Briton almost recorded the same lap time with a 1m18.553s.

Today’s work involved aero correlation. In the afternoon session, the team moved to a series of longer runs and pit-stop practice, a first for Lando in testing.

“We’re all heads down and fully focussed, and hopefully tomorrow will be another valuable day,” said Sporting director Gil de Ferran after the second day of testing.

Mercedes in low-keyed form

During the second day of pre-season testing, the dominant team of the last five years has continued showing a kind of fear from setting eye-catching lap times. The Brackley-based team divided its day into two halves again, Lewis Hamilton hit the ground with the new W10 in the morning before his Finnish team-mate Valtteri Bottas took over the steering wheel in the afternoon. Some of their impressive long runs hinted that the true pace of the new car is still to be unlocked. The running on higher fuel loads has been a trademark for Mercedes for the last years which steadily keeps their rivals guessing about the team’s true performance.

Mercedes’ technical director James Allison played down the significance of lap times during testing and indicated the his team has been working on gathering data for the second four-day-long testing when “all the interesting running will take place.”

“We’re just two days in, but already a quarter of the way through the precious days of winter testing. Today was another very useful day for us, accumulating a lot of miles, proving out a lot of components and testing with both drivers several set-up avenues,” said Allison.

Aero gathering with the RP19

Completing a total of 79 laps, Racing Point was delighted with the quantity and quality of the work it managed to achieve during the second day of testing. The team’s newcomer Lance Stroll took the wheel of the SportPesa Racing Point RP19 for the first time on the second day of testing in Barcelona. The Canadian’s best lap time of 1m20.433s was only the eleventh fastest on the timesheets, but the focus was far from achieving eye-catching times.

After yesterday’s little struggles, the team tried to catch up some of the time it lost. The programme was dominated by aero gathering and ticking all the boxes which are important to check the on-track behaviour of a new car.

The Silverstone-based team’s performance engineer Tom McCullough suggested that Lance Stroll could quickly get up to speed in his new car which is partly the result of the extensive simulator work the Canadian did during the off-season.