Analysis: What did we learn from the first week of testing?

on
F1 Test, Barcelona, Circuit de Catalunyaes

Following Ferrari’s impressive start, some teams delivered eye-catching times with glory runs on the final day of the first week of pre-season testing.

Mercedes, the dominant team of the last five years sticked to its low-key form in testing which slowly emerges as the main trademark of the Anglo-German squad. F1Technical.net’s Balázs Szabó digs deep into the world of numbers to find out what we could learn from the first four days of winter testing.

The first week in numbers

10: Ten or sarcastically 9.5 teams participated in the first test week. Williams had to sit out the first two days completely before it could commence its on-track preparation on Wednesday afternoon.

6: The number of different dry-weather tyre compounds Pirelli brought to Barcelona. Five of them were the race tyres which will be used across the 2019 Championship while the D3 compound was a development tyre which Pirelli ran for its future developments.

1m17.393: That was the best time of the first week of testing. Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg set the pace on the final day with a lap time of 1m17.393 which then became the best time of the opening test week.

2.5: That is the number of days Williams had to play the role of a spectator. The Grove-based team with 114 Grand Prix victories was hampered by delays with the build of its new car and could only kick off its on-track work on the third day.

1: The number of drivers who has not made any laps with an F1 car before this week’s test. The Anglo-Thai driver Alexander Albon has not completed a single lap in a single-seater of the top motorsport category ahead of Monday’s testing.

610: The number of laps Mercedes completed over the whole stretch of the first test week. The Brackley-based squad was the most diligent team of the current ten F1 squads.

5 – 6 -17 – 25: The temperatures on the final day of testing. In the morning, teams and drivers were shocked by chilly conditions when ambient temperatures were at 5 degree, track tempeatures at 6 degrees. The day saw the ambient temperatures rising to 17 while the track temperatures jumped to 25 degrees.

1: The number of drivers who won’t drive in the season and only received a test opportunity this week. Pietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of the two-time Formula One world champion Emerson Fittipaldi could test his abilities on the second and third day of testing, notching up a total of 61 laps with Haas’ 2019 challenger.

Ferrari with the highest mileage as an engine manufacturer

Formula One has currently four engine manufacturers. Both Ferrari and Mercedes supply three teams while the power units of Renault and Honda are used by two squads apiece. The difference in mileage must therefore be seen as an evidence.

Considering the number of teams supplied, it is no surprise that Ferrari and Mercedes lead the ranks in terms of mileage. However, the difference between the leading Ferrari and the second-placed Mercedes is significant. The reason for that is that the groups of the three Mercedes-driven teams decreased basically to two squads as a result of Williams’ struggles.

Furthermore, the also Mercedes partner Racing Point found itself in a difficult position. The Silverstone-based team was the second-to-last in terms of mileage. Behind the low mileage was the development schedule of the team instead of dismal reliability.

“Because we’re having massive package upgrade for Melbourne, we are very limited on parts as in the past. Right now you’re going to see low mileage from us, simply because we’re short on parts, we don’t want to risk it too much,” Perez is quoted as saying by crash.net.

Honda and Renault, the two engine manufacturers with two partners, finished the first week of pre-season testing with a comparable number of laps. This was the result of Red Bull’s switch from the French to the Japanese engine over the winter which saw the number of teams supplied by Honda increasing to two and the number of Renault’s partner decreasing to two.

Mercedes completed the highest amount of laps

The team which won the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship in the last five years followed a unique approach in the first week of pre-season testing. Its low-key testing form has become basically their trademark over the years as the teams usually puts its focus on reliability and long run performance instead of qualifying pace. The uniqueness of its approach was the way how they divided the working load between its two race drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Both drivers drove on every single day with the switch taking place during the lunch break.

The Anglo-German team racked up the highest amount of laps around the 4.655km-long Barcelona-Catalunya circuit. Compared to its tally of 610, Ferrari also stood out with its diligence. The Italians covered a total of 598 laps.

In terms of mileage, the second group is formed by Alfa Romeo, Toro Rosso, McLaren and Renault. The latter was very productive and could have ended up higher up in these ranks, but their struggles on the last day curtailed their work.

The entirety of the test was characterized by incredible reliability across the whole field with most of the squads notching ranking up very high mileages. However, the freshly re-baptized Racing Point and Haas F1 Team were dogged with different technical gremlins, ending in losing valuable track time for both the British and American squad.

Williams completed only the 14.4 per cent of the mileage Mercedes managed to notch up, but it was not surprising considering the delays with the build of the FW42 and the shortages of a handful of aerodynamic parts.

Hülkenberg with blistering pace on the final day

Renault deprived Ferrari of its royal position at the end of testing when Nico Hülkenberg recorded the fastest time of the entire test week. The Italians were dominating the proceedings with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc at the start of the week.

Instead of looking at the fastest time, it is worth taking note of team’s best times on each day and also of the compound their best time was set on. Ferrari’s consistency stands out as the Italians ended all four days with very similar individual fastest times. Vettel set a 1m18.161 on Pirelli’s C3 (soft) only a couple of hours into the pre-season testing in the very first morning. The Scuderia was at ease with setting 1m18s times regardless of the time of the day. Their times on the C2 (medium) compound was astonishing. Both Leclerc and Vettel could dip below the 1m19 times on the C2, setting a series of mid-1m18 lap times.

Mercedes might be desperate to hide its true performance, but their form on the final day suggested that they still have plenty to unlock of their brand-new W10. On the final day of this week’s testing, Mercedes started focusing more on the performance of their 2019 car, completing shorter runs on softer compounds. Neither Hamilton nor Bottas set eye-catching times on Pirelli’s C4 or C5 compound. However, the Finn set a 1:18.4 on the medium C3 compound, suggesting that Mercedes has very much the pace to challenge for the absolute top in the sixth consecutive year.

McLaren did some early runs on lower fuel loads on the first two days while Alfa Romeo, Toro Rosso and Renault started concentrating on performance runs towards the end of the week. Red Bull and Haas are still to complete qualifying simulations and, of course, Mercedes and Ferrari might hold their real level of competitiveness back until Australia.

News round-up between the two winter test sessions The shiny-looking Pirelli

Formula One’s sole tyre manufacturer Pirelli introduced a glossy surface for its tyres which could be seen at Barcelona during the first week of testing.

The glossy surface is the result of a new manufacturing process which the Milan-based company has already used in Formula 2 last year. Pirelli introduced a new chrome mould to get rid of imperfections, especially on its softest C4 and C5 compounds.

Asked about the changes, Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola said that the shiny look won’t have any influence on the grip level offered by the tyres.

"We are using new moulds that have a chrome treatment. We tested these for the first time last year in F2. The reason why we introduced this technology is because the hypersoft last year and the C4/C5 [softest 2019 compounds], are very sticky and, when you vulcanise and cook the tyre, it is difficult for the mould sometime .You see small imperfections on the tread because of this adhesion between the compound and the moulds. With the new moulds, they are a lot better,” Isola commented on the shiny tyres.

Key finally released

McLaren Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso confirmed they have reached an agreement to settle the position of James Key, who will be released by Scuderia Toro Rosso prior to the end of his existing contract arrangement on 23 March 2019.
Key will start working for McLaren on the same day. The Briton’s position will be taken over by Jody Egginton.

Honda delighted with its cooperation with Red Bull so far

With joining forces with Red Bul Racing, Honda will have two partners for the first time since its return to Formula One. The Sakura-based manufacturer returned to the scene in 2015 as the engine manufacturer of McLaren, but the two companies parted ways after three years.
In 2018, Honda began supplying Toro Rosso with its power unit. As the Italian team was delighted with the progress shown over the course of the season, Red Bull decided to ditch Renault, its long-time partner and sign a contract with Honda.

Following the first four days of testing, Honda F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe was encouraged by the early signs of the Red Bull – Honda partnership.

“For this first four-day pre-season test, working with both Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda, it was encouraging that we got through all our planned programme with both teams.”

“As for today, everything went smoothly and we acquired a good amount of data. It’s the first time in the hybrid era that we are powering two teams and at this test, we learned a lot in terms of how to operate with them both,” he said.

Ricciardo already comfortable with Renault

After six seasons with Toro Rosso and Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo made a shocking move to Renault’s F1 team in 2019. The Australian who has scored all his seven triumphs for Red Bull hopes that the works team of Renault will shine in the future and can produce championship-winning cars.

The Perth-born driver ended the opening week of pre-season testing with the fifth-fastest time and stressed that the Enstone-based team welcomed him friendly and he already feels good inside the R.S. 19.

"I feel like I am comfortable with everyone. It does feel normal, walking into the meeting rooms and that, the debriefs, it feels familiar. The way everyone is engaging with me has been positive, and they are certainly trying to draw as much as they can out of me, and to also see if Nico and me are on same page. (The new car) feels cosy."

Hamilton gained 5 kilos

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton disclosed that he has put on 5 kilos over the winter. Many of his colleagues have also gained weight compared to the end of the 2018 season. Drivers have to pay less attention to their weights as of 2019 following modifications to the sporting regulations.

FIA will establish the weight of every driver plus their seat and other driving equipment at the first race of the year. Those weighing less than 80kg will have to carry ballast bringing them up to this minimum level. The minimum weight limit is 740kg including this combination of driver, equipment, ballast weight.

"I am not trying to be the Hulk, but it takes time to put on muscle in the right way and it has been great to eat bigger portions. I feel in the best shape I have ever been and can lift more weights," said Hamilton.

Kubica believes in Williams

Despite Williams’ struggles during the first week of pre-season testing, Robert Kubica is hopeful that his team will be in good shape come the first race weekend of the 2019 World Championship.

The Polish driver only managed 48 laps altogether and ended the test week as the slowest driver.

"I’m not worried. It’s the way it is. Of course it would be better if we had learned more about our car this week, but the reality is we are late. I hope it will not hurt us in the first race,’ Kubica commented on the situation.