Test analysis: Whispers after day 6

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F1 Test, Barcelona, Circuit de Catalunyaes

The second day of the final week of pre-season testing saw Ferrari losing almost the whole day due to a technical problem while Mercedes, the fierce rival of the Italian team completed a whopping number of laps around the 4.655km-long Barcelona-Catalunya circuit.

It was another day of perfect winter testing weather with the ambient temperatures reaching 25 ºC after a chilly morning. If one has to summarise the day with one word it would have to be effectiveness. Eight of the ten teams have completed over 100 laps with only Ferrari and Racing Point failing to reach that mark.

Problems after problems

Following technical gremlins with the cooling system of the new SF90 on Tuesday, Ferrari was dogged by other technical problems on the second day of the second week of pre-season testing. While Sebastian Vettel was completing longer runs, a mechanical problem with the front left corner on the SF90 saw Sebastian go off the track at Turn 3.

The driver was unhurt but went to the medical centre for the usual checks. Up to that point, Sebastian had completed 40 laps, with a best time of 1’18”195. Once back in the garage, the team set about a meticulous check of the car to establish the cause of the crash. The analysis is still on course. Meanwhile the SF90 was repaired in time for Charles Leclerc to get out in the afternoon for an installation lap.

Despite to the problems and the loss of valuable track time, Sebastian Vettel was delighted with the car’s performance, hoping that the remaining two day will bring the pre-season to a happier end for the Scuderia.

“Clearly, we have not done as much running as we would have liked. But I’d still say I’m getting a positive feeling from the car. Last week was definitely productive as we completed a lot of mileage and also yesterday, we were able to make up for the track time lost in the morning”. “As for the accident,” continued the German, “I was going into Turn 3 and I had a feeling there was an issue with the front left corner of the car and from then on, there was nothing I could do to avoid the impact. The good thing is I am totally fine and, by the end of the day, thanks to a great job from the mechanics, we even managed to get the car back on track.”

Originally, Ferrari wanted to split all its test day of the second week between its two drivers. However, the technical issues on Tuesday and Thursday meant that the team’s new driver Charles Leclerc lost almost two half sessions, equivalent to an entire test day. Therefore, the Scuderia decided that the Monegasque will drive tomorrow, before handing over to Sebastian for the final day.

Mercedes with impeccable relaibility

The team which won the last five Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship completed a fairly intensive day. In the morning, the team focused on further fine-tuning the set-up of its 2019 contender. In the afternoon, when Lewis Hamilton took over the driving duties from Valtteri Bottas, the team also worked on race simulations, completing a series of long runs.

Following a day with mixed feeling on Tuesday, Mercedes racked up a total of 176 laps on Wednesday. The Anglo-German team kicked off its running in the second Formula 1 pre-season test at Barcelona with a number of new aerodynamic components yesterday. The upgrades included a modified front wing with a new endplate which directs airflow outboard, a wider, bigger nosecone, two new fins added to the bulkhead of the chassis, a modified floor which showcases six new fins along the edge and a brand-new T-wing.
According to James Allison, the team’s technical director, the long runs Mercedes completed today were significantly better than their previous race simulations. He also added that the front graining experienced on the longer runs emerges as one of the main problems for teams to manage.

"We did set-up work in the morning with Valtteri and continued with this in the early afternoon with Lewis, yielding some good results for both drivers. The race run in the afternoon, although quite considerably quicker than the last race simulation we made, was marred by front graining – something which we think, looking up and down the pit lane, could be a feature of the year. We need to make progress on graining resistance in the next couple of days, in order to make sure we have a good way of handling it by the time the racing season begins,” said the Briton.

Williams getting up to speed

After only completing 88 laps during last week, the Williams Racing team is slowly making up for the track time lost over the first four day of testing. The Grove-based team continued its test programme, trying to discover its new FW42.

Robert Kubica ended the day in the 11th position with his best lap time of 1m19.367 which he set on Pirelli’s C4 compound. The Polish driver notched up a total of 130 laps, equivalent to 605km.

Paddy Lowe, the chief technical officier was delighted with the mileage completed throughout the day, however he thinks that the team has yet to unlock the full potential of the car.

„We had a trouble-free day and got through 130 laps to complete the entire programme for the day. We made some progress following analysis of the car overnight, especially on the long runs, but there is a lot more to find. We have good data to analyse from today’s runs and so that will help give us further direction for another important day tomorrow.”

Race simulation for Max Verstappen

Red Bull completed another successful day with Max Verstappen behind the wheel of the RB15. The Dutch driver logged an impressive 128 laps of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as the Milton Keynes-based squad mixed morning set-up changes with an early afternoon focus on race preparation.

Head of Race Engineering, Guillaume Rocquelin was delighted with the amount and diversity of work his team did during Wednesday. The engineer also shed light on the reason behind the loss of track time in the second half of the day.

“We had another good morning, following the same plan as yesterday, when we got through a lot of shorter runs and set-up changes. In the afternoon, we went into a scheduled race simulation.”

„We managed two-thirds of that but after Max had a brief off, we pitted for some routine checks with the gearbox. It’s not the easiest element of the car to get deep into, so it kept us in the garage for a while. When we did get back out, the change in track conditions meant we weren’t going to learn that much so we focused on pit stop practice, which we had planned as part of the race work,” he said.

Another positive day for Alfa Romeo Racing

Kimi Räikkönen logged a total of 113 laps behind Alfa Romeo’s C38, completing another successful day for the Hinwill-based squad.
The 2007 world champion’ lap tally equals to 526km on the 4.655km-long Barcelona-Catalunya circuit. His best lap time was a 1m18.209, completing it on Pirelli’s second softest compound.

“We went through the planned programme and made some more progress today. The team is motivated and working well together. I look forward to being back in the car on Friday for my last day of testing before we head out to the first race of the season,” Räikkönen commented on his day before he hands the C38 over to Antonio Giovinazzi for the penultimate day of pre-season testing.

Another day of limited mileage

Racing Point finished another test day, having to limit its on-track time. The team’s day was not straightforward due to set-up issues, but it managed to focus on longer runs in the afternoon.

The Silverstone-based team disclosed last week that it is not able to chase the number of laps its rival teams complete day after day. The reason for that is the lack of spare parts which force the team to hold its running back in order to take care of its components.
At the end of the day, Sergio Perez logged a total of 88 laps, ending the day in the second position behind McLaren’s Carlos Sainz. According to Tom McCullough, Performance Engineering Director, the team had a mixed day with balance issues in the morning, followed by a more effective afternoon.

It wasn’t the most straightforward morning: we struggled a bit with the balance of the car and the timing of stoppages on track, so we didn’t quite achieve all our test objectives before lunch. We were much more productive and able to make up lost time in the afternoon, however. We completed all the items we needed to evaluate and understand, and we focused on some long run data-gathering in preparation for the final two days of testing. Sergio got his first experience of the softest compounds and overall the car ran reliably, which is always a positive. We have a lot of information to process and plenty to understand, so there’s still a lot of work to do.”