With the pre-season testing being done and dusted, teams and drivers start to focus on the Australian Grand Prix that kicks off the 2020 FIA Formula One Championship season at Melbourne on March 15.
After looking at the performance of several teams including the top three outfits in first part of the article, we continue to analyse the verdict engineers and drivers have come up with after the pre-season testing.
The biggest surprise
When Racing Point unveiled its car before the pre-season testing kicked off at Barcelona, everyone was shocked by how much their 2020 machine is reminiscent to Mercedes’ last year contender, the W10. In fact, the team has taken inspiration from its engine partner in many parts of the car including the gearbox and the rear suspension which are the obvious things that is a natural consequence of using the same power unit. Beside those elements, the list of similar parts included the nose section, the front wing, the rear wing endplates, the sidepods, the engine cover and even the rake esetting of the car.
The team’s Performance Engineering Director Tom McCullough stressed that the team has to make the best out of the data that it has gained over the six days of pre-season testing.
“Overall, it’s been a positive winter for us. Between them they’ve helped us get through a very busy test programme across the six days – which hasn’t always been easy with the weather. We’ve learned a lot about the RP20 over the past two weeks. Now it’s a matter of ensuring we make the best possible use of that data ahead of the opening races. It’s been a busy winter for everybody trackside and back at the factory, with some long hours and an incredible amount of work going on behind the scenes. A big thank you to each and every member of the team.”
The RP20 has not only been fast on every compound and on different fuel loads, but it has been extraordinary reliable. In fact, it was only Mercedes-powered team to escape engine-related issues with both the works team and Williams encountering technical problems related to the power unit. The team only had an electric issue on the final morning session that forced them to slightly alter their programme.
"We had a small technical issue at the end of the morning session, which was traced to an electrical fault. While not a significant concern, we elected to carry out some precautionary checks – as it’s important to understand and iron out these niggles before we go racing – which unfortunately cost us some running on the softer tyre compounds,” McCullough said.
Positive vibes around the rebranded team
The rebranded AlphaTauri squad has started the pre-season period with a new name, a brand-new striking livery, but with an unchanged driver line-up. Expectations are high at Red Bull’s junior team for the 2020 season with the outfit targeting of improving its position in the Constructors’ Championship after it finished sixth in 2019.
Team Principal Franz Tost was happy with the reliability car after it has not devoped unexpected and significant hiccups during winter testing that was particularly short this time.
“For Scuderia AlphaTauri, pre-season testing was a success as the car shows good performance and is reliable. We were also very lucky with the weather because most of the days we had quite high temperatures for this part of the year. It was only in the second week, especially on Thursday afternoon, that the wind has made running a bit trickier, but this gave us the possibility to test our new AT01 in different conditions.”
“We’ve had two fewer days of testing this year, but I think we made the most out of it and learned a lot during these six days about the car, covering a total of 3580 km without any major problems. We experienced a few little issues which is normal at this stage, but we are generally satisfied with how everything went," the Austrian said.
Both Honda-powered teams, AlphaTauri and Red Bull Racing logged high amount of laps over the course of the six days which has indicated that the Sakura-based enginer manufacturer has achieved big gains in terms of reliability. Honda’s F1 Technical Director Toyoharu Tanabe said that the high mileage will enable his engineers to further optimalize the complex engines.
“769 laps with Scuderia AlphaTauri and 780 laps with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing means 1,549 laps and 7,211km in total for Honda and this is quite a respectable mileage. It is too early to talk about the competitiveness of both teams as everyone ran different programmes in varied conditions, such as track temperature, wind, humidity, which all have a significant impact on the modern F1 car.
„But we can say it was a good preparation for the start of the season. Now, we will go through the analysis of data and the PUs themselves that we ran over these 6 days and that work will continue right up to the very last minute before the opening race. There are only 16 days to go before we race in Melbourne. We’ll be aiming to start the season in good form,” the Japanese added.
Dark in the dark
When it came to the performance analysis of the teams during winter testing, it was arguably the Renault F1 team to delivert he biggest question mark.
The Enstone-based outfit racked up 743 laps in total with Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon behind the wheel The Australian clocked an eye-catching time of 1min 16.276secs around the 4.655km course, which proved third-fastest of anybody on the last day in Barcelona. The engines of the French manufacturer covered an impressive 7,191km across the two tests underlining a good step in power unit reliability ahead of the year.
Despite to the headline times, the car’s handling characteristics and the long run pace have left some doubts about the car’s true potential. Renault only finished fifth in last year’s Constructors’ Championship with its customer team McLaren outscoring them by a whopping 54 points. Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said that his engineers have not experiences any unexpected results and the results were in line with what the team had expected before the pre-season testing.
“Today was the culmination of a smooth and productive pre-season test fortnight, which we leave feeling content with our work. The R.S.20 ran well and pretty much as we expected, courtesy of the progress made by Enstone and Viry over the winter to ensure all parts were delivered to the track to a high standard and in good time.
„This preparation meant we were well placed to complete all major test items with little fault over the two weeks.We initially concentrated on assessing the main characteristics of our package and determining reliability levels across chassis and engine, before working through different set-up options with some ideas proving interesting and others not,” concluded the Frenchman.
Tyres, tyres, tyres
Formula One’s sole American outfit, the Haas F1 team spent the 2019 season with having all sorts of troubles with the tyres. Although the one-lap pace was a real issue for the team last year, the car’s long run performance meant that Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were weaponless in races.
Haas has failed to complete a complete race simulation at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but a longer stint made Romain Grosjean hopeful that the engineers have managed to improve the way the car handles Pirelli’s tyres.
„We managed to get a longer stint in at the end just to see how the car behaves and evolves. I’m very happy with the job everyone’s done in testing. We need to put all our best tools together now to prepare for Melbourne,” he added.
Team Principal Günther Steiner was happy that the team could make up for the lost mileage in the second week of testing. „Through six days of testing we’ve only had the two hiccups, today’s clutch issue and the problem with the rear wheel last Friday at the end of the first test. Overall, we’ve logged good mileage and we’ve learned a lot. We’ve worked hard to get this data and hopefully we’ll translate it into good results in Australia.”
McLaren expects a highly competitive season
After making big strides in 2019 and finishing as the fourth-best team, McLaren has set the target of cementing its position in the Constructors’ Championship and getting closer to the field-leading Mercedes.
Although neither Carlos Sainz nor Lando Norris threatened the top of the timesheets during the six days of running, the overall reliability of the car and that of the Renault power unit meant that the Woking-based team could conduct a smooth preparation for the forthcoming season. Sainz’s race simulation on the sixth and final day of testing indicated that the MCL35 could once again head the close midfield pack in 2020.
Team Principal Andreas Seidl disclosed that the team has introduced major upgrades to its brand-new race car with all of them producting the results calculated back at the factory.
„Pre-season testing 2020 completed. It’s been a good and productive second test week for us, with plenty of laps covered. We’ve introduced a number of new updates to the car throughout the week which have worked as expected. The conditions have been varied across the few days, particularly in terms of wind, but this has given us good variations in data."
“This test has been the best for McLaren for some time, with strong reliability enabling us to complete our programme as planned and collect valuable information for analysis. We head to Melbourne feeling prepared for the start of the season, with good information on areas we need to develop and a good understanding of the work to be done."