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F1 Testing: a Team-by-Team Review

-- Archived from 15/03/2021 --

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Mercedes
Verdict: Fail, maybe
Mercedes Chief engineer, Andy Shovlin said yesterday after the end of testing, that “on race pace, we’re not as quick as Red Bull.” As ever, we as viewers must try and figure out how much of this is fact, and how much is just Mercedes just downplaying how ready they are for the season ahead. 

On one hand, they seemed slower than Ferrari in 2019, but gained a second or so by the first race. On the other, one fact does seem to make this year stand out from the others. In the last two years, Mercedes had the most number of laps of any teams. They went out every day of testing and were very consistent. This time though, they had the fewest laps of anyone, due to a visit to the gravel and a gearbox issue. On my testing preview, I said Mercedes should aim for the top again on that front. Perhaps they won’t be as dominant as before. 

Red Bull
Verdict: Success
The bulls definitely seemed like they had wings over the weekend, and Max Verstappen flew to the top of the times on the final day of testing. They may not have done as many laps as some teams, but they didn't run into any major issues, and so we can assume that they must have done all that they wished to. Sergio said he’s still getting used to the car, so it remains to see if he’ll be the magic second driver that Red Bull need, but things look good.

McLaren
Verdict: Success
Mclaren looks to have made significant improvements over the off-season. A very clever design of the rear diffuser has made back a lot of the downforce that the team lost due to the changes in regulations, and the token system should ensure that it is difficult and/or costly for their rivals to copy it. Speaking of their rivals, Ferrari and Aston Martin were expected to close the gap to Mclaren, but Aston Martin struggled with reliability, and Ferrari don’t seem to have managed the gains they were expecting. They opted for lots of short runs, so their lap counter is low, but Lando Norris said that they had fulfilled everything they wanted to do, and he was very happy with the car. They may be able to break free from the midfield pack this year

Aston Martin
Verdict: Critical Fail
The new green car might look pretty slick, but testing certainly wasn’t for the green machine. Vettel put in the fewest laps of anyone, as they encountered issues with the turbos, gearbox and electrics at various points throughout the weekend. The main talking point should have been about the car's handling. Changes to rules about the rear floor should have reduced downforce to the rear of the whole fleet of F1 cars. Vettel's struggles with the tail happy Ferrari last year, meant that getting the four time champion happy in the car was super important, but he didn't even get any quali runs in the afternoon sessions, when grip improves. As a result, he sat ahead of only Nissany across the three days. 

Alpine
Verdict: Success, but maybe not
Another team looking to settle a former champ into their car, Alpine were able to put in plenty of laps, and they didn’t have any issues at any point. Fernando was happy with balance and was full of praise. However. The main talking points about the team were more to do with the car itself, rather than what it was capable of. In order to narrow the sidepods on the A521, some components were moved to the airbox, which is now significantly wider than you’ll see from any of the other cars on the grid. The gorgeous satin blue livery does a good job of drawing the gaze from the eyesore, but it’s not just the visuals that are affected. Moving the components will have raised the centre of gravity of the car, which could be an issue. They seem to have failed to make any inroads towards their competitors, and improvements from Ferrari, Mclaren and Alpha Tauri threaten to shunt them way down the grid. 

Ferrari
Verdict: ???
Ferrari are an enigma at this point in time. It is always difficult to place cars after testing, but I could see them anywhere between 3rd and 7th fastest. They topped 400 laps overall, the third most of any team, and they were also third on the leaderboards courtesy of a last hour Sainz lap. Leclerc’s pace though, was much further down the order, although he chose not to run softs. The speed traps seem to remain an issue for all the Ferrari-powered cars, but they seem to have fixed the stability issues. 

I also wanted to note an incident that happened at the end of the test. Sainz made a late dive down the inside of the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 10 whilst on a flying lap. Kimi, on a race run, turned in as normal, before having to take a very hard right to avoid contact. Sainz then forced the Alfa off the circuit, and seemed to angrily tailgate him down the back straight. A confusing incident to wrap up a confusing weekend for the prancing horses.

Alpha Tauri
Verdict: Massive Success
Alpha Tauri had the best test of anyone this year, and I’d argue, the best of the modern era. The team could have chosen to use their tokens and taken the Red Bull rear from 2020, but instead made changes to their entry elsewhere. It seems to have paid off for them, as they were superb, both on pace and with reliability. Yuki Tsunoda looked rapid in the last couple of hours of testing, and went to second on the timing screens after many consistently quick quali times. The engine seems a fraction better than last year, and the car looks very balanced and grippy. Reliability was excellent for them, as they managed 422 circuits, tied for the most of anyone. Look for them to join the midfield fight this year. 

Alfa Romeo
Verdict: Success
Bahrain seems to suit the Alfa very nicely. It has less downforce then its rivals, which helped it down the straights in the desert, but it remains to be seen if they’ll be too affected at some more twisty tracks. There is also the possibility that they’re collaborating with Ferrari somewhat, and that they chose to run low downforce settings, rather than it being a limit of the car. 

Either way, the team had a very smooth test. They too managed 422 laps, ticking all of the boxes they needed ticked, and a fourth best time from Raikkonnen on the last day looks quick, even if it was unrepresentative, based on Giovinazzi’s performances. 

Haas
Verdict: Fail, but an expected one
Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner have had no qualms about saying that this year is going to be a dud for the all-rookie lineup. The team chose to only make changes to the car that were already in the works at the end of last year, and are already thinking about 2022. A gearbox issue cut into Mick Schumacher's running on Day One, but they still managed to run plenty of laps over the weekend. The car is slow, with the newbies only managing 17th and 19th fastest times, and with Haas choosing not to develop the car throughout the year, it’s only going to get slower.

Williams
Verdict: Success
 After a 2020 where they failed to score a point, things look a little better for the British team. New investment from Dorilton will take a little while to take effect, but the car looks better than last year, and the team expects upgrades before the first race weekend. Russell has said that the car has good balance in neutral conditions but is “incredibly wind-sensitive.” A sixth-fastest time from the young Brit on the final day brings hope for some points.
 

 

-- Archived from 15/03/2021 --

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