Who's hot and who's not after week one of preseason testing

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BARCELONA, Spain -- The first week of testing took on a familiar theme as Mercedes dominated, Red Bull teased some impressive pace and Ferrari failed to meet expectations. But dig deeper and a more accurate pattern of performance emerges as well as some explanations for the highs and lows of certain teams.

Here we look at each team, what they focused on the first week and what's to come in the second test, which runs from Feb.26-29.


Laps: 494 (1st) Quickest lap: Valtteri Bottas, 1:15.732 (1st)

It was no surprise to see Mercedes at the top of the timesheets at the end of the first week of testing, but the margin by which the world champions dominated in Barcelona looked ominous. Not only was the W11 quick out of the box (and fastest overall by 1.3s), it featured innovations that have the potential to move the game on significantly. The well-documented DAS system was just one of the more visual upgrades spotted on the car, but its new rear suspension layout and tweaked sidepod crash structures are likely to offer significant aerodynamic gains too.

Is Mercedes' DAS a 2020 gamechanger?

It wasn't all plain sailing for Mercedes. Although the world champions topped the mileage charts with 494 laps, an electrical problem on Thursday afternoon resulted in team members needing to don rubber gloves to handle the car and return it to the garage where it remained for the rest of the day. Had the problem occurred earlier in the session, it's likely it would have cost the team a lot more track time, but as things stood it only knocked an hour off the end of the day.

Mercedes' rivals must now hope the world champions don't have more tricks up their sleeves for the second week. It was clear that Mercedes, unlike Red Bull and Ferrari, got straight down to performance work this week and the fact it used the fastest tyre compound to set its quickest times helps account for the worrying void in lap time between the Silver Arrows and the rest of the field.

But it would also be naïve to assume that Mercedes won't make any progress in the second week and their ultimate pace is likely to be a moving target as they drill down into various setup options. As things stand, it's hard to imagine Mercedes anywhere other than the front row of the grid in Melbourne.


Laps: 354 (8th) Quickest time: Sebastian Vettel, 1:18.168

After Ferrari flattered to deceive in testing last year, the Italian team is taking an entirely different approach to F1's preseason in 2020. The focus is firmly on cross referencing factory simulations with the reality of track running to make sure there are no surprises when the SF1000 is unleashed in a competitive environment next month. As a result, we haven't seen the red cars attempt anything comparable with Mercedes' chart-topping lap times and instead they are languishing at the bottom of the timesheets.

It seems a good chunk of Ferrari's lap time loss can be attributed to running in low power engine modes this week. GPS data suggests Ferrari has consistently given away a second in engine performance to its customer teams, Haas and Alfa Romeo, and that has concealed the true pace of the red cars while giving the team a more consistent base to gather aero data. When you also consider that Ferrari has yet to set a quick time on the fastest tyre compound tyre and that the car may well be fat with fuel, there's a chance the Scuderia is much closer to Mercedes than they look.

Ferrari seems happy in its approach but its lack of raw pace and overall preparation can't be ignored. With just six days of preseason testing in total, time is limited and Ferrari is already 140 laps behind Mercedes on mileage at the halfway point.

"I am not as optimistic as last year and some of the others are faster than us at the moment," team principal Mattia Binotto said on Friday. "I believe, how much faster is really difficult to judge and I will go through all the data in the next few days but I don't think we are as fast as them at the moment.

"Do we have any concerns? Certainly, yes, when you are not as fast as you would like to be. But I think it is too early to define it and understand it. These three days have been really important for us, because at least we have collected all the data and have a clear picture and better understanding.

"What will be even more important is to understand that we are developing the car in the right direction, but it is a very long season with 22 races potentially so I think there will be time to recover eventually. Let's wait for next week and Australia until we assess properly the true performance of everybody."

Could it simply be a tactic to under promise and over deliver ahead of the first race? Ferrari fans will have to hope so.

Red Bull

Laps: 471 (2nd) Quickest time: Max Verstappen, 1:17.516

If Ferrari really is struggling, Red Bull is on target to replace the Italian team as Mercedes' main rivals. In the words of Max Verstappen, the new RB16 looks "fast everywhere" and there are signs that Red Bull has not come close to showing its true pace.

A novel front suspension layout has not gained the same attention as Mercedes' DAS system, but could be even more beneficial in terms of pure lap time. Underlining the potential that has yet to be unleashed, the team's fastest lap of the week was set on the opening day using the third fastest tyre compound, suggesting there is a lot more to come.

Despite an engine change on day two when an alarm was raised during a parallel dyno test in Japan, Honda's power unit has delivered on its promises and appears to have made a useful progression from last year's V6 hybrid. Red Bull is also known for bringing a significant upgrade package in the second week of testing and at this stage it would not be a surprise to see the team make serious inroads on Mercedes' benchmark lap times in the second week.


Laps: 423 (4th) Quickest lap: Carlos Sainz, 1:17.842

Like Ferrari and Red Bull, McLaren was keeping its powder dry in the first week of testing. The team's strong 2019 season means it goes into 2020 with plenty of confidence and despite sitting mid table in terms of lap times, there are no signs of panic at McLaren.

The MCL35's fastest lap was set on the opening day and on the third fastest tyre compound, which, like Red Bull, suggests there is plenty more to come. There are signs that its midfield rivals have made big steps this year, but the team was under no illusion that it would have an easier ride to fourth in the championship this year.

Team principal Andreas Seidl confirmed there were plenty more upgrades coming for the second week of testing as well as some more focused performance running.

"We have a program lined up to continuously bring new parts to the track next week in order to get as much performance out of the car as possible before we head to Melbourne," he said. "In terms of performance so far, it is still early days. We are happy with what we've seen so far. The car is performing as intended, so we don't have big question marks on this."


Laps: 380 (6th) Quickest lap: Esteban Ocon, 1:17.102 (3rd)

As Renault's all-new, all-black nosecone inched out of the garage for the first time on Wednesday, it was clear the French manufacturer had taken a bit of a gamble on its 2020 car design. The distinctly different look belies a fairly similar car under the skin, but so far the tweaks in aero philosophy appear to be paying off. There are certainly no signs that Renault is in trouble and the team finished the first week with the third fastest car (behind Mercedes and Alfa Romeo) and the sixth highest mileage.

It appears as though Renault may have focused more on performance than some of its rivals, but that is no bad thing at this stage. The fact the team has the confidence to stretch its legs is a positive compared to the slow start it made in 2019, and on Friday technical boss Marcin Budkowski said he was pleased with the progress his team had made in the first week.

After a long history of reliability problems in the turbo-hybrid era, Renault was also the only engine manufacturer that didn't suffer a show-stopping issue and the team's biggest hiccup occurred when Daniel Ricciardo struck a kerb and broke the floor of the car on the second day.

Alpha Tauri

Laps: 384 ( Quickest lap: Daniil Kvyat, 1:17.427 (5th)

When Alpha Tauri got down to some performance running on Friday morning, the car appeared to be slightly off the pace of rivals Renault and Racing Point. There are a number of factors that could account for that, such as fuel load and engine settings, and with the midfield battle so fluid there is certainly no indication that the team is in trouble. If anything Alpha Tauri has built a solid baseline in the first week on which to build when it returns to the track on Wednesday.

By running last year's Red Bull gearbox and suspension, the Alpha Tauri AT01 has very strong fundamentals and will hope to take the fight to the Racing Point, which is unashamedly based on last year's Mercedes. At this stage it's still too early to tell who will come out on top, but Alpha Tauri does not look set to slip too far down the order.

Racing Point

Laps: 371 (7th) Quickest lap: Lance Stroll, 1:17.338 (4th)

In all but colour, the 2020 Racing Point is a copy of Mercedes' 2019 car. The team has made no effort to hide that fact and is instead proud of the job it's done trying to mimic the fastest car on last year's grid. But it's one thing copying a design from another team and quite another understanding it.

Nevertheless, the early signs are that Racing Point has done a good job in both regards, and on the basis of the limited data we have, it is currently leading the midfield pack as things stand. Its two drivers logged competitive times on what seemed like sensible fuel loads and tyre choices, and the team notched up respectable mileage.

It should be noted that it was a big risk for Racing Point to copy Mercedes. The aerodynamic concept of its new car is a complete departure from what it has run in recent years and there was a real danger the team became lost in trying to understand how to get the best from the Mercedes clone. Instead it looks set to start the season on a strong footing.

Alfa Romeo

Laps:424 (3rd) Quickest lap: Kimi Raikkonen, 1:17.091 (2nd)

Kimi Raikkonen was the fastest driver behind Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton this week, but closer analysis of his lap time is less impressive. For starters, he was still 1.3s off Bottas' best effort and did so on the same C5 tyre compound, which is the fastest in Pirelli's range. He was also only marginally faster than Esteban Ocon in the Renault, which was using a harder compound.

But Alfa Romeo is comfortably in the midfield mix and, again, there is no shame in getting on with some performance running nice and early in the first week. Yet in a year when it seems as though the majority of its midfield opposition have made a decent step, nothing at this stage suggests Alfa Romeo is going to leapfrog its way to the front of F1's chasing pack.


Laps: 316 (10th) Quickest lap: Romain Grosjean, 1:18:380 (10th)

On the face of it Haas had the worst week of any team, with the least mileage and the slowest car. But just as we haven't jumped to conclusions with any other team on this list, we won't do the same with Haas.

Two accidents accounted for the loss in running; one caused by driver error with Romain Grosjean at the wheel and another caused by a broken wheel spacer and resulting rim failure when Kevin Magnussen was driving. Such hiccups are not ideal when there are only six days of testing on offer, but team boss Guenther Steiner was not overtly worried about the loss of track time on Friday evening.

No doubt the team will look to extract more performance from the car in the second week, but the aim will be to gain a complete understanding of the car's aerodynamics to avoid going down the wrong development path as it did last year.


Laps: 324 (9th) Quickest lap: George Russell, 1:18.168 (9th)

By all accounts, Williams hit its targets in the opening week of testing. This time last year it had missed the opening two days of testing and was struggling with an unpredictable and very slow car. By contrast, it was first out of the pit lane on Wednesday, had completed 324 laps by Friday and was showing the kind of pace that should mean it is not hanging off the back of the grid by over a second come the first race.

However, one team always has to be last on the Formula One grid and the early signs are that it will still be Williams at the start of 2020. The hope will be that a platform is in place to close the gap to the rest of the field as the season progresses and the early signs are that the team has succeeded in that regard.

Best laps by team

(Driver-Team-Time-Pirelli compound)

1. Mercedes - Valtteri Bottas - 1:15.732 - C5
2. Alfa Romeo - Kimi Raikkonen - 1:17.091 - C5
3. Renault - Esteban OCon - 1:17.102 - C4
4. Racing Point - Lane Stroll - 1:17.338 - C4
5. Alpha Tauri - Daniil Kvyat - 1:17.427 - C4
6. Red Bull - Max Verstappen - 1:17.516 - C3
7. McLaren - Carlos Sainz - 1:17.842 - C4
8. Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel - 1:18.514 - C4
9. Williams - George Russell - 1:18.168 - C3
10. Haas - Romain Grosjean - 1:18.380 - C3

Lap counts by team

1. Mercedes - 494
2. Red Bull - 471
3. Alfa Romeo - 424
4. McLaren - 423
5. Alpha Tauri - 384
6. Renault - 380
7. Racing Point - 371
8. Ferrari - 354
9. Williams - 324
10. Haas - 316