Alfa Romeo quick as Ferrari pile on the miles – What the data tells us from Day 3 of testing
The pack up is in full swing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya after the sixth and final day of pre-season testing. So who had the best of it on a chilly and overcast Friday. Let’s have a look at the numbers…
Ferrari pile on the miles
This may not have been the most impressive pre-season test for Ferrari, but at least they had the most productive final day of running. Charles Leclerc completed the equivalent of close to three Spanish Grands Prix distances with 181 laps, 12 more than next best Mercedes.
It was a strong end for everybody, really, with all 10 teams completing at least 100 laps. Red Bull finished bottom of the charts, having lost a bit of time in the morning after Alex Albon suffered what the team described as a “wind-assisted trip through the gravel” in his final stint of the morning.
His team mate Max Verstappen focused on final preparations for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, running through the C2, C3 and C4 tyres – the middle compounds from Pirelli’s range. Both drivers were very happy with the RB16’s performance from the off.
Albon said it “felt strong” from the first lap of testing, while Verstappen said the “pace looks pretty good”, adding I hope it’s enough to be competitive in Melbourne. It’s unclear what the pecking order is, but there’s a feeling in the paddock that Red Bull are Mercedes’ closest challengers.
Renault had been towards the bottom of the total mileage charts after a series of niggles over the opening five days of testing, but they bounced back with a clearer run on the final day, clocking a solid 140 laps, while Williams managed their fifth century in six days of testing as George Russell recorded 146 tours.
Alfa Romeo impress in the speed stakes
We’ve not spoken much about Alfa Romeo during pre-season testing, the Hinwil-based team quietly going about their business without making any dramatic impression with their speed or reliability.
But on the final day of testing, they topped our top speed charts when using DRS with Kimi Raikkonen hitting 320km/h. It was Renault, with Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon splitting the running, that came out on top, though, when you disregard the use of DRS.
As you can see from the chart, there’s quite a difference between all the teams, which only further highlights that they were all running very different programmes as they finetuned their individual packages. Anticipate these gaps closing when we hit the first race of the season Down Under.
Softer compounds get a proper test
Cold and dreary conditions greeted the teams on the final morning of testing, several team members strolling into the paddock with the suitcase, set to make a quick evening getaway to the airport once testing was done and dusted.
Mercedes, Red Bull, Renault and Haas opted to split running between two drivers, the one-hour lunch break allowing for such a strategy as it gives them time to set the car up for the change without using valuable run time.
Performance runs were the focus for most, with the performance stint graph showing most drivers setting their best times in the morning, on either the C4 or C5 (only Albon didn’t as he focused solely on the C3), when the conditions were at their best.
In the afternoon, long runs were the name of the game, with Ferrari, Racing Point, McLaren, Williams, AlphaTauri – who Carlos Sainz incidentally thinks are fighting Racing Point and his team for the head of the midfield accolade – and Alfa Romeo.
Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto reckons their long runs and reliability look reasonably good, but their short run pace “isn’t yet where we want it to be”.
You’ll see from the graph above that a lot of live pit stop practice was completed, while teams also used this final day to carry out full grid simulations and race weekend procedures so they could shake off the rust ahead of Melbourne.
All 10 teams now have plenty of data to work through over the next few days, before adding the finishing touches to their Melbourne-spec cars and sending them off to Australia, ready for the first race of the season.
As ever, everyone is keeping their cards close to their chest, but for a change, at least it looks like they are all reliable and on the front foot as we head to race one.