Seven down, one to go. We’ve been treated to glorious conditions so far in Formula 1 pre-season testing and the weather Gods did not disappoint on the penultimate day of running at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Ferrari reclaimed top spot – but is this a true picture? Let’s take a look at the numbers…
F1 Testing: What the data tells us from Day 3 of Test 2
McLaren’s time at the top of the timesheets came to an end on day three of testing, with Ferrari reasserting their authority courtesy of a stunning lap from Charles Leclerc (who provides the baseline to the above graph, which combines the three best sectors from each team, not necessarily on the same lap), which was not only the fastest of the test but also nearly a second quicker than the best time in last year’s test.
Leclerc was only a fraction quicker than Toro Rosso's Alexander Albon in the opening sector, but the Prancing Horse then stretched its legs in the final two to end the day with an impressive 0.651 advantage over the Thai driver in second, with both running the C5 – Pirelli’s softest compound.
Best single lap
1 Ferrari (Charles Leclerc) 1m16.231s - C5 – 138 laps
2 Toro Rosso (Alexander Albon) 1m16.882s +0.651s - C5 – 118 laps
3 McLaren (Lando Norris) 1m17.084s +0.853s - C5 – 84 laps
4 Red Bull (Pierre Gasly) 1m17.091s +0.860s - C5 – 65 laps
5 Renault (Daniel Ricciardo) 1m17.204s +0.973s - C5 – 65 laps
6 Racing Point (Lance Stroll) 1m17.556s +1.325s – C5 – 103 laps
7 Alfa Romeo (Antonio Giovinazzi) 1m17.639s +1.408s - C5 – 71 laps
8 Haas (Romain Grosjean) 1m17.854s +1.623s– (C4) –16 laps
9 Mercedes (Lewis Hamilton) 1m18.097s +1.866s – (C2) – 85 laps
10 Williams (George Russell) – 1m18.130s +1.899s - C5 – 140 laps
As shown above, McLaren, Red Bull, Renault, Racing Point and Alfa Romeo also ran the C5, but couldn’t get close to the Ferrari. Mercedes and Haas were the only ones not to run that rubber. So it wouldn’t be fair to compare their times, with Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean ninth and eighth respectively. So what if we were to find a metric to compare them?
Well if we were to adjust their times to account for the deficit between the compounds, which according to Pirelli is around 0.6s, there’s an intriguing change.
Best single lap (adjusted times tyre-corrected based on Pirelli data)
1 (1) Ferrari (Charles Leclerc) 1m16.231s
2 (9) Mercedes (Lewis Hamilton) 1m16.297s +0.066s
3 (2) Toro Rosso (Alexander Albon) 1m16.882s +0.651s
4 (3) McLaren (Lando Norris) 1m17.084s +0.853s
5 (4) Red Bull (Pierre Gasly) 1m17.091s +0.860s
6 (5) Renault (Daniel Ricciardo) 1m17.204s +0.973s
7 (8) Haas (Romain Grosjean) 1m17.254s +1.023s
8 (6) Racing Point (Lance Stroll) 1m17.556s +1.325s
9 (7) Alfa Romeo (Antonio Giovinazzi) 1m17.639s +1.408s
10 (10) Williams (George Russell) – 1m18.130s +1.899s
Mercedes, who have had a reasonably low-key pre-season test so far, vault up to second, just a fraction behind Ferrari. Of course, this isn’t a completely accurate comparison, but it will be interesting to compare the duo like-for-like if Mercedes do a low-fuel C5 run on the final day.
Elsewhere, Haas improve one place to seventh in the pecking order, less than half a tenth adrift of Renault, with McLaren, Red Bull, Renault and Haas separated by just under two tenths.
Alfa Romeo were down in ninth, but Antonio Giovinazzi admitted he struggled on the softer tyres, having not tested them for a long time – so watch out for Kimi Raikkonen’s effort when he gets a shot on the final day.
Red flags disrupt running
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was heaving on Thursday morning as teams made the most of beautiful conditions to clock up the laps, with all favouring a strategy of several shorter stints.
Come the afternoon, most turned their attention to long runs and race simulations, but these were disrupted as Pierre Gasly crashed and Lance Stroll (sensor issue) and Charles Leclerc (exhaust issue) also stopped out on track causing red flags.
Mercedes struggled with front graining during their race simulation on Wednesday, but made gains in this area today, according to their technical chief James Allison.
“Today was a very productive day, either side of a trouble-free race distance we did a lot of good investigative work and in the race simulation itself, unlike yesterday where we failed to make the tyres live, we had good tyre behaviour across all three stints,” he said. “We look forward to tomorrow where we will be investigating the range of tyre compounds and focusing more on single lap pace.”
Hamilton said it has “probably been one of the most positive days for us”, adding “we’ve really learned quite a lot” while Bottas said the race simulation he completed “confirmed the progress we’ve made since last week”.
Red Bull have plenty to do on Friday, after Gasly’s crashed wiped out most of their afternoon and meant they ended the day without having completed a race simulation. In contrast, Williams’ revival continued with the team topping the lap charts as they bid to recover the lost time after their car arrived late.
Mercedes clock up the engine mileage
It was an immensely successful day for Mercedes in terms of gathering engine data with the Silver Arrows, plus customers Racing Point and Williams, managing 421 collectively.
Ferrari were next up, but they couldn’t break the 300-lap barrier. Renault were third overall, their tally hampered by a lack of running from Lando Norris in the afternoon after McLaren encountered an exhaust issue, the cause of which they are still investigating.
Honda finished bottom of the pile, but that was largely down to the fact Red Bull lost most of their track time in the afternoon following Gasly’s crash.