RACE DEBRIEF

    After four days and 32 hours on-track action, we reach the end of the first Formula 1 pre-season test of 2019. The amount of mileage that has been covered this week has been mighty impressive, but who had the most reasons to smile on day four? We delve into the numbers….

    Renault fly to the top

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    After Ferrari topped the times on the opening two days of the test and Toro Rosso were quickest on Wednesday, it was the turn of Renault to have their name up in lights, but were they quick across all three sectors?

    Well this chart helps us answer that question, as we look at the three best sectors set by each team (not necessarily from the same lap or same driver) on Day 4, and it suggests that Renault - the benchmark here, running the softest of the five compounds with Nico Hulkenberg at the wheel - were the best in the second and third sectors thanks to the German's late effort.

    However, it was Mercedes – again splitting their running between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas – who came up trumps in the first sector, the reigning world champions finally opting to complete some performance runs and try out the softer tyres, as Mercedes technical chief James Allison had said they would the night before.

    Elsewhere, on their first proper day of running Williams were way off in the second and third sectors as they completed the kind of data gathering tests their rivals were doing on days one and two, but interestingly were faster than Racing Point in the first sector. Again, the usual caveats about tyres and fuel load apply here, with the pink team having spent the day mostly on the second-hardest C2 tyres - and Pirelli estimates suggest 0.6 to 0.7 seconds between each compound.

    Red Bull’s middle sector didn't make for pleasant reading on Day 3, but when speaking to Pierre Gasly at the back of the garage after the session, the Frenchman confirmed the team were working through a programme that was not about quick laps, so we can't read too much into their performance.

    So, some trends have started to emerge, but it won't be until next week, when all the teams turn the wick up, that we will be able to make some real assumptions.

    Ferrari smash through the 1000-lap barrier

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    As predicted, Ferrari powered through the 1000-lap mark with their best single-day performance in terms of engine mileage on the final day of the first test, with the Prancing Horse, Alfa Romeo and Haas completing an impressive 420 between them.

    Honda was the next best and though they didn’t even break 300, the fact they managed 957 between Red Bull and Toro Rosso this week was impressive, considering the reliability issues they have encountered since returning to F1 in 2015.

    Mercedes were next up, just clearing the 250-lap barrier with Honda bringing up the rear, with a reasonably modest 189. There may now be a four-day break, but the engineers will spend that time crunching the numbers and planning tweaks and improvements to introduce for next week’s test.

    Renault secure top-speed accolade

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    Mercedes were top of the pile when it came to the speed trap stakes on Wednesday, but it was the turn of pacesetters Renault (who bolted on the quickest tyres for Hulkenberg's short, almost certainly low-fuel stint at the end of the day) to take the spoils on Day 4, with a top speed of 328.7km/h.

    Ferrari and Honda were close, within 0.1km/hr no less, with Mercedes dropping to the back, 3.4km/h slower than they managed on the previous day.

    As ever, it’s difficult to read too much into this, with the engine manufacturer in top spot changing throughout the week – and don’t forget they will all turn up their engines and likely check their qualifying modes, when we get going again next week.

    Good progress all round

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    Teams were greeted with clear and sunny conditions on Thursday and though it still remained cold – with several drivers including the McLaren duo of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris sporting woolly hats – the temperatures were a little bit more useful for the teams.

    Interestingly, several teams opted to run the softest compound tyres – the red-walled C4 and C5 – Hulkenberg putting his C5s to good use with the fastest time of the day, on a short run (probably on low fuel) towards the end of the day before he stopped out on track to end his session an hour early.

    In contrast, Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon – also running the C5 – set his best time in the morning, before focusing on longer stints in the afternoon.

    Over at Mercedes, they focused on a series of shorter runs today, with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton’s best laps set on very short stints. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was one place behind Hamilton in the standings, but his best lap was set on a tyre one step harder and at the start of a run that went on to be around four times longer than Hamilton’s - clearly with performance in hand, this was not a day when the Scuderia were looking at headline times. As mentioned earlier, with Pirelli saying there is a gap of 0.6 to 0.7 seconds between each compound, it's the Prancing Horse who will leave Test 1 with their tails up.

    It remains unclear if Mercedes were running heavy with Hamilton, even if he only did a short stint, though Leclerc would certainly have had a decent amount of fuel to complete his longer run.

    The FW42 stayed reasonably reliable for Williams – but the team lost some time after discovering a fault late on in the morning session. However, they were able to complete a series of consistent runs across their first proper day of track action and will hope to be able to switch their attention from data gathering to reliability and performance tests next week.

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