RACE DEBRIEF

    2020 pre-season testing – seems like eons ago doesn’t it? After the running at Barcelona back in February, we asked a panel of Formula 1 experts to rank the teams’ performances to give us an indication of what they thought the pecking order in 2020 could look like. Four months on, as we get ready to finally kick the season off at the Austrian Grand Prix on July 3-5, here’s where we think the teams stand ahead of the on-track action at the Red Bull Ring.

    HOW OUR RANKING WORKS

    After 2020 pre-season testing, we asked each of our experts to rank the 10 F1 teams from P1 to P10, based on how they viewed the order after this six days of running in Barcelona. We then averaged their scores out to create our ranking.

    READ MORE: Vettel’s future, Hamilton’s record chances and more: 10 key questions for the 2020 season

    10. Williams

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    2019 constructors’ finish: 10th

    There’s no doubt that, performance-wise at least, things are looking rosier for Williams in 2020 than they did in 2019. The truculent FW42 has given away to an FW43 that both George Russell and Nicholas Latifi seem much happier with – and which managed to give Williams the seventh fastest time of pre-season testing back in February too.

    However, Russell admitted then that “realistically [Williams] are still the slowest car” – and our experts agreed, with the team still at the bottom of the table ahead of 2020.

    READ MORE: Williams reveal striking new livery ahead of 2020 season opener

    9. Haas

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    2019 constructors’ finish: 9th

    Was Haas’ 2019 a blip, or part of a general downwards trend for the American squad? Our experts rather sided with the latter viewpoint, as Haas averaged out to ninth place in the standings ahead of the season start – with one expert even scoring them 10th out of 10 in the running.

    Pre-season testing in Barcelona was a low-wattage affair for the team, as they failed to set a lap below 1m 17s – marking them as the slowest squad on one-lap pace from the six days of running there. They also recorded the fewest number of laps at the Circuit de Catalunya, 649 to Mercedes' 903. “Overall, we’ve logged good mileage and we’ve learned a lot,” was Team Principal Guenther Steiner’s sober analysis back then. Have Haas managed to conjure up any useful updates in the interim?

    READ MORE: ‘I think Haas is here to stay’ – Steiner confident Gene Haas will keep his team in F1

    8. Alfa Romeo

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    2019 constructors’ finish: 8th

    Alfa Romeo's performance at pre-season testing was slightly anomalous, the team demonstrating exceptional straight-line speed – topping the speed trap charts after hitting a DRS-assisted 200mph – and setting some headline-grabbing but (probably) slightly glory-runny laps.

    The overall picture, however, was one that failed to convince our experts that the Hinwil team had really taken a step up the midfield order, as they slotted into the eighth place in which they finished in the 2019 constructors’ standings – while unlike midfield rivals such as Renault and AlphaTauri, there's been no warm-up testing for Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen or Antonio Giovinazzi ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

    READ MORE: 2019 ‘struggles’ cost me shot at Ferrari seat, says Giovinazzi

    7. AlphaTauri

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    2019 constructors’ finish (as Toro Rosso): 6th

    On paper, AlphaTauri’s new name and smart livery don’t appear to have pushed them up the order, with our experts not seeing eye-to-eye with Team Principal Franz Tost’s belief that the team could claim fifth in this year’s constructors’ championship after their performance at pre-season testing.

    Despite that, it was interesting that straight after testing, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz earmarked AlphaTauri as one of the two midfield teams he feared most for 2020 – while the team also sacrificed a filming day to run the new AT01 at Imola last week, which could prove handy ahead of Austria.

    READ MORE: AlphaTauri 'now ready for Austria', says Gasly after Imola test

    6. McLaren

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    2019 constructors’ finish: 4th

    McLaren were 2019’s surprise performers, as they claimed the prized fourth place spot in the standings after several seasons of slog. 2020 pre-season testing was a quiet affair for the Woking squad, however, with the team looking well-matched with rivals Renault, but not significantly better – although it's worth noting that they weren't spectacular at 2019 pre-season testing either...

    Nonetheless, our judges slotted them in at a relatively-lowly sixth in the standings, while both Sainz – who sensationally signed for Ferrari during the coronavirus pause – and Lando Norris may take longer to get up to speed than their rivals when racing restarts, with neither having been able to test an F1 car in recent weeks due to McLaren's contract with power unit suppliers Renault not extending to the running of older cars. Sainz wasn't worried, however, believing he'd be back to normal in "not more than 10 laps"...

    READ MORE: Norris and Sainz test F3 cars at Silverstone as they prepare for 2020 season start

    5. Renault

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    2019 constructors’ finish: 5th

    Renault ended 2020 pre-season testing as the third fastest team on one-lap pace – behind Mercedes and Red Bull, and ahead of Ferrari – with early signs suggesting that the team had kicked on usefully over the winter. Our experts scored them as the fifth-placed squad after Barcelona, with the general impression that, following a "glitch" in 2019 (in the words of the team's Executive Director Marcin Budkowski) Renault could definitely be contenders once more for midfield honours this year.

    That ultimately wasn’t enough to stop Daniel Ricciardo confirming a move to McLaren for 2021 during the enforced racing lay-off, which can’t have been great for Renault morale – although a pre-season opener test at the Red Bull Ring, coupled to a triple upgrade the team confirmed they’re bringing for the Austrian Grand Prix, might have sweetened the pill a little.

    READ MORE: ‘Seems like everything’s gone against me’, says Ocon ahead of delayed F1 return

    4. Racing Point

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    2019 constructors’ finish: 7th

    Much was made of Racing Point’s ‘Pink Mercedes’ when it hit the track in Barcelona in February. But while the RP20 was courting controversy, it was also setting some swift lap times, with Sergio Perez calling the car the best he’d ever driven in pre-season. That led our experts to conclude that it’s Racing Point who are likely to be ‘best of the rest’ on current evidence in 2020 – meaning we could see the team return to the P4 spot in the constructors’ for the first time since 2017.

    Racing Point were also one of the teams to take advantage of running their 2020 car ahead of the revised season start, with Lance Stroll driving the RP20 at a private session at Silverstone.

    READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Racing Point before the season starts

    3. Ferrari

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    2019 constructors’ finish: 2nd

    Ever since pre-season testing, Ferrari have presented a downbeat face to the world. Although they moved to refute claims back in February that their testing performance had been a disaster, ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix, Team Principal Mattia Binotto told the media that he didn’t expect his team to be the fastest at the Red Bull Ring – as they comfortably were in qualifying last year – with Ferrari later confirming no significant updates for Austria as they shift focus to a new development direction.

    After testing, our experts were all unanimous on the order of the top three teams, with Ferrari placing third each time – and the extended downtime doesn’t look to have done much to assuage their worries.

    READ MORE: Why Austria and Hungary are the perfect tracks to show where the top teams stand in 2020

    2. Red Bull

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    2019 constructors’ finish: 3rd

    Red Bull, like Mercedes, were one of the few teams to bring big innovation to 2020 pre-season testing, with a clever new steering and double bulkhead arrangement seen on the RB16. And despite the car looking a little skittish back in February – leading to some lairy spins for both Max Verstappen and Alex Albon at the time – it’s clearly quick too, with our experts voting Red Bull the team most likely to cause Mercedes headaches in 2020.

    Red Bull are also seen by many as one of the beneficiaries of the changes to the 2020 calendar, with Verstappen having won at the Red Bull Ring for the past two years running – while the team afforded Albon some more time in the RB16 during a filming day at Silverstone last week, and plan to run both aerodynamic and Honda power unit upgrades in Austria.

    READ MORE: Our writers' predictions and hot takes ahead of the new season

    1. Mercedes

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    2019 constructors’ finish: 1st

    Well, no surprise who’s #1, eh? Mercedes’ DAS-equipped W11 was not only comfortably the fastest car during pre-season testing – the team also managed the most laps too, 903 of them, to complete the demoralisation of the opposition.

    Mercedes added to that demoralisation by announcing ahead of the revised season start that the W11 – which will wear a black livery this year as the team take a stand against racism and inequality – would also feature "a chunk" of upgrades (to use James Allison's technical description) when it hits the track at the Red Bull Ring this week. Unseating Mercedes doesn’t look to have got any easier in 2020, with all of our experts ranking the team in pole position for 2020.

    READ MORE: Mercedes fire warning to rivals as they confirm ‘a chunk’ of upgrades for Austria

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