Ferrari set the fastest time on the final day of F1 testing; but do they have the fastest car? Few think so, as Mercedes has certainly not gone all out to set eye catching lap times.
Ferrari has been the pace setter the past few winters, including last year when it was clear that the car was really fast and stable. This year the car looks drivable, but so does the Red Bull.
Following the pattern of previous seasons, the Silver Arrows have spent their time pounding around on harder tyre compounds, higher fuel loads and very much focussing on their own programmes. They have done a total of 4,841 km of testing and there were some real highlights, not least a race simulation on Thursday by Valtteri Bottas which looked very fast and consistent, starting in the 1m 22s and ending in the 1m 19s.
If previous seasons are anything to go by they will pull out some surprising lap times in qualifying in Melbourne in two weeks and then everyone will know where they stand. But there’s little doubt that there was certainly a 1m16s lap in that car, had they chosen to extract it.
The tyres are softer and the resurfaced track also around 2 seconds faster, so quite a bit of the performance gain relative to last year’s 1m 19s pole are there. The halo has taken about 0.3s a lap of performance off the cars, according to most teams.
“We had some strong pace in testing at times, but then you see what others are doing and then you’re not sure anymore, but I think we’re looking OK,” said Daniel Ricciardo. “I think we still have to find a bit of time, we still have things to improve, but I think we are close enough to be in the hunt,”
Second fastest on the final day, despite another engine change, was McLaren with Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has had a miserable time of it the last few winter test seasons with McLaren, but here the team believes that it is in better shape than others are giving it credit for.
“I think there’s more to come from the car in terms of performance and also of course with reliability, but now we have two important weeks back in the factory to prepare for the first race. We will see exactly where we are in Australia,” said Alonso.
There were technical niggles also for Renault, who lost a lot of time with a gearbox problem,
Meanwhile Charles Leclerc had an off into the barriers in the morning, losing track time with repairs.
Haas driver Romain Grosjean will sleep well tonight have=ing knocked out 842 kilometres of running in a single day, one of the highest ever totals by one driver.
Another feelgood story is the way that Toro Rosso has managed to cover a massive 822 laps in the eight days of testing (despite the bad weather in Week 1). That’s a total of 3826 km for Honda to assess. The Japanese manufacturer brought a development unit this week and the signs are certainly more positive. Red Bull will be watching closely but also benchmarking Honda’s performance against the Renault engine in the Red Bull car for signs that might lead it to a decision on engines for 2019…
All photos: LAT Images
F1 Testing, Day 4
1. Raikkonen (Ferrari) – 1m17.221s (hypersoft) – 157 laps
2. Alonso (McLaren) – 1m17.784s (hypersoft) – 93 laps
3. Sainz (Renault) – 1m18.092s (hypersoft) – 45 laps
4. Ricciardo (Red Bull) – 1m18.327s (supersoft) – 92 laps
5. Grosjean (Haas) – 1m18.412s (ultrasoft) – 181 laps
6. Bottas (Mercedes) – 1m18.825s (medium) – 104 laps
7. Hartley (Toro Rosso) – 1m18.949s (hypersoft) – 156 laps
8. Ocon (Force India) – 1m18.967s (hypersoft) – 163 laps
9. Leclerc (Sauber) – 1m19.118s (hypersoft) – 75 laps
10. Sirotkin (Williams) – 1m19.189s (soft) – 105 laps
11. Hamilton (Mercedes) – 1m19.464s (supersoft) – 97 laps
12. Stroll (Williams) – 1m19.954s (soft) – 27 laps