Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Ferrari further off their 2018 pace than any team in Spain

2019 Spanish Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Ferrari looked like being a match for Mercedes over the first two sectors of the Circuit de Catalunya in Friday practice.

But at the moment it’s all falling apart for them in the final sector. They ended Friday three-tenths of a second slower than the silver cars, and gave away four-tenths in the six significant turns which make up the end of the lap.

More troubling for the team is the fact Mercedes have tended to find more pace on Saturdays than they have this season. Ferrari’s fans will be hoping the team took things more cautiously than usual with its new engines on Friday, which might explain the deficit.

Lewis Hamilton didn’t think so, however. “Ferrari seem to be as always gaining something like four-tenths on the straights,” he remarked after practice, continuing a familiar theme from earlier in the season.

Mercedes couldn’t live with Ferrari’s pace through the first sector of the lap. Charles Leclerc was fastest there, almost two-tenths quicker than either of the W10. The Circuit de Catalunya demands a careful balancing act with the set-up, ensuring the tyres stay alive for the final sector where traction is critical, and Ferrari may find overnight they can make a positive trade-off to improve the car’s performance across a full lap.

The top two teams look more closely matched on race pace. As ever average lap times, which can be very easily distorted by differing fuel levels, are less instructive than how quickly the drivers’ tyres began to drop off. In this respect Ferrari look capable of fighting on level terms with Mercedes.

However it’s clear neither of the front-running teams have got very close to their potential yet. The relative performance of the Williams cars is a tell-tale sign, as is the fact Mercedes and Ferrari are well over a second off their 2018 benchmark times. Ferrari clearly have the most to gain – they’re the furthest off last year’s pace than any team. Perhaps they have something up their sleeves?

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019
Haas’s upswing in form was expected
The 2018 benchmark times also indicate Red Bull will be able to find a lot more lap time than Haas. The latter’s hopes of challenging the RB15 pair for third-fastest team may soon be dashed, despite Kevin Magnussen having come incredibly close to doing just that in Bahrain.

Nonetheless Haas seem likely to be clear of the usual midfield melee in qualifying. They were expected to go better at a track where the near-constant lateral loads on the tyres makes it easier for them to keep their tyres in the optimum operating window. This will be a blessing for them, as overtaking at this track is notoriously hard, and the drivers are sceptical the 2019 aerodynamic changes will help much here.

The scrap for the final places in Q3 is set to be very tight. “It’s intense,” Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon remarked. “I feel like I’m going to have to nail my lap and we’re going to have to nail the set-up to get into Q3.”

The McLaren pair highlighted the closeness of the midfield. Carlos Sainz Jnr was less than four-tenths of a second quicker than Lando Norris, but with those times the former would be in Q3 and the latter eliminated in Q1. Norris said his time loss to Sainz came at a few specific points around the lap and is confident he can make up the deficit, though Sainz always goes particularly well at his home track.

But as usual it matters little how well the Williams drivers perform as they are unlikely to start anywhere other than the back row. Making matters worse, a power unit part change in second practice meant Robert Kubica was unable to do a race stint simulation.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

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Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’17.9511’17.28454
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’18.5751’17.33357
3Charles LeclercFerrari1’18.1721’17.58562
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’18.0661’17.67361
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’19.8441’18.03544
6Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’18.9431’18.15367
7Pierre GaslyRed Bull-Honda1’19.2851’18.23864
8Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’19.1801’18.35567
9Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’19.1551’18.65876
10Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Honda1’19.3641’18.72274
11Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’20.5911’18.72752
12Alexander AlbonToro Rosso-Honda1’20.0301’18.77969
13Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’19.8551’18.83961
14Nico HulkenbergRenault1’19.4501’18.86168
15Daniel RicciardoRenault1’19.5111’18.93464
16Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’20.0661’19.04176
17Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’20.0211’19.42765
18Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’20.4591’19.44866
19George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’20.9901’20.19161
20Robert KubicaWilliams-Mercedes1’20.8891’20.78150

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2019 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “Ferrari further off their 2018 pace than any team in Spain”

  1. Toto already knows that a Ferrari win will be hard to stop. Ferrari are clearly sandbagging :)

    Seriously though, this season is looking more and more like Merc cake walk. Ferrari haven’t got the legs and RB is cantering in 3rd, too fast for those behind but not fast enough yet.

    I expect the Bottas 2.0 theme to come to the fore in the media in an frail attempt to keep the fan interest. As fascinating as that might be, nobody really expects Lewis to be beaten over the course of a season by the Finn.

  2. VettelworstWC
    10th May 2019, 23:22

    You know what? I love that Merc does not have the best engine what will people say now. The 2014-2016 all i heard was it is the engine. Well Merc are best with a slower car on the straights, hilarious.

    1. You realise that aerodynamics have just as much to do with straight line speed as the engine does, right?

  3. In the last bar chart, it is amusing to note that the teams with the biggest budgets are the most off the pace. Appears to be a case of the law of diminishing returns.

    1. Its a silly chart, practice pace means nothing, especially when teams are testing new upgrades in practice.

      I bet that tomorrow after qualifying the same chart would look very different and make more sense.

      1. Yeah, good point, we’d know better once we compare quali times.

  4. Remember last year when Ferrari seemed to drop of massively post Spa/Monza and they eventually claimed they’ve gone down the wrong development route (Or been told to stop doing something naughty by the FIA as some speculated)

    They’ve not done it again, have they? Gone down the wrong development route in an attempt to recapture their pre-season performance?

    1. @nikkit I read somewhere (f1technical.net; or was reminded, I think I read it during/just after winter testing too) that the suspension Ferrari ran initially in winter testing was helping them a lot, but was also responsible for Vettel’s rim breaking (loading?), and hence they reverted to pretty much the 2018 version; by now they have an improved version, but thanks to that rim failure, prefer to first test it in the post-GP two testing days. Let’s hope that’s true and they can use that for Monaco then, I guess (but then, ‘let us hope’ has been Ferrari’s MO so far this year …)

      1. @bosyber – very interesting info, thank you

  5. Ferrari PR is saying that they didn’t use the new engines during FP 1 and 2, it’ll be only in the car for FP3.

  6. The latter’s hopes of challenging the RB15 pair for third-fastest team may soon be dashed

    By Ferrari? :)

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