Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Which team won F1’s pre-season testing ‘war’? It may not be over yet

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 teams completed their shortest ever pre-season testing period yesterday, having run for three days at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Drawing conclusions about their ultimate pace based on testing mileage alone is always difficult, and the compressed nature of this season’s test makes that even more so.

However some teams clearly had more productive sessions than their rivals, and others looked noticeably more satisfied with how much progress they made in the build-up to the new championship.

McLaren

As the only team which has changed power unit supplier since last year, McLaren arguably faced the most challenging off-season, yet perhaps also has the most to gain by switching to Mercedes’ multiple championship-winning motors. Like most of their rivals they also had to integrate a new driver, in their case Daniel Ricciardo.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
McLaren surprised rival teams haven’t adopted unique diffuser design
The initial signs were encouraging for the team. McLaren were first to present their new car, the MCL35M and the first to run it in a filming day, at Silverstone.

Like several of F1’s leading teams they were at pains to disguise the areas of their car which had to change due to new technical regulations. Some rather crude ‘Photoshopping’ techniques were applied to early images of the car which appeared on social media.

One reason for this became clear when the car appeared on Friday. McLaren have a novel solution to F1’s new diffuser restrictions which, to the team’s surprise, none of their rivals appear to have sussed.

The car periodically headed the morning sessions in Bahrain. However their final tally of just under 1,800 kilometres was only the eighth-highest of the 10 teams, not what might have been expected for a team looking to ‘prove out’ the installation of a new power unit.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, Silverstone, 2021
McLaren’s test could not have gone better so far – Ricciardo
But according to technical director James Key the team completed all the running it intended to. “There’s no negative reason for the lap count we’ve got,” he said, “it’s more to do with the fact that we swapped drivers every day, which always has a little bit of a timing implication.

“We tried to split our time between data gathering, which can be time-consuming sometimes, and just sticking miles in the car. Of course you’d like to put a lot of miles on the car immediately. But if you do that you don’t necessarily get all these little tests done, which typically we’ve started our day with.

“So it has been planned. We, of course, would like to maximise mileage, but I think the programme we’ve had has ticked a lot of boxes that we needed to tick.”

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Alpine

Any concerns Fernando Alonso’s jaw injury might compromise his return were swiftly dispelled as he tallied over 200 laps in a day and a half.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Alpine insists “spectacularly bulky” new engine cover “works for us”
The eye-catching wide engine cover on the Alpine drew a lot of attention. Executive director Marcin Budkowski jokingly referred to the car being “body-shamed”. He said the A521 had been designed that way in order to reduce the size of its sidepods to improve aerodynamic performance.

He believes the midfield has closed up this year, though perhaps more in terms of Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams catching up than the middle group cutting their deficit to Mercedes and Red Bull.

Alpine “had an intense programme, almost trying to fit six days of testing into three,” explained Budkowski. “We achieved our target of 130 laps per day and found some decent performance improvements over the three days.”

While the team gave little indication of its ultimate pace, lapping some 1.9 seconds away from its 2020 best in Bahrain, Budkowski feels they had “a very solid test”.

Alfa Romeo

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Raikkonen: New Alfa Romeo already quicker than last year’s car, despite rules changes
Alfa Romeo looked like a contender for the team which can be most pleased with how its pre-season testing went. “I think 422 laps over three days is a new record for our team,” said technical director Jan Monchaux.

Having spent its development tokens on reworking the car’s nose, exchanging its bluff Ferrari-style design for a thinner one in the Mercedes fashion, the team also appears to have received a boost from Ferrari’s new power unit.

Raikkonen said there was a noticeable improvement from the motor and indicated the C41 is already quicker than the team’s 2020 car. Based on this, the team can realistically hope to rejoin the midfield after their disappointing result of eighth place with eight points last year.

Ferrari

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Binotto believes Ferrari have “improved in many areas”
It was clear after pre-season testing 12 months ago that all was not well at Ferrari, as the team was unable to improve on its best lap time from the previous season at the Circuit de Catalunya.

They went on to endure their worst campaign for decades. A loss of straight-line speed was a key weakness, which team principal Mattia Binotto was always at pains to insist was not simply down to their hotly-debated power unit but also the levels of drag the car produced.

Whatever the explanation, testing on Bahrain’s long straights indicated Ferrari have made gains in this area. Binotto even felt confident enough to say the team is no longer at a disadvantage on the straights.

On top of that, he added the car has “improved in many areas compared to last season”. The Tifosi therefore have ample cause to expect Ferrari’s target of returning to third place in the championship is realistic.

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Haas

Uniquely, Haas has not only changed both its drivers for the new season, but picked a pair of rookies. There may never have been a more challenging time to do this, with only three days of pre-season testing available.

That said, Mick Schumacher has had several opportunities to drive Formula 1 cars through his membership of the Ferrari Driver Academy. Team mate Nikita Mazepin, meanwhile, has had an undisclosed number of private tests in a Mercedes.

Despite calling their new car the VF-21, Haas admitted they have only made minor changes compared to last year’s car, and not used either of their ‘development tokens’. It remains to be seen whether the particular problem they had with their rear suspension overheating in 2020 has been addressed.

They lapped well off the pace of the competition, more than a second away from the next-slowest car. Team principal Guenther Steiner has previously indicated the team will not develop the car significantly this year as it prioritises work on the 2022 chassis, but said there is more to come from the VF-21: “We just need to see that we find some more speed, but there will be something coming.”

Red Bull

If Haas are set to be rooted to the back row of the grid, Red Bull looked like they might finally be in contention for the front row again. That, of course, will depend as much on Mercedes as on them.

Verstappen said Red Bull had started testing better than previous years but rejected suggestions they could be the team to beat this season, stating Mercedes’ record run of seven consecutive championships makes them obvious favourites.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Verstappen: Red Bull made “very positive” start to testing compared to past seasons
After saying that, Verstappen got back in his car and set the fastest time of the test. “We’ll find out for sure in a couple of weeks in Q3 where we really are but in general I would say the car feels good,” he admitted after completing his final run.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign from Red Bull was that the RB16B appears to be less lively at the rear than its predecessor, a characteristic Alexander Albon only seemed to come to terms with at the final race of last year.

Sergio Perez has taken over from him since. He and his team mate ran identical programmes on Sunday, yet Perez’s lap time was 1.2 seconds slower. The rapidly evolving track conditions in Bahrain will have played a role in this, though Perez indicated it will take him five races to get the best out of his new car and team.

The whole package ran reliably, including Honda’s latest power unit. This was originally scheduled for introduction this year, postponed to 2022 due to the pandemic, then brought forward again after the manufacturer announced it will leave F1 at the end of the year.

AlphaTauri

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Second-fastest Tsunoda stunned by F1 grip levels
Rookie Yuki Tsunoda put in an impressive performance on the final day, swapping fastest lap times with Verstappen. But sharp-eyed observers noted he was opening his DRS earlier than ordinarily permitted on the main straight, the usual restrictions on its use not being in force for a test, which probably bought him a few tenths of a session.

Nonetheless AlphaTauri ran strongly and Pierre Gasly completed the most laps of any driver. He is convinced the team is going to the new season in better shape than it did 12 months ago.

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Williams

According to George Russell, Williams have prioritised maximum downforce with their FW43B, even if it comes at the expense of the car’s performance in windy conditions. The car looked a handful at gusty Bahrain, but they hope it will come into its own at certain venues this year.

George Russell, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Williams’s 2021 performance at the mercy of the wind – Russell
Williams was the only team to use a test driver in Bahrain. Roy Nissany ran on Friday, meaning its race drivers had just one full day each to prepare for the new season. Both covered more than two race distances per day, however.

“It’s definitely positive that the car was reliable,” said Russell. “To finish first, first you have to finish. We saw it last year in Austria, only 11 cars finished. I’m not saying that’ll be the same case again but if that was the case of any races, I think we’re a very good position to be one of those cars.”

Naturally, he is reading nothing into the fact he ended testing just 0.092 seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.

“I can be pretty confident to say that come two weeks’ time I won’t be,” said Russell. “We’re all doing our own programmes, we’ve all got our own agendas and I think other teams have got sandbags to come off.”

Aston Martin

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Vettel sees “steep learning curve” ahead after covering fewest laps of any driver
Last year this team, then known as Racing Point, set tongues wagging with its ‘pink Mercedes’. There were no eye-catching lap times from the rebranded green cars this year, partly because the AMR21 spent a bit too much time in the garage. Gearbox and turbo boost pressure gremlins were blamed – both seemingly related to Mercedes-supplied parts.

“We have a lot of tyre sets that we didn’t use just because we didn’t run,” said Sebastian Vettel, who was disappointed to lose vital laps he needed to acclimatise to his new team. He covered the fewest laps of any race driver in the test.

“Maybe it’s the age, maybe it’s the experience, but probably 10 years ago I would slightly panic now,” he said. “But then again if I were to panic now, would it help? Probably not.

“So we’re just trying to do our thing and use the time we have. We still got some running and for me, it was super-useful the laps today. So it could be could be worse. It could be better, but it could be worse.”

Vettel says he’s in the same boat as Perez when it comes to playing himself into a new team. The lack of mileage won’t help. How this team stacks up against the newly Mercedes-powered McLaren, whose testing went more smoothly, will be fascinating.

As for the fight at the front, Vettel has more experience than most when it comes to reading the runes after testing, and is certain Mercedes will be in the frame.

“It’s probably fair to say that Mercedes didn’t have the mileage miracle that they had in the last years,” he said when asked who has the fastest car at the moment. “But then again, I’m sure that they will be alright at the first race. And Red Bull is doing what they are supposed to do, challenging. So I think it will be either Mercedes or Red Bull.”

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Hamilton says rear grip ‘doesn’t feel too great with these new regulations’ after spin
For those hoping to see the all-conquering Mercedes go up against some serious competition for a change, their troubled start to pre-season testing offered some cause for optimism.

Having decided against completing a filming day before testing started, they lost time with a gearbox problem on day one. Nor did Mercedes, which has dependably been the busiest team in testing over resent seasons, rack up mileage at their usual rate once the car got running.

It was a surprise to see them at the bottom of the mileage chart come Sunday evening. That said, the figure needs to be put in correct perspective: Mercedes’ 1.634 kilometres was just over one race distance shy of the field’s average of 2,012km.

Perhaps more concerning for the team was the balance exhibited by its W12, which both drivers complained about. All teams have had to adjust to new regulations cutting back on the rear floor, diffuser and brake duct winglet dimensions. This may have affected Mercedes to a greater degree than their rivals.

The team has not followed the ‘high rake’ aerodynamic philosophy preferred by the likes of Red Bull, with a sharply inclined ride height intended to maximise the performance of the front wing. Perhaps it is feeling the loss of rear downforce more keenly than other teams. Hamilton, who had a session-stopping spin on Saturday, indicated he sees a link between the new regulations and the change in his car’s handling.

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Mercedes: “Far too many cars were ahead of us on pace today”
The team’s trackside performance engineer Andrew Shovlin acknowledged the car’s lack of pace compared to several rivals, especially Red Bull, on Sunday evening. “We’ve planned a programme of work to try and understand some of our issues and will be leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to find some more speed over the next ten days,” he said.

In previous years, Mercedes have demonstrated an enviable ability to introduce complex upgrades to their car, either during testing or mid-season, and unlock their potential quickly without falling prey to the kind of correlation problems their rivals experience from time to time.

Are they planning to do the same on the eve of the 2021 season? Will their filming day in Bahrain tomorrow be the first time they run such an upgrade?

F1’s pre-season ‘testing war’ may not be over yet.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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46 comments on “Which team won F1’s pre-season testing ‘war’? It may not be over yet”

  1. I’d almost predict Haas to fall behind Williams this season. The monocoque’s getting very old and the car won’t be develop from now on.

    1. @jeff1s I specifically predict them to finish dead last because of no in-season development combined with two rookies.

    2. Probably, they’re getting worse with every passing season.

    3. I do wonder if Haas decided they just want to see what solutions people come up with and steal them for a mid season update. It cuts out huge amounts of development costs in the off season and in all liklihood had they spent millions in the off season they still wouldn’t have built a car that would move them up vastly on the grid. This is assuming they can spend their tokens during the season as I’ve not looked at the regulations.

  2. Sergio Perez has taken over from him since. He and his team mate ran identical programmes on Sunday, yet Perez’s lap time was 1.2 seconds faster.

    ‘slower’ that should be.

  3. I mean, token system limitations notwithstanding, I somehow find it very hard to believe Mercedes would purposely bottle a complete test -the only test days this year at that- just to sandbag and do a test on a filming day with demonstration tires on a no-doubt very sandy track. That would go against all kind of meticulous planning and preparedness the team so often boasts.

    It’s possible, but I doubt that was the plan. Now is it possible for them to fix whatever issues they were having that made that rear snap on Lewis all those times, certainly. And if it can be done, I trust Mercedes to do it. Will it be done within two weeks? We saw Red Bull spend half a year fixing a similar issue last year, so here’s hoping we might finally get a full competitive season for once.

    1. I think Mercedes is still the fastest and Red Bull will be closer. Yes the rear is a bit unstable but i don’t think Mercedes will be slower.

    2. It is interesting that Merc, the only team to do so, chose between testing and the first race to do their filming day. There is no way Merc purposely drove slow and had the various offs they did in testing BUT why wait to do the filming runs now? We know Merc are not arrogant enough to believe everything will run perfectly first time out, that is why they are where they are. Who knows? Just an interesting point (that I was unaware of until now). 3rd race will tell us what the season might look like but i think some “experts” are going to have egg on their face again this year. Every pre season test we hear the same predictions that Mercs reign is done.

  4. I have to correct the part about Tsunoda and DRS because many people seem to get it wrong:
    The same rules regarding DRS usage that apply to race weekends equally apply to testing. This thing was merely about a system/software problem that seemed to have hit Alpha Tauri to the greatest extent as Gasly also had the relevant lights on at some parts outside the designated zones on at least one lap earlier in the test.
    The FIA has some fixing and explaining to do as this thing has never happened before in any pre-season test since 2013. The only previous occasion occurred in the 2019 Abu Dhabi GP, but for the opposite effect, i.e., DRS was off entirely for a while.
    Quite embarrassing for the FIA, given the modern technology and everything.
    Otherwise, every single driver would’ve had his activation light or lights on throughout a lap. Only the Alpha Tauri drivers and Alonso were affected (Sainz, and maybe Stroll too, but differently from the other three). Watch some onboards of other drivers on YT to see that the relevant light(s) turn on only when crossing the activation lines like they’re supposed (for example, BOT and VER laps).
    Tsunoda’s T-cam footage shows how glitchy the DRS system was or how big the system error in this test was, LOL.
    The usage got restricted to the designated zones in all sessions back in 2013 on safety grounds, so had testing been treated differently, the change would’ve been useless since the whole purpose was to avoid the risks that can happen when drivers tried to activate it sooner and sooner in the first two seasons of DRS. A one-off unique situation.

    1. @jerejj
      But like the track limit it usually results in a lost track time.
      Why not with tsu?

  5. Let’s see what the filming day produces but it would be just like F1 for the teams all to close up a little and have a really competitive season , just before a major rule change. I would not rule this out and it would be great to see someone at least challenge Mercedes. This kind of thing has happened before.

    Not that I am suggesting the major changes happening in 2022 are not needed.

    1. @phil-f1-21 Indeed, typical F1 for stable regs close up the field, then a big rules change to spread it again. I believe Brawn said he is aware of this, but found the 2022 regs upheaval too important and will try for stable regs convergence after that (I’ll believe it when I see it).

  6. Here is my speculative route to Verstappen challenging Hamilton for the title: 1) Changes to aerodynamic put Red Bull closer to Mercedes than usual, to the point where the Red Bull is quicker than the Mercedes at around a quarter of the races. 2) The Mercedes has a major handling issue that takes three to five races to get on top of. 3) Red Bull, realising they could win their first championship in 7 years, keep developing their 2021 car whereas Mercedes transitions to developing 2022 at around the same time as most teams (i.e. early). If all them are true then I could imagine Verstappen keeping a championship challenge going until the final few rounds, with an outside chance of taking the championship.

    1. 1) You think VER only needs a car to be better than Merc for 5 races? Wow!
      2) unlikely but your best bet.
      3)Merc tend to tail of development of their current car before most. Last season was a perfect example.

      If you are saying RB and VER need all 3 points to come into play, I would tend to agree. Let’s hope its close without needing any of these to be true!

  7. Granted the Mercedes was having lots of issues keeping its rear end in line, like many of us do from time to time, I find it somewhat odd that they were also losing significant time to the Red Bull on the straight bits of sectors 1 and 3.

    1. @phillyspur Maybe piled on wings to mitigate the downforce issues

    2. Probably the much-hyped Honda’s 2021 PU was the class leading, we have been hearing this Honda revolution plan since 2019? No doubt it could probably beat Mercedes this year.

      1. We have been hearing about Hondas “revolutional” PU since 2015! Let’s hope they’ve finally caught up at least.

  8. It has never been harder to draw a conclusion from resting than this year. Laptimes could drop or increase by a second and a half due to track conditions alone and not all teams felt the need to do race simulations.
    So it’s quite a guessing game and here we go:
    1. Redbull: The car looks good on track and the laptimes came easily whenever their drivers were pushing a bit.

    2. Mercedes: Even without all the sandbags in the world which they were surely carrying I just can’t see them beeing ahead of Redbull (yet).
    The car was a handful and unlike 2019 they weren’t able to sort it out before testing ended. They will eventually but for the opening races I see them struggling a bit.

    3. McLaren : They were one of the positive surprises of testing and the only Mercedes powered team that had three smooth days of running. They didn’t go for glory runs either but you always had the feeling that they could be right there if they wanted to.

    4. Alpha Tauri: They did do glory runs but the laptimes were impressive and Gasly must have even more in hand too. Overall the car looked good too. Maybe the new regulations do indeed favour the philosophy of the Red Bull cars as some suggest.

    5. Ferrari : Like Mercedes I think they were sandbagging a little bit. At least I’m hoping so for their sakes. The one lap pace was pretty good, especially Leclerc’s best lap on mediums very early on day 3 was promising. The longrun in comparison to the Alfa Romeo was a bit worrying though.

    6. Aston Martin: The dark horse. There car is probably not quite as compatitive as last year plus they had a horrible 3 days of testing but with all the Mercedes backing there must be some pace somewhere. The problem is they have one comparatively bad driver with Stroll and an other one who desperately needs practice in the car. Until Vettel gets it going I could see them even behind Renault and Alfa Romeo

    7. Alfa Romeo: The car is definitely reliable and over a race distance Raikkonen was more than a match for the works Ferrari. If the engine is good enough (which it seems to be) they are definitely back in the midfield.

    8. It’s quite harsh to have them this far down the order but the midfield from 4th to 8th appears to be very close and someone has to be last. The car (ugly as it is) didn’t appear to be slow or unreliable but you it also didn’t give the impression that it could pull something amazing out of the back. Maybe they even went a bit lighter in order to please Alonso and/or the board.

    9. Williams: In the hands of Russell the car is occasionally able to join the midfield but I fear Williams wasn’t able to close the gap to the midfield. Giving the fact that Alfa Romeo have made significant gains they could be facing a quite frustrating year.

    10. Haas: Two inexperienced drivers, a car that is basically the same as last year’s, no planned updates and a significant lack of money. 2021 is going to be a survival exercise for Haas. The only saving grace could be the improved Ferrari engine but I doubt it’s going to change their position.

    1. Would be innovative to see red bull ahead the first part of the season and mercedes struggling, normally it’s the opposite.

    2. @roadrunner

      As you said, it’s hard to predict the exact pecking order.. but there’s an indication to which teams will start the season well prepared with a decent pace. My personal rankings (on the start of the season pecking order) are kind of similar to yours, with a few exceptions –
      1) Red Bull
      2) Mercedes – I expect them to be as fast as Red bull, but slightly compromised due to reliability
      3) McLaren
      4) Ferrari – Should be in a really close battle with Mclaren
      5) Alpha Tauri
      6) Aston Martin – Will be at the same pace level as Alpha Tauri.. but lack of running will hinder their performance
      7) Alpine
      8) Alfa Romeo – Should be on pace if not quicker than Alpine.. but I expect Alpine’s driver lineup to be more formidable.
      9) Williams
      10) Haas – In a world of pain starting from race 1 itself

      1. First two are plausible to happen. The rest? I’m not so sure. I think there will be very close battle for 3rd between Mclaren, Ferrari and Aston Martin. Then gonna be either AT, Alpine or Alfa Romeo. Williams might be suprisingly closer to the midfield. Haas gonna be Williams of the year :)

        1. @erikje, all gps data? Looking at my data those looks from the long runs only.

          1 lap speed is much closer!

          1. That’s just the difference. 1 lap speed does not give much info. its very tied to the moment, weather, temp etc..

  9. I am really looking forward to this season. Despite testing, I still expect Mercedes to be on top, but Red Bull will be closer, and with Bottas also likely to be closer to Hamilton, we could (fingers crossed) have a three-way title battle, with Perez also battling for podiums and the occasional win. The midfield looks extremely close, and McLaren, Aston Martin, Alpine, Ferrari and Alpha Tauri could genuinely be in any order from 3rd to 7th. If I had to guess, I would say McLaren are most likely to be third. Alfa Romeo will still be 8th, but I think they’ll be a lot closer than last year, just behind the midfield, and will often be battling for points. Unfortunately, I think Haas and Williams will be even further behind than last year, and will be locked in a private battle of their own at the back (like Caterham and Marussia from the early 2010s, but without HRT). I thought Haas looked better than Williams in testing, but I suspect Russell will beat both Haas drivers (maybe Latifi won’t). 2020 was already the best season in years, and 2021 has a great chance of being even better! (Definitely no need for those sprint races).

    1. I think the comment makes sense, interesting predictions, although I really can’t agree with 2020 being the best season in years, there was no competition at the front, for me that would be 2018.

  10. It’s clear Red Bull has the quickest car, with Mercedes being not that far off.

    McLaren is solid 3rd. With a gap to RBR/Mercedes and a gap towards the midfield behind them.

    Midfield is made up by AM, Alpine, Ferrari, AT, AR, which is very close.

    Williams is behind the midfield. Haas is dead last.

    It’s not over yet. But this is the pecking order as it stands.

    1. (@spafrancorchamps) RBR may undoubtedly have the fastest car… but how long will it be for Mercedes to catch up? Regarldess of how far behind they appeared in testing, I think they are most definitely still title contenders, if not the favourites.

      And the question still remains, is it only the car that isn’t 100%? Has Hamilton not quite returned to his former self since COVID?

      Perhaps we’re all being pessimistic… let’s hope so.

      But as ‘sam’ commented before, the real challange for RBR will be 2022. IF Max is still with them then, they will struggle with a) the insane load of being their own engine supplier, b) the largely changed regulations especially when they have – and will – push so hard with their 2021 car.

      Back to 2021. Unless something crazy pops up, let’s hope we see a decent fight for the world championship this year. (But following they year we’ve had in 2020, whos to say what will happen?)

      McLaren are very clearly 3rd place contenders, just as it is to be expected Hass will still last.

      Ferrari have improved, but the question stands, is it enough? I think not quite. Alpha T are strong, but I dont think they have inherited quite enough parts to push them forward quite enough to be front of the midfield.

      Which leaves alpine 4th place contenders. Will we get a chance to see some Alonso rivalries seeping back in? They have a strong team, riccardo proved that, but this year, it will be up to the drivers to make or break them…

      Austin Martin is probably the tam that has lost the most in preseason testing…. all the issues of Mercedes without the budget to fix them.

      Its clear Williams arent where they want to be, and they may have a discontented driver on their hands by mid season…. I believe that Alpha romaeo just may overtake them because of this, but one thing stands for sure is that we will no doubt see a couple of great drives, at the very least, from Russell.

      So, my predictions are as follows
      1. RBR
      2. Merc
      3. Mclaren
      4. Alpine
      5. Ferrari
      6. Alpha T
      7. Austin M
      8. Alpha R
      9. Williams
      10. Hass

      I guess, only time will tell…

      And RBR’s contention for the title does still depend on their ability to keep ahead of Mercedes, Sergio’s ability to keep up with Max, Max’s ability to keep his cool (which he seems to have matured along since last year) and them not getting Covid too, I guess…..

      1. @rache3 just a spellcheck, it’s Alfa* Romeo and Aston* Martin

        1. And haas, as we are at it, and ricciardo.

          But well, wasn’t the point to correct all mistakes, was fun reading them, but I think it’s a very bold prediction from both of you to say red bull is ahead of mercedes, despite how the testing went.

          I would like that ofc, cause mercedes never give up anyway and I doubt they wouldn’t recover pace if that’s the case, even if red bull has a history of improving their car a lot as well across the course of the season, would be nice of them to win a title before honda leaves, but I would still say mercedes are favourite on pace unless I see them outside the front row in qualifying.

          1. Yes, my apologies for the spelling errors… and thanks for picking them up @esploratore and @alfa145 :)

            Do you think Lee Stevenson’s retirement from being Max’s head mechanic will slow the team down a little? One of the things that really makes Red Bull as a team is their ability to work together so well, and so fast and achieve the near impossible- the first example that comes to mind is Hungary 2020.

      2. I feel ferrari and alpine might have equal car but Ferrari have better driver combined as good as Alonso is ocon is the weak link and that’s why I think Ferrari should be 4th the real battle will be between Ferrari and mclaren for 3rd and the next battle is between alpine Aston Martin with alpha tauri and Alfa Romeo just behind

    2. It’s clear, is it? Fair play. You must be equally clear that comment wont come back to haunt you?

  11. their rear suspension overheating

    hold on a second… suspensions can overheat?

    1. There’s a lot of components and some of them operate in a very hot environment, so yes. This became a thing Haas were talking about in late October last year, though presumably it had been an issue on the car all year.

      Some info here, some explanation, and some guesswork.

    2. Yes, from the exhaust and the engine heat. That’s a major issue with Haas. The suspension gets hot and the car is unable to maintain its setup and I guess it affects the rear aero.

    3. @alfa145 most definitely. Very simply put, a suspension is a spring, which dictates how stiff the suspension is, and a damper to control the speed at which the suspension moves by forcing a fluid (oil or gas) through some valves inside the shock. That oil or gas can overheat and change the damping characteristics, meaning almost always that the suspension will be faster (less damping) than expected.

  12. Only a matter of time before Merc gets caught up by other teams. This is great news for the championship! We just don’t want one team to dominate, doesn’t matter who it is! Im optimistic about the season ahead, but know full well that looking at testing is only a little bit of the story. So many stories coming into the season, this should be a good one. Fingers crossed!

  13. Yes. My take:: The top heave spring and dampers of some Rear Suspension arrangements (like HAAS) are in proximity to the Engine Exhaust outlet gas-flows at the rear of F1 cars (current regs of exhaust outlet positioning). If HAAS is not dealing with directing that hot exhaust gas correctly (aero flow management), and it is playing over rear suspension elements including pushrod or wishbones; then there is a possibility you cook the Suspension. That, or the suspension components are not adequately rated for gas temperatures you are putting them under. Either way, overly hot/heated carbon-fibre or spring/dampers is not generally conducive to Survival. I think HAAS had several cases last year of ‘cooking their Rear Suspension’.

    Others may have a different explanation, or disagree with me. But this is my take.

  14. It’s hard to make too many predictions based on pre season form. I think we have to take in the car’s performance at the end of last season, impact of rule changes and form at the end of last season as well to have an idea of the pecking order. I think it’s safe to say that Red Bull will start this season stronger than the last… whether they are in front of Mercedes is still a question mark.

    Overall, I agree with most of Keith’s analysis on the different teams, with the exception of Alpine. Some teams have surprised and impressed while some have disappointed.

    I think the teams that have impressed are –
    1) Mclaren – For their bulletproof reliability with the new PU, their sneaky diffuser trick and strong lap times
    2) Alpha Tauri – Car looked great.. quick.. consistent and reliable. Looked like one of the stronger midfield teams
    3) Red Bull – Great reliability, pace and less twitchy / difficult to drive

    I think the teams that have disappointed are –
    1) Mercedes – Poor reliability and tricky handling but strong pace. A big dip in form from previous pre season tests
    2) Aston Martin – Poor reliability and not as fast as people expected them to be
    3) Alpine – I don’t believe for a second that their ‘fat is fast’ innovation is actually an advantage. Looks like a massive compromise in packaging for a PU that wasn’t even upgraded as much as rivals.

  15. So no 8th world title for Ham and a bad start for Merc.
    First world title for Ver and Perez second.
    Let the season start!

  16. Am i right in thinking PUs can only be updated for reliability purposes? If so this must give Merc alot of scope to update their next PU? I may wrong in that though.

  17. I love the optimism before every season, but honestly find it hard to believe there will be a quantum leap of the big gaps from last year.

    Maybe Bahrain is an outlier (as first races typically are) with wind, sand and changing temperatures, but before long we’re likely back to normal. Maybe even the tight midfield will continue with McLaren on top, and the only real change is Ferrari not hopeless any more.

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