Formula 1 pre-season ended almost as soon as it started. Just three days in Bahrain really doesn’t feel like enough to be ready for a new championship to begin.
However, that’s all the 10 teams have been given. The lap times are one thing, but there’s always a lot more information available – lap counts, what you can see on-track, and the insights the teams are letting slip.
With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at the best and worst elements of every team’s test, to get an idea of what shape they are all in ahead of the first round of the season.
Best part of testing: The new engine looks reliable and caught the eye of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly who was suggesting that the midfield teams will get a nice boost from it this year. Among the revisions, Mercedes has redesigned the plenum and intake system to try to boost horsepower from the combustion engine.
Worst part of testing: It’s actually two parts. Losing that mileage early on was a double-edged sword as it meant Mercedes had a problem to solve but then got into the real performance running later. It could have discovered its car weakness a bit quicker, which would have given the team a bit more track time to resolve the issue. Mercedes is definitely on the back foot with a rear-end instability issue it’s seeking to sort out in time for the first race.´
Best part of testing: Topping the times is an obvious one but that doesn’t mean much in testing on its own. The best thing about Red Bull’s test was how productive it was. High mileage, completed run plans, positive car set-up changes, good on-track balance – no wonder the team described as its best ever per-season.
Worst part of testing: Not much, if anything, went wrong. So there’s nothing concrete to pick out. It’s always the hope that kills you – so perhaps the worst thing for Red Bull is how much this will have built up expectations, and how big a blow it will be if Mercedes emerges on top after all.
Best part of testing: That the big new additions – Mercedes power and Daniel Ricciardo – have been adopted into the operation without any apparent issue. McLaren had good reliability with its new engine while Ricciardo looks like he’s been with the team a lot longer than 2.5 months. These are expected to be two significant performance enhancers and McLaren will be confident they’ll both work as well as hoped straight out the box.
Worst part of testing: McLaren would have completed more performance running if it wanted to, so the absence of a fully-fledged qualifying simulation probably doesn’t matter. But the slightly conservative run plan, put together to ease in the new power unit, might have left a small amount of fact-finding on the table. In hindsight, perhaps this test could have been even better.
Best part of testing: The longer runs and a brief window of performance work for Lance Stroll suggest the AMR21 is again likely to be a contender for best of the rest behind Mercedes and Red Bull. There were at least no obvious signs that the switch to Mercedes’ upgraded 2020 rear suspension caused any problems.
Worst part of testing: Lack of reliability that massively restricted star signing Sebastian Vettel’s running. Gearbox, electrical and turbocharger issues held back Vettel and Stroll, costing Vettel roughly 100 laps compared to what he wanted. So the team has some maintenance errors to get on top of and Vettel’s not as well prepared as he’d like to be.
Best part of testing: The team and the returning Fernando Alonso look really well prepared. Alpine racked up plenty of mileage, hit its lap targets, and feels it is going into the new season more ready than ever. Meanwhile, Alonso’s not showing any ill-effects from either his two seasons out of F1, or the cycling accident that left him with two titanium plates in his upper jaw.
Worst part of testing: That the car hasn’t shown any signs of being quite as potent as others in the midfield fight. This could change but the initial impression is that Alpine’s a solid part of that battle rather than likely to lead it.
Best part of testing: Ferrari’s expectations for its revised aerodynamics, rear suspension and (most importantly) power unit seem to have been met. The team is happy with its correlation work so that suggests it has hit its targets. On the driver side, Carlos Sainz Jr is adapting well, making good progress to end the test with solid runs on low and high fuel.
Worst part of testing: That the new package doesn’t seem to be enough to lift it out of the midfield. Ferrari was never going to eliminate the massive deficit that emerged in 2020 but there was an expectation it would rise to third again. Testing’s only testing but there’s an air of uncertainty that if Ferrari hasn’t underachieved with its 2021 upgrades, then it might not have aimed high enough.
Best part of testing: Yuki Tsunoda’s late lap to go second quickest was only half a second slower than the team’s qualifying best last year. While he was activating DRS too early for that lap to count on a grand prix weekend, it was still a good lap time. When I asked McLaren technical director James Key if that could be interpreted as close to AlphaTauri’s best, he said it could. Given the new aero rules have stripped away quite a bit of performance from the cars, it seems AlphaTauri’s done a good job of reducing the impact – and the car looked to be handling well, too.
Worst part of testing: That the highly-rated Tsunoda’s preparations for his rookie season were impacted by little problems here and there. A fuel system issue cost him a lot of track time on day one, then on day two he had a pedal issue and suffered some sort of battery deployment setback on performance runs. It all came together on day three, but it could have been more productive.
Best part of testing: Kimi Raikkonen reckons the new Alfa is faster than last year’s. Armed with new aerodynamic components, mainly a new nose, and Ferrari’s upgraded engine, it seems that the Sauber-run team has made a genuine step. The car also ran very reliably, allowing Alfa to get through an intensive workload.
Worst part of testing: That the step’s still not quite looking big enough. The team has a tendency to go for real low-fuel runs and if that’s the case it’s still a few tenths away from the best midfield teams.
Best part of testing: Rookie drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin handled the test well. They made no major mistakes, got through a lot of work, and impressed the team with their maturity and feedback.
Worst part of testing: The VF-21 actually appeared with visibly upgraded aero parts – which was a slight concern given how limited its development is for this season. However, the steps are limited, and the car looks like it’s the slowest. This could be a long year…
Best part of testing: Another genuine step forward as Williams bids to recover from its recent misery and stop the run of consecutive last-placed finishes in the constructors’ championship. There are bullish noises that the car’s a clear improvement from last year’s and can mix it more in the midfield.
Worst part of testing: The team’s aerodynamic philosophy has made the car as wind-sensitive as it feared. That was causing the drivers some grief in Bahrain and Williams expects its form to yo-yo through the season depending on how windy it is on a given day.
|Carlos Sainz Jr||192||1039|