The final four days of tests at Barcelona have been filed away. Luckily, unlike the previous week, the weather was decidedly milder and this allowed the drivers to cover many more kilometres. The most important fact that hit the eye was the reliability achieved by the teams, with the exception of McLaren, and by the compactness of the group. It looks like being a season with some changes to the grid.
The most important surprise came from Toro Rosso which, leaving aside the timing, covered many kilometres showing that the combination of chassis-Honda motor works. Positive results also came from Renault. Hulkenberg and Sainz put together some interesting performances in preparation for a good leap up the ladder.
The pace of Hamilton and Bottas at the wheel of the Mercedes was impressive as they worked mainly on the Medium mixes. In only one day they ran more than 200 laps and covered the distance for nearly a whole season in the two sessions (4,841km).
According to the indications given by Pirelli we can have an indication of the potential of the cars, even though we still have the unknown factor of the fuel load. The supplier declared that there is a gap between the HyperSoft and the Medium mixes of 2.5” (Medium-Soft 0.8” –> Soft-SuperSoft 0.42” –> SuperSoft-UltraSoft 0.6” –> UltraSoft-HyperSoft 0.7”). On the basis of the 1’17”1 made by Vettel and Raikonnen’s 1’17”2 with the pink mixes. In this play of numbers we must also put Red Bull into strong consideration.
In two weeks time at Melbourne the teams will be forced to uncover their cards and the mosaic of the real differences will be revealed. It will be an intense and very tactical season not only on the tyres, but also on the management of the power units. Some could sacrifice places on the grid by paying the penalties for the use of a higher number of power-units compared to the three units required by the regulations.
We must make separate considerations for McLaren which, despite the mild temperatures, suffered some heating problems which led to the replacement of two power units. The time of 1’17”7 made by Fernando Alonso is a good time, but almost certainly came with a light fuel load and a new motor. There are few happy signals for Williams as well where, for the moment, the two young drivers are not giving the answers that the team expects with Sirotkin putting Stroll under pressure, even if Robert Kubica is showing the best performances of the three. Compared to the last two seasons Force India seems to lag behind, while Sauber has not shown the signs of revival that would have been expected after a disastrous season in 2017.
Gian Carlo Minardi