Teams didn’t “show their true hands” in pre-season testing says Bob Bell, Renault Sport Formula One Team‘s Chief Technical Officer.
Renault set the fourth fastest time in pre-season testing – a 1:18.092, logged by the on-loan Carlos Sainz Jr. – and were just under a second behind Scuderia Ferrari‘s blistering new lap record. Though this is an improvement on last year, when Renault were the sixth fastest constructor and over 1.2 seconds shy of the Ferrari’s leading time, Bell doesn’t think we’re seeing the whole picture.
“I’m not sure if we are seeing teams’ true pace at the minute.
“All teams will bring upgrade packages to Melbourne, and that’s when everyone shows their true hands.”
Renault’s time was beaten only by the aforementioned Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso‘s McLaren F1 Team car and Daniel Ricciardo‘s Aston Martin Red Bull Racing machine. This puts them arguably, first of the midfield teams, McLaren being borderline back of the grid last year.
Perhaps confirming Bell’s thoughts though is the time of Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport.
The champions of the last four years finished in a lowly seventh, over 1.2 seconds down on last year’s rivals Ferrari. Crucially though, their time was set on the Ultra-Soft tyre – not the new, faster Hyper-Soft tyre Ferrari used to set a new record. A deliberate choice, it seems, to shroud their true pace from the prancing horse’s eyes.
Though he didn’t divulge the gap between the new Hyper-Soft tyre and the previously-softest Ultra-Soft, Bell commented that the gap between the other three Soft tyres is not all that much.
“They’ve brought in a couple more compounds so we’re up to seven dry tyres now, ranging from the Superhard to the Hypersoft.
“I think from Barcelona we learnt there isn’t much to choose between the Soft, Supersoft and Ultrasoft which we will have in Melbourne, but that might be a quirk from Barcelona and the temperatures we saw there. The Hypersoft is a good step in terms of performance.
“It’s too early to judge the usefulness of the new tyre range. We will have to get a few races under our belt at normal temperature conditions to assess that.“