PREVIEW: 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship – Testing – Week 2

by Ed Spencer

Two weeks to go before lights at Albert Park and yet no one really knows who is the fastest and who are the tail end Charlie’s who will be scrapping for the points.

In the first week of testing, we learnt that Mercedes was fast and innovative, Racing Point are serious threats to the big three, Red Bull are reliable and could challenge the silver arrows for the title and that Williams won’t be as much of moving chicane in 2020.

However, what we didn’t know was whether Ferrari is sandbagging or in genuine trouble of not even getting a race win, or if McLaren and Renault’s real pace is good enough for podiums and can Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri and Haas improve on their 2019 showings.

We will hopefully learn more when the car’s take to the track on Wednesday at 9 am for the final test session, where the teams will get their last chance to get all the gremlins out of their 2020 challenger before they are shipped to Melbourne.

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport – Champions already?

Photo Credit: Octane Photos

After week one, Mercedes are already courting controversy with their new DAS device a system which allows the driver to move the steering wheel inwards and outwards around corners and straights adjusting the toe settings on the front wheels.

The device has already been banned for 2021, but for 2020 and it’s legal which gives Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas even more ammunition to bury the rest of the field as they showed their pace on day one and three to make their rivals head back to the drawing board.

Both Hamilton and Bottas are more evenly matched in the battle to be the top gun at Mercedes with Hamilton setting the fastest time on day one and Bottas on day three as they took a pair of 1-2’s in the process.

But have Mercedes’s played their cards too early, after showing their pace alraedy will they get a taste of their own medicine that they handed to Ferrari last year when the Scuderia got its fingers burnt as the circus arrived into Melbourne despite being fastest in testing.

Scuderia Ferrari – Panic at all stations?

Photo Credit: Octane Photos

The first week of testing has been far from sailing for the prancing horse as the team struggled for pace.

Add in a sick driver in Sebastian Vettel who had to miss a day of testing due to illness, who then had to deal with a sick car which stopped on track, and there are good reasons why the Scuderia might be in trouble.

But whilst Charles Leclerc could only manage eighth fastest on day one, Ferrari fans shouldn’t panic completely as Ferrari might be doing what Mercedes did a year ago and not revealing their hand entirely in pre-season testing.

Another reason to be optimistic is that Ferrari have yet to do a full race simulation whilst Red Bull and Mercedes have, it may then that we will still see the SF1000 up at the front.

However, if the SF1000 fails to spark it could be a long season for messers Leclerc and Vettel and may cause some changes at the top.

Red Bull Racing – Quietly piling on the miles

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Is the year that Red Bull break the seven-year hoodoo, on the basis of the first week of testing their certainly in with a shout.

Despite a couple of spins, Max Verstappen has been racking up the laps, completing 254 laps over the three days.

Alexander Albon has also been putting in the laps, despite having to miss the opening day of action the Thai driver completed 217 laps with a solid start for the Milton Keynes based team.

The new RB16 has been running smoothly over the first three days of testing and with the new Honda engine showing reliability, it’s fair to say that the new RB16 could be the car that gets Verstappen his first championship.

McLaren F1 Team – Another season in the midfield ahead?

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After the euphoria of 2019 and with a Mercedes engine deal looming on the horizon in 2021, 2020 could be a stop-gap year for McLaren as they try to maintain their fourth place in the constructor’s championship.

Testing saw McLaren hovering outside of the top ten with Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. seemingly stuck in eleventh and thirteenth place.

Sainz is slightly ahead on Norris but if the form of the first week is anything to go by McLaren could be going backwards rather than forwards, something which would deeply concern team boss Zak Brown.

However, week two should be where McLaren’s real pace is on show and where they should find more ground on the big three.

Renault F1 Team – Fast but unreliable

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After denying that the car wasn’t ready, Renault have finally shown the brand new R.S20 with Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo getting an equal amount of time in the car.

Although Renault has been in the top eight at the end of the three days and Ricciardo has said that he feels more happy with the car compared to last year, he still had to deal with technical gremlins which caused him to stop on day 3.

Ocon meanwhile has shown that he has lost none of his speed after a year’s absence, with the Frenchman faster than Ricciardo on the last day of testing as well as eighth in day one.

Renault may have improved after a dismal 2019 but for them to go any further up the standings they will need to make sure that the R.S.20 is bulletproof to the issues that dogged the R.S19.

Scuderia AlphaTauri – Quiet but striking

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New name, and new livery, AlphaTauri’s AT01 has hit the track at last with the team’s blue and white livery catching the eye of most reporters rather than the car’s overall pace.

Although Gasly was fifth on day two and Kvyat repeated the feat on day three, AlphaTauri’s form has been quiet at best as the team gets on with its testing programme.

However, is it all a flash in a pan? surely AlphaTauri is running light on fuel in order to raise a few eyebrows and looks to be behind Renault and Racing Point on one lap speed.

That being said Toro Rosso surprised many with two podiums last season and it could be the case that the men and women at the team’s Faenza factory may have produced yet another outstanding car.

As the old phrase goes the proof in the pudding is the eating and that theory will be put to the test this week on whether AlphaTauri can punch above its weight once again.

Racing Point – A threat to the big three?

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After nearly eighteen months of turmoil which included a name change and a new owner it seems that finally, Racing Point is getting their act together.

The new RP20 has been quick from the outset with Sergio Perez only behind the Mercedes after day one.

But the newly found pace has got the team some unwanted attention with Renault questioning the legality of the new car with many experts up and down the pitlane saying that it is similar to the World Championship-winning Mercedes-AMG W10.

However, the criticism will not worry Racing Point as they seek to add to the momentum that could see them be a serious threat to the likes of Ferrari and McLaren.

Alfa Romeo Racing – A box of questions and no answers

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The sky has been looking rather gloomy for Alfa Romeo after the first week of testing as the team’s real form is shrouded in mystery.

Despite Kimi Raikkonen topping the timesheets on day two due to the team running light on fuel, Alfa Romeo’s pace on the first week of testing sees the team struggle down in mid-pack.

It didn’t help that Antonio Giovinazzi got even less time in the car then Raikkonen as the team put Robert Kubica in for the morning session on day one which may be a decision that the team will rue if they are off the pace in week two.

If Alfa Romeo wishes to be in the top six this season, they will have to be a lot quicker in week two or else face a year scrapping at the bottom end of the points.

Haas F1 Team – Same issues, different year

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It seems Haas is in trouble going into the second week of testing as they seem anchored to the bottom of the timesheets with two drivers who looks like they are overdriving the car.

The VF-20 looks a further downgrade on the woeful VF-19 as both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen seem as if they were strangling the car into the corners rather then simply turning into the corner, causing Magnussen to spin into the gravel trap and Grosjean to crash.

If Haas doesn’t pick up the pace in week two this could be a seriously long year for Magnussen and Grosjean.

Williams Racing – Progress at last

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Twelve months ago Williams hadn’t even got a car that was ready to go for testing, yet in week one they were the first out of the pitlane.

Although it isn’t clear whether Williams will have an upturn in fortunes, it is at least an improvement from last year and will give both George Russell and Nicholas Latifi more preparation for Melbourne.

Both drivers have done a solid job so far with neither Latifi or Russell putting a foot wrong as they seek to get as many laps in as they can.

Week one wasn’t completely perfect for Williams however as Latifi had to stop at the end of the pit straight on day three with smoke coming out of the back in the morning of day three however Latifi was back out later on.

It seems the only way is up for one of the grand old names of Formula 1.


Driver line-up for Formula 1 testing – Week 2

Day 4 AM Day 4 PM Day 5 AM Day 5 PM Day 6 AM Day 6 PM
MercedesHamiltonBottasHamiltonBottasHamiltonBottas
FerrariVettelLeclercVettelVettelLeclercLeclerc
Red BullAlbonVerstappenVerstappenAlbonAlbonVerstappen
McLarenSainz JrNorrisNorrisNorrisSainz JrSainz Jr
RenaultRicciardoOconOconRicciardoRicciardoOcon
AlphaTauriGaslyKvyatGaslyGaslyKvyatKvyat
Racing PointStrollPerezStrollStrollPerezPerez
Alfa RomeoKubicaRaikkonenGiovinazziGiovinazziRaikkonenRaikkonen
HaasGrosjeanGrosjeanMagnussenMagnussenGrosjeanMagnussen
WilliamsLatifiRussellLatifiLatifiRussellRussell

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