F1: Mercedes and Ferrari have very different views on first test

There weren’t many smiles over Ferrari as the sun set on Day 3 of the opening pre-season test, so much so that team boss Mattia Binotto told the media he was concerned about the pace of the Scuderia’s SF1000.

Mercedes, however, reckon Ferrari was hiding the car’s true pace.

Binotto ‘certainly’ concerned about Ferrari pace

Mercedes dominated the overall timesheet after the Formula 1 teams spent three days lapping the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

Valtteri Bottas set the pace with a 1:15.732 in his DAS-fitted W11 while his team-mate Lewis Hamilton was second quickest, 0.784s down.

Sitting 1-2 on the log, it was a position Mercedes became very familiar with in 2019 as the Brackley team romped to a sixth successive championship double.

But while Mercedes was smiling, the same cannot be said of Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel was the team’s fastest driver but that’s not saying much as he was down in 14th place, 2.422s slower than Bottas’ best.

His team-mate Charles Leclerc was even slower, a further 0.135s off the pace.

Team principal Binotto admitted to the media that he is worried.

“Looking at the delta pace and eventually what we may assess in terms of fuel load, which you never know in terms of engine modes, etc – looking at the picture relative to ourselves, I think we are not as fast as they are,” he said.

“I’m not as optimistic as last year. The others are faster than us at the moment I believe.

“How much faster I think it’s really difficult to judge.

“We will go through all the data in the next days. But I don’t think we are as fast as them at the moment.

“Do we have any concerns? Certainly yes, when you are not as fast as you would like to be.”

Mercedes reach a different conclusions

Mercedes, however, feel Ferrari was bluffing in testing.

Putting the metaphorical sandbags into the SF1000, the team says its assessment of testing is that Ferrari has yet to turn up the engine.

Mercedes analysed lap times, lap counts, habits and race distances, and came to the conclusion that while Alfa Romeo and Haas, both Ferrari-powered teams, were on full power, Ferrari was not.

“At the end of the first day, a hazy pattern is present,” the team said of its analysis. “By the end of the first test, that pattern comes into better focus.

“What, then, can we say about the leaderboard after three days? This is where life gets tricky because all these estimates are lower bound estimates. You can say with some confidence that your competitors are “at least as fast as X”, but you do not know for sure how much faster they could have gone.

“No-one wants the egg on their face of claiming that they are faster than another team, because they can never know for certain what was hidden or what is coming next.

“For example, will Red Bull bring a significant upgrade package to the second test? Why have Ferrari spent this test running their PU consistently at much lower levels than their partner teams?

“What we can say is that we predict the battle in Melbourne at the front is going to be tight. We can also see that the midfield have closed on the front and that there is some considerable midfield swing compared to last year’s competitive order.

“Testing times are not meaningless, they are a goldmine, if you’re prepared to sift through them with care and caution until a clear picture begins to emerge.”

The F1 teams return to the test arena on Wednesday for the second of the three-day pre-season outings.

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