M sometimes lap times can be deceptive. Sebastian Vettel set a series of best times on the track late in the morning on the seventh day of testing. The Ferrari driver broke the 1.18 mark six times with cooling laps in between. No other team has even come close to cracking this barrier. In the end, the clock stopped at 1.17.162 minutes.
Vettel was 1.172 seconds faster than Kevin Magnussen in the HaasF1 customer Ferrari. Nevertheless, there was no cheering in the factory team's camp. Quite the opposite. Team boss Maurizio Arrivabene and technical director Mattia Binotto stepped out of the Ferrari garage during the lunch break with a worried expression on their faces.
While Vettel struggled through a wall of autograph and selfie hunters into the motorhome, Binotto went to the Way to HaasF1. Perhaps he wanted to find out how much fuel Magnussen was driving in his US Ferrari? According to calculations by the competition, there wasn't much leftover fuel in the Ferrari tank. If that's true, you would have to worry in Maranello.
Vettel's best time was put into perspective by the fact that he achieved it on the softest Hypersoft rubber compound. Magnussen had supersoft tires on the car. According to Pirelli calculations, the two levels of difference in the rubber make up about one second. Adjusted for tires, the Ferrari would have been only a tenth faster than its American counterpart. Too little if you want to win the world championship against Mercedes.
Mercedes does without hypersoft tires
Red Bull and Mercedes did not take part in the time hunt, the one hour before the lunch break attacked almost all teams in the field. Even on the last day of the test, Mercedes will not attack the fastest time with Pirellis super glue and little fuel. If it falls, then at most by chance.
'We won't learn anything if we practice the qualification here,' reports chief engineer Andrew Shovlin. This is not arrogance, but increased self-confidence. Mercedes hadn't even ordered the fastest Hypersoft tire from Pirelli. “We are driving the tire for the first time in Monte Carlo. Barcelona in cool weather does not give us much insight. ”
Mercedes officially assess the balance of power as a head-to-head race between Red Bull, Ferrari and itself. You don't want to deprive fans of the illusion that the silver dominance could come to an end. That wouldbad for business.
But the truth is a little different. Renault's GPS analyzes show that Mercedes has a clear lead over Red Bull. So at least three-tenths. Ferrari is only in 3rd place. The red cars apparently lose evenly across all corners.
This is also proven by the first long run comparisons. Valtteri Bottas was on average almost a second faster per lap than Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel in his Grand Prix distance. All other teams are at least 1.6 seconds behind. That would be the picture from last year.
Mercedes admits the lead
When asked about the observations of the competition, even Mercedes had to admit that they are one step ahead. More clearly than last year, but not as dramatically as 2015 and 2016. And at the moment Red Bull has more on the bill than Ferrari.
Nevertheless, the defending champion is warning against jumping to conclusions. Mercedes has been driving the car since the sixth day of testing, which will also be at the start in Melbourne. On the seventh day, Red Bull retrofitted with an aero package in the area of the baffles. There should be an expansion stage before the start of the season. At Ferrari, too, there are apparently still aero developments in the quiver.
Mercedes also believes that Red Bull's engine partner Renault in particular still has power reserves. We hear from the French camp that the performance was increased for the first time on the seventh day. That is about 50 percent of the increase one can expect in Melbourne. Good for Red Bull, bad for Ferrari.