The big show at the end of the Bahrain test still has many question marks. However, the sector analysis and speed measurements show two things: Ferrari drove with braked foam. And the Haas has what it takes to become an insider tip.
The checkered flag after the test drives in Bahrain had just fallen when the teams began to do the big calculations. Who is where how fast? Who bluffed, who revealed their cards? Is there still room for improvement with yourself or with the competition? The teams obviously have much better tools than we do. Thanks to GPS analysis, you know every speed at every point on the route. From this you can extrapolate how heavy the cars were and how powerful they were.
We have to be satisfied with the three sector times and the four speed measurements that the official timing system determines. It's harder to make connections, but not impossible. The first thing to do is find out which sector shows which quality of the car best. In Bahrain, the first section consists of two long straights and two slow corners. An indication of power. The third sector is similar. Two straights, two medium-speed corners. In the longest segment in the middle of the lap, the all-rounder is challenged with six fast and two slow corners. However, the weight of the car also plays a role here.
Schumacher the star in sector 2
The star in the last two hours of testing was the converted Red Bull. Max Verstappen took half a second off second-placed Mick Schumacher in the Haas, Charles Leclerc's Ferrari seven tenths, Fernando Alonso in the Alpine and the new Mercedes star George Russell about a second. At first glance, this sounds like a clear superiority. But according to sports director Helmut Marko, Red Bull played with open cards.
The Honda engine was cranked up, and the tank content is said not to have had much room to go down either. It also makes little sense if the car is already very overweight. With a fast lap you would only put too much strain on the tires and end up lying to yourself. 4th place at the top speed of 313.7 km/h speaks for this thesis. Verstappen also dominated sectors 1 and 3 with the disproportionate amount of straights.
Despite the clear best time, the world champion in the middle sector Mick Schumacher had to admit defeat. Even if the Haas had less fuel on board than the Red Bull, that's a compliment to the US Ferrari. He is also almost ten kilograms overweight. Schumacher's first sector best time in Formula 1 shows very clearly: This Haas is doing well in all disciplines. 2nd place at top speed, strong in fast and slow corners. This is a car that Magnussen and Schumacher can drive into the points. Unless the defect devil strikes.
Ferrari everywhere with the music
Ferrari stayed under cover. The measured values on the straights speak for throttled engine performance and plenty of fuel in the tank. At 308.2 km/h, Charles Leclerc was on the home stretch at the lower end of the scale. Carlos Sainz showed that the Ferrari can do more with 314.0 km/h in the first half of the day. Despite Ferrari being stacked low, Leclerc has been to the music in all sectors. Third in sectors 1 and 2, fourth in the final section.
Ferrari doesn't have to explore what the engine can do itself. That's why you have your customers. Haas was fast on the straights all day. 316.2 km/h meant second place on the last day. On the other hand, Alfa Sauber took it a little easier at 310.4 km/h. The Swiss are more self-sufficient than the US racing team. The self-construction of the transmission and rear axle already shows this.
At Mercedes, Williams is probably the new guinea pig. It gives the impression that the traditional racing team is slowly taking over the role of Aston Martin's B team. This is not only supported by the fact that Williams recently bought the transmission from his big brother in Brackley. Atmospheric disturbances broke out between Mercedes and Aston Martin last year after some engineers were stolen. Williams didn't take part in the hunt for times on the last day, but showed with 313.9 km/h that the Mercedes engine doesn't have to hide on the straights.
Mercedes slow in fast corners
Mercedes is still quite good at the music in the first two sectors, but slows down at the end of the lap. George Russell only ended up in 7th place with 23.381 seconds. Three tenths slower than Red Bull. With a top speed of just 308.6 km/h, no wonder. That was the penultimate place. Exiting turn 12, the Mercedes was stopped as the slowest car at 261.6 km/h. The weak points are on the straights and in the fast corners. A clear indication that Mercedes has to drive with a lot of ground clearance in order to get out of the bouncing trap. That costs downforce.
When comparing Ferrari customers, you have to include the tire factor. According to Pirelli, the delta between C3 and C4 was between six and eight tenths, depending on the car. That cost Alfa-Sauber driver Valtteri Bottas time compared to Mick Schumacher, especially in the slow corners. The time difference in the two sectors with a high proportion of straights is limited to just a tenth of a second. In the second sector with eight corners, Schumacher was 0.659 seconds faster than Bottas thanks to more tire grip.
Alpine at the limit or not?
Alpine showed with the highest top speed and third highest speed at turn 12 that the new Renault engine can keep up and the A522 is a low drag car. None puts so little front wing area into the wind as the French national racing car.
Nevertheless, Alpine did not break out in euphoria after Fernando Alonso fourth fastest lap.Maybe because you had the feeling that one second behind the leaders was too much. Maybe because you notice that the battle for fourth place in the field with the strong cars from Haas and Alfa-Sauber is getting even tougher. Maybe because there isn't much room left for time improvement.
According to the competition, Alpine was pretty much on the limit. The team itself asserted that the engine hadn't been cranked up all the way and that the fuel tank hadn't been driven in qualifying trim. In fact, after a cool-down lap, Alonso made another attempt that was nine tenths slower than his personal best. Most of the competitors turned right back into the pits after their fast lap.
Aston Martin too slow everywhere
The second sector gives an idea of where Alpine still has to improve. Alonso lost half a second to Schumacher and four tenths to Verstappen. That speaks for an output deficit. Operations manager Alan Permane reassured: "We still have upgrades."
McLaren didn't let the cat out of the bag because of brake problems. Williams also deliberately did not drop the hammer. There were too many other construction sites. Aston Martin was massively lacking time in all three sectors. Six tenths at the beginning, one second in the middle, five tenths at the end.
Even if Sebastian Vettel made a mistake on his fastest lap and lost six tenths in the process, that doesn't explain the time deficit on the rest of the lap. Nevertheless, you remain calm in the team. "We achieved what we wanted during the test drives. We understand our car." Is that enough?