While I still have the remnants of Christmas to shift and most of the UK seemingly wearing wetsuits and waders, Formula One headed to Barcelona for pre-season testing. With truncated testing days, no major design changes until 2021 and 22 races on this seasons programme, it was over seemingly in a moment. Have we learnt much? Well, lets find out:
MercedesThey completed 903 laps, a ridiculous amount for a test, and that included their seen-and-now-outlawed Dual Axis Steering system. Effectively, the driver can pull the steering wheel towards themselves and it adjusts the camber of the front wheels. Whether this gets deployed in races is yet to be seen but you can't get away from the fact that they were top of the long runs and put hardly a wheel wrong in nearly six days although they did have an engine issue when Lewis Hamilton suffered an oil pressure related engine shut down. That said, they do appear to be the ones to beat. Red Bull Are they back? Rumours from the trackside filtered back that they appear to be quietly confident. While they had a suspension issue at testing and a couple of other minor moments over the time in Barcelona, they had pace over Ferrari on the short runs. The long run time was just under the Ferrari's best time and we expect that they are in with a shout of a podium come Melbourne. Ferrari Oh dear. Not a great test with power appearing to be down on the Mercedes. Whether that is from them looking to improve their cornering ability or a result of the undisclosed FIA investigation that was settled between the two parties from infringements last season, is unclear. Are they sand bagging performance or do they have a couple of weeks to upgrade on the data collected in Barcelona? Team boss says no sand bagging. If that's the case, Red Bull may have them beaten in Australia. Racing Point Infographics on social media have been a little unkind. The resemblance to the Mercedes car once you remove the pink paint job, is more than passing, it must be said. With significant investment coming from billionaire Lawrence Stroll supporting his son Lance in the team, according to some spreadsheets in the media pen, they had the third quickest car. We won't know until lights out in a couple of weeks time but both Stroll and Perez have confidence. Will that put them at the top of the crowded midfield? We'll see. Alfa Romeo Who? Oh, yes, that's right, they were in Barcelona. The light hearted dig in that comment is due to them not featuring in the Netflix Season 2 of Drive to Survive that I suggest you go and watch. Both drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinnazi, in case you had forgotten, admitting that there is a lot of work to do, is not confidence building at the end of the test. Clocking the overall fastest speed from Barcelona was small solace and didn't detract from the issue of them having the slowest lap times overall. Williams Following a disastrous start to testing in 2019 where they missed the first two days, it was good to see a solid showing from one of the paddocks most loved teams. While they may still not start much further forward that they did in last seasons opener, they at least ran a full test programme. The team admit that they should at least now be in touching distance of the midfield, even if they may not find themselves in it. Yet. HAAS Another reason to watch the Netflix documentary on last season, is to see what a debacle they had with both team mates and the sponsor that may never have been, Rich Energy. The sweary nature of their team principle, and his parody account on Twitter, may have gone into overdrive at Barcelona as the team managed to lowest lap count of all. While they may also have work to do to move their 2020 package forward in the midfield, the drivers feel they have a solid car underneath them. They just need to keep it there in the races and not put it into each other as they have done. F1 needs people such as Gene Haas in it to bring both the finances and passion to racing. Lets see if 2020 the drivers can deliver for him. Renault What we wouldn't give to be able to see that beaming smile and a champagne shoey done in Melbourne should home here, Daniel Ricciardo manage to make it. Launching their car at Barcelona, they put in a solid account in terms of lap times being third fastest overall. As much as testing isn't an exact science for us mere fans, it would be a great start if we can see the team have success this season. Still in a good fight with McLaren, again watch the show on Netflix to see that rivalry panning out in the paddock, we hope to see some good duelling this year. McLaren Speaking of the Woking outfit, they had a solid test too. They have an evolution with the car this season with Carlos Sainz reporting that he is happy overall. They had good running on both short and long runs, but it is too close to call what the midfield pecking order might be. It is generally felt that they will be in the top half of the midfield but where they place within it, is a little harder to define. Lando Norris has stated that there are obvious weaknesses that the team can work on. While they didn't light up the timesheet, we feel they are still in with having a competitive 2020 showing. Alpha Tauri New name of an old team (Torro Rosso) with the best voted livery of the year. The newly branded home to Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat had a happy six day test and believe that the Honda power unit in their car will deliver them a solid return this season. With no engine issues over the two weeks being in stark contrast to those with McLaren a couple of seasons ago, this team goes to Melbourne with a spring in their stride. With so much still to prove following their demotions from Red Bull to the junior team, lets hope we see this livery finishing in the points not the gravel traps this year. Conclusion While no-one in their right mind would bet their house on the results of pre-season testing, it is difficult to see Mercedes not winning again this year. As a fan, it would be great to see a record equalling seventh drivers championship for Lewis. Likewise, it would be good for us all to see Max and Charles take race wins too. But overall, lets hope that there is close, safe racing on show this year. With the cloud of coronavirus hanging in the air, the prospect of losing races is not one we wish to see, but likewise, we want everyone travelling to all the race destinations to be safe and enjoy the show. After all, it promises to still be a great show to see.