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Verstappen comes oh so close to causing an upset

NEWS STORY
28/02/2020

Pre-season testing came to a close today, and though there remains a cloud over the start of the season in terms of the coronavirus, Max Verstappen has served notice that Mercedes may not have it all its own way this year.

Saving the best for last, with around fifty minutes of the session remaining, the Red Bull star headed out on a fresh set of C4s, the first time he had used the red-banded rubber. At the second split he was up on pace-setter Valtteri Bottas, but a mistake in the final sector caused him to back off.

The youngster subsequently bolted on another set and went for it again, this time crossing the line at 16.269 to go second, 0.073s off Bottas' best.

A cool down lap was followed by another hot lap and by the second split he was still only 0.088s off the pace. However a late mistake saw him abort the lap.

In all honesty it was never going to work, what with the tyres only being good for one lap and the RB16 looking to be a real handful.

With twelve minutes of the session remaining he went for it once again, still sticking with the C4s. At the first split he was 0.298s up on Bottas and at second 0.230s up on the Finn. However a minor mistake in T10 caused him to lift off and abort the lap.

Though we never got to see the Red Bull driver - or his teammate - on the softest compound, the RB16 looks good. The 79 laps completed this afternoon, along with the 59 Alex Albon completed this morning, gives the Austrian team more much needed data with which to prepare for Melbourne.

"I definitely feel ready for Melbourne," said Verstappen, "and the last two weeks have been a good preparation.

"We tried everything we wanted to over the six days which is very important from our side, so I'm happy with that. Overall, I can't complain but that doesn't mean we should stop the hard work and there are always things to improve.

"No car is ever perfect, especially at this stage in the season, so we will keep pushing to make improvements. Me and Alex had a few moments but I'm not worried and I want to find the limit of the car in testing instead of at the first race. It's better this way rather than being caught out and realising there is more pace in the car in Melbourne.

"Mercedes also look very fast as expected but I don't really look too much at them as nobody knows exactly what they are doing, so it's better to focus on ourselves. Overall I think the pace looks pretty good, it's been a positive start and I hope it's enough to be competitive in Melbourne."

"It's been a really solid and smooth six days of testing," added Albon. "We've pushed the mileage and completed a lot of laps, testing and experimenting with a lot of development parts and everything is looking good.

"We have a lot of data to look through but we now have more of an understanding of the car and we've definitely found some good things, so it's been a positive test.

"Mercedes are clearly very quick and there's more to see from Ferrari, so it's hard to know for sure where everyone stands at this point.

"We've been happy with the car since day one and it felt strong from the first lap, but we won't know where we are until we get to Melbourne. I can't believe it's already time to go racing, I'm excited and now I can't wait to get out there."

While Bottas' 16.196 topped today's timesheets, his 15.732 from last week remained the Holy Grail, with nobody looking likely to get close.

Following a number of engine related issues for Mercedes over the course of the six days, the German team will be delighted to have got through 169 laps today virtually trouble free. That said, those oil leaks and MGU-H issues are sure to play on the team's mind in the weeks ahead.

"We made it through testing!" said Hamilton. "It's crazy how quickly these past two weeks have gone. It's been intense, with a huge amount of work from everybody at the track and back home at the factories.

"The car's feeling like a step forward from last year, but it's clear we've still got a few issues we need to iron out ahead of Melbourne. I've got total confidence in the team and know they'll be doing everything they can to make sure we arrive in Australia in a good place.

"The start of the new season comes around so quickly and now we go racing in just two weeks' time. I can't wait."

"That's it for pre-season testing for another year," added Bottas. "I think we can be happy that we've made the most of it, only missing out on a few miles to some small issues. I've already got a nice feeling with the car and it's been good to get the chance to get comfortable with the long and short runs, and practice some starts too.

"I feel like we've made a step forward in most areas and it's been a successful test. As always we'll be focusing on our own performance and we've got two important weeks coming up now ahead of the first race to put what we've learnt from the test into action."

Following Daniel Ricciardo's fireworks this morning it was an altogether quieter afternoon for Esteban Ocon. That said, the Frenchman's best (16.433) was good enough for sixth and only 0.157s off his teammate's pace.

Up until today the French outfit had been fairly anonymous in testing, but leave Barcelona tonight 3rd and 6th on the overall timesheets.

"I'm pretty happy with my running today," said the Australian, "and finishing top of the timesheets in the morning session was a bonus, so it's a nice way to round-off pre-season testing. But it is testing, so I'm not getting overly excited about it. In the morning we resolved a few issues from yesterday, and looking back at the week as a whole, it has been positive for us.

"We've improved the overall balance of the car, worked through some set-up changes and our reliability has been strong. I believe we've cranked up more kilometres on the engine tests back at Viry than we've ever had before, so this combined with our results over the two tests are ultimately encouraging signs ahead of the start of the season in Australia."

"It was a very decent day and the car felt very strong," added Ocon. "We continued on from yesterday in a good direction and the car today felt the best it has over these two weeks, so I'm pretty pleased with that. We did some pit-stop practice towards the end of our running and it was nice to get back into doing that again with the guys performing very consistently.

"Overall, it was a very positive day and I'm happy with how everything went. It feels good to finish the test with a day like that with lots of laps on the board. There are some areas we need to work on, but I feel ready to go into Melbourne for the first race."

If nothing else, Ferrari had a good day in terms of reliability, Charles Leclerc adding an impressive 181 laps to the team's tally.

However, Mattia Binotto admits that the team has three areas of concern, they being, the engine, downforce and set-up. Add in the fact that he admits that Racing Point is looking likely to be a threat and you can appreciate the team has its work cut out.

"I am satisfied with how these winter tests have gone," said the Italian, "from the completed programme to the way the team has worked. We approached these two test sessions in a very different way from last year, using the first three days to get to know our car in all the possible configurations.

"Over the last two days, we have carried out race weekend simulations with Sebastian and Charles. I believe the performance over a dry lap isn’t yet where we want it to be - while the indications are relatively better when it comes to reliability and long runs too, albeit not yet positive enough.

"We will head back to Maranello with a huge amount of data to analyse in the knowledge that we have a range of work to do. But as a team we feel ready for the Australian Grand Prix, which will give us a clearer idea of where we stand."

Though Sergio Perez finally fitted some red boots today, enabling him to post the seventh best time, the general feeling is that Racing Point was keeping something in reserve for Melbourne.

Pace aside however, the Pink Panthers added another 154 laps to their tally, demonstrating that the car has reliability as well, much like its role model.

"We've got plenty of useful data from these six days," said Perez, "I think we are now well-prepared to start the season. I'm looking forward to it and hoping we can be competitive from the first race - but of course, it's going to be a long season. It doesn't matter where you start in Melbourne, it matters where you finish in Abu Dhabi.

"A big thank you to everyone here at the track and back at the factory - everybody has done a huge amount of work over the winter. For me, the plan now is to do some more physical preparation, with a bit of down time to relax as well before the travelling begins. It's a long way to Australia, but I can't wait to get out there and go racing."

Check out our Friday gallery from Barcelona, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by kenji, 29/02/2020 14:35

"@ Editor...all cool. I very much doubt that Renault will leave F1 in the forseeable future. They would not be employing people like Fry et al if that was the case. plus their investment in the '21 car would already be substantial. What i do think is that come '25 there will be major reevaluation of the total F1 concept as in that year various EU countries will be looking to implement the cessation of ICE engined vehicle manufacture. "

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2. Posted by Editor, 29/02/2020 12:37

"@ kenji

Well clearly Renault also believe that Daniel's lap was a headline worthy event...

For that no doubt explains why, having not issued any end-of-play summaries or comments since the 19th, they finally broke their silence on Friday evening, clearly similarly buoyed by Daniel's performance.

Whether this is enough to persuade them to remain in F1 next year, of course, remains to be seen."

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3. Posted by kenji, 29/02/2020 12:19

"@ Editor...I take your point, however given that Red Bull tried and failed to cover off Bottas as a result of Verstappen's overdriving, Ricciardo's error free lap was all the more revealing as 'coming close to an upset' despite it only being testing. The fact that come race day Red Bull will most likely demolish Renault. That fact alone makes Ricciardo's lap quite an exception. Yes, Ricciardo was the story of the morning but he was also a feature in the final test figures as well. A one liner stating that Renault leave with a 3rd and a 6th was not given the positive accreditation i felt should've been expressed. The hype has all been McLaren and Racing Benz Point with Renault given cursory cover. They may well be even further back than last year but we don't know that...no one does."

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4. Posted by Editor, 29/02/2020 11:50

"@ kenji

Ricciardo, quite rightly, was the headline in our morning summary - Ricciardo quickest as Renault save the best for last.

The biggest story of the morning was Ricciardo, the biggest story of the afternoon, and something all fans have been waiting for, was Verstappen and Red Bull showing their hand.

Please don't suggest bias when there is none."

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5. Posted by kenji, 29/02/2020 0:23

"Shouldn't the headline be ' Ricciardo came oh so close to causing an upset'? He was one/one hundredth off Verstappen's best!! Now that would've been the biggest upset of all. Please let's get some perspective in the comments, it's not all about the Dutch kid with a fast car ATM. It may be later on though."

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