The first morning of the second week of 2020 Formula 1 testing brought an interesting order to the headline times, with Robert Kubica’s Alfa Romeo heading the times 0.6s clear of Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri.
As ever, the headline times are misleading and looking at the specifics of everyone’s runs, the picture continues to be one of apparent Mercedes superiority.
Lewis Hamilton conducted three stints on the hard C2 tyre, totalling 38 laps. His best time of 1m17.562s came at the beginning of a 16-lap stint. So at the very least we know he had 16 laps-worth of fuel on board when he set that time (he probably had more). But assuming just the 16-laps-worth, that translates as around 0.9s-worth of lap time.
So theoretically, he can do at least a 1m16.6s still on the C2 tyre. Correct that to the soft C4 tyre and it’s the equivalent of a 1m15.6s. In other words, around the same as the fastest time from last week’s tests, set by Valtteri Bottas. This is almost certainly without the benefit of qualifying mode for the engine (typically worth another 1s over a race mode as we might expect to have been run this morning).
For comparison, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo did a 10-lap run on the C2 tyre, his best time of 1m18.214s coming at the beginning of that stint. Assuming just 10 laps’ of fuel (again he’d almost certainly be carrying more), that would translate to a 1m17.8s on low fuel on the C2 tyre, a 1m16.8s on the C4. Which would put the Renault around 1.3s adrift of the Mercedes.
Kubica’s session-heading time of 1m16.942s came on just a three-lap run on the C4 tyre. Let’s call that a 1m16.8s to allow for the three laps. Based on these runs only (emphasis very important there), that puts the Alfa Romeo on around the same pace as the Renault. We cannot know of course the real fuel loads and there’s not enough data to go on to be any more definitive than that at this stage.
Red Bull had a difficult morning, losing much of the morning to a rear suspension problem, with Alex Albon coming out only for the last hour or so. His 1m17.55s came on a short run on the hard tyre. With insufficient time for him to do long runs, he could have been fuelled quite heavily when he set that time. But the inference is the Red Bull could do at least a 1m16.5s on the C4, ie in between the Mercedes and the Renault and Alfa. It actually did an equivalent lap a couple of tenths quicker than that last week.
AlphaTauri lost a similar amount of time, to an an inaccessible pipe problem. That 1m17.54s that put Gasly second fastest in the headline times came on the C4 tyre on a single lap run. As with Red Bull, it set a faster equivalent time than that last week (around 1m16.9s), so this won’t be representative.
Ferrari ran throughout the morning with what appeared to be its Baku rear wing, Sebastian Vettel conducting multiple series of short runs on the hard and medium tyre, his best lap in the low 1m18s translating to around 1m17.5s. That’s with a different wing and on low engine modes.
Racing Point ran a lot of laps with Lance Stroll with a 1m17.8s on the C3 tyre and a five-lap run, that would make it capable of at least a 1m17.3s, well off what it showed itself capable of last week (around 1m16.6s).
No conclusions can be drawn about the other teams from the morning. McLaren and Haas ran only an intermittent series of laps, Williams’s mileage was curtailed with an engine problem.