F1 Testing from Barcelona 19th – 21st February 2020


As the convoy of gleaming trucks turned up at the Circuit de Catalunya last week, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air as the teams went through their series of press conferences and PR calls to launch their 2020 challengers. F1 2020 starts here and one of the MM team was at the test (and will be again this week) to report back.

New sponsors and livery changes aside, Barcelona served up a welcome dose of fantastic clear sunshine and whilst track temperatures started cool each day, the media room was soon heated up about James Allison’s rather clever “Dual Axis Steering” on the Petronas AMG Mercedes F1 car. Both drivers were seen pulling the steering wheel towards them on the main straight at Barcelona with a resultant change in the “toe” of the front wheels that creates a flatter, even contact patch and consequent reduction in heat generation on the straight. 

Cue multiple protests that were rejected by the FIA who had been fully consulted throughout development in the winter. However, it will be outlawed in 2021 to join the F-Duct, double diffuser, mass damper, third brake and other short-lived technical developments over the years.

Meantime, the paddock also seemed to agree that Lawrence Stroll’s chequebook seems to have acquired a large portion of the 2019 AMG Mercedes F1 car in terms of aero as well as underpinnings (and a lot of pink paint) before the team becomes the Racing Point Aston Martin squad in name at least in 2021. Perhaps Perez will have his best season yet and Lance Stroll can banish the demons of being the bosses son? Regardless, expect to see the pink cars mixing it nearer the front this season. 

Next came the strange case of Vettel’s short lived illness and perceived sandbagging at Ferrari. Not the strongest first week for the Scuderia. However, things were worse at Haas as both drivers struggled. One hack joked that the only development in that team was Grosjean’s improved spinning technique and excuse generation… 

Alfa Romeo and the revamped Alpha Tauri (nee Toro Rosso) looked reliable and occasionally fast, whilst Max Vertsappen pounded the track with a series of long runs, declaring this years Red Bull to be a material improvement in every way. Whether he can take the fight to Lewis Hamilton and exploit a perceived weak Ferrari team remains to be seen but there was optimism in the Red Bull garage.

McLaren’s test was relatively unevenetful. Both Sainz and Norris appeared happy and if lap times can be taken as an indicator, they appear to have continued where 2019 left off. Can they hold on to 4th place or improve this year against the Pink Mercedes?

Williams also showed significant improvement in all areas and were in fact first on track on Wedenesday. A far cry from last year without a car on day 1, even if this years livery looks remarkably GP2 like. Let’s hope Williams can secure points this year with two young, hungry and talented drivers. The in car footage suggests a huge improvement in stability as both Russell and rookie Latifi put in steady smooth laps.  

Lastly, Renault finally appeared with their 2020 car having been unable to showcase it at the press launch the previous week. The car appears fast on softs with a hungry Ocon at the wheel but also fragile. Whilst Daniel Ricciardo is a hugely likeable personality, the signs of frustration are growing and top seats for next year seem to have been secured already. Finishing Friday with a breakdown was not what was needed.

More from our man on the ground next week!

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