The FIA Formula 1 Championship™ has been relaunched today at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya after more than two months of a relative stop, since all of the teams had their own marathons to prepare their new sports season. The green lights went on for the 2020 pre-season to show an evident change: Mercedes is still dominating, but they are not hiding their cards anymore.
It had already become a tradition for the Silver Arrows to veil their complete potential. In recent years, the reigning world champions used to leave doubts about their performance, although not about their reliability. However, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have monopolised the top positions on the timesheets today. The most outstanding was the English driver, clocking 1:16.976 on hard compounds. Hamilton has been the only driver of the day to stop the clocks below 1:17. Team-mate Bottas, on medium compound tyres, managed to set 1:17.313. Together, they made 173 laps for Mercedes.
It has been, in general terms, a high-intensity day. There were up to 15 drivers lapping on the Barcelona racetrack, since some of the teams decided to change their driver line-up in the morning and in the afternoon. This has been the case of Mercedes, but also Renault (Ocon and Ricciardo), Racing Point (Pérez and Stroll), Alfa Romeo Racing (Kubica and Giovinazzi) and Williams (Russell and Latifi). In addition to the intensiveness, the first winter testing day was also very profitable for all of them. No red flag had to be shown, and none of the single-seaters had any evident mechanical problem.
Third fastest was Sergio Pérez, only 62 thousandths of a second slower than Bottas. His single-seater was in the public eye due to its apparent similarity with the 2019 Mercedes, the W10. Behind the Mexican driver there is Max Verstappen (Red Bull), the most active driver on this first day, with a total of 168 laps. The Dutchman caused a couple of frights after spinning twice.
Continuing with the time sheet, the fourth position went to Daniil Kvyat. The Alpha Tauri driver has been at the wheel of the AT01 all day, as did Carlos Sainz with his McLaren, who finished right behind him clocking 1:17.842. Sainz generated very good feelings, showing himself happy after a total of 161 laps. It is, with no doubt, a different start of the year for the Woking-based team, who were used to mishaps and lack of reliability during the pre-season.
And although Mercedes did not hide its cards, Ferrari did. The Maranello-based team had announced that they did not want to play any outstanding role in order not to let themselves be overcome by euphoria. Charles Leclerc completed 132 laps and finished eighth fastest. The Monaco-born driver replaced the driver who had been announced at the wheel today, Sebastian Vettel, who was unwell.
The performance of Williams was especially surprising. George Russel took the chequered flag with the ninth fastest time, while Nicholas Latifi finished twelfth, setting a similar pace as his rivals. This contrasts with the start of the team one year ago, when they were not even able to arrive on time to lap with their single-seaters on the first day.
For the first time, the Formula 1 Pre-Season Testing is launched as an official F1® event, as they had been managed by the teams themselves so far. This fact took the organisers to introduce and test a couple of novelties, such as press conferences between the morning and the afternoon session. In today’s press conference George Russel made reference to the improvement of his team, Williams: “Last year the car wasn’t even ready yet. This year we’ll be able to take full advantage of everything and we’ll be able to evolve”, he explained.
The opening test day has provided for beautiful images, such as the official world launch of the Alfa Romeo and Haas machines early in the morning. Tomorrow, the track activity will be restarted from 9 to 13h and from 14 to 18h.
Access to the Circuit
The access to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will be through Gate 3 from 8.30am, and cars shall be parked in Car Park C (former IN6). The Main Grandstand, as well as Grandstand F and G will be opened to follow of the action on the track.
Formula 1 Pre-Season Testing, from €23
Tickets to enjoy the Formula 1 Pre-Season Testing and complete information are available at www.circuitcat.com. Tickets can be purchased from €23.