Mercedes AMG Petronas
After Ferrari’s poor run in pre-season testing, the question that arises is whether Ferrari has already gifted the title to Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport. In terms of Mercedes’ performance, it was no surprise to see the Silver Arrows on top. However, the primary concern was Ferrari’s poor run. Ferrari, on average, were 1s slower than their main rivals on longer runs and approximately 1.7s slower on shorter runs. Despite the dominating performances, there were reliability concerns.
- Hamilton loses the entire session after engine troubles in pre-season.
- Ferrari loses tremendous straight-line speed.
- Mercedes claim Ferrari sandbagging after a poor run.
Mercedes Faces Reliability Concerns While Ferrari Loses Straight Line Speed
Defending champion Hamilton lost an entire afternoon of testing when his car suffered an oil pressure issue. He just finished 14 laps on that day. Previously Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, too suffered engine troubles. As a result, Mercedes had to use two power units in the first week of testing. Hamilton too acknowledged that reliability was a concern. He said, “Normally in the pre-season, we have much more confidence in the reliability so it has not been perfect.”
Despite the reliability concerns, Hamilton was optimistic that his team was doing all the hard work to improve the reliability of the cars. Lewis Hamilton said, “But I have every confidence in the guys back at the factory, that they will do the best job they can in the next two weeks to make sure we start on the right foot.” In spite of reliability concerns, Mercedes recorded the highest number of laps (903) in pre-season over the 6 days while Ferrari recorded the second-highest number of laps (844).
While Mercedes have maintained their speed over both the long and the short runs, Ferrari’s pace is a huge concern to many Ferrari fans. Last season, Ferrari’s strongest point was their straight-line speed, which put them in contention for pole positions and race wins. The data from pre-season shows that Ferrari lost as much as half a second in straight-line speed to Mercedes when compared to last year. Although they had some positives as they reduced the speed advantage that Mercedes had in corners, it does not seem enough to compensate for their loss in advantage in straight-line speed.
Mercedes Claims Ferrari Sandbagging
Ferrari’s poor run in testing raised questions in the paddock as to whether Ferrari was sandbagging. An article published by Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, “What We’ve learned from the First Week of Testing,” seems to suggest that Mercedes believe that Ferrari is deliberately not showcasing their true potential. Mercedes says, “Why Have Ferrari spent this test running their Power Unit consistently at much lower levels than their partner teams?”
Ferrari dismissed all sandbagging claims. Mattia Binotto, Principal of Scuderia Ferrari, said, “Honestly, I don’t think so. We know what we are doing, we know if we’ve got a margin or not.” Sebastian Vettel too seemingly backed Binotto’s stance. “I don’t think anybody’s car was really nice to drive so it upset our day” explained Vettel. Vettel added that despite poor conditions, they “still tried to get as much out of it.” If Ferrari’s explanations are to be believed, it seems evident that there was a true gap between Mercedes and the Ferrari in those conditions.
If Ferrari is truly underperforming currently, one has to believe that Ferrari still might have a chance in challenging Mercedes for the championship. However, if data solely from pre-season testing is considered, Mercedes have demonstrated far better performance than Ferrari and are likely to win the championships despite reliability concerns.
The first race of the 2020 season is on 15th March.