The last day pre-season F1 testing should always be taken with a pinch of salt, and perhaps pepper for it is never a bellwether for the season ahead. Valterri Bottas took the honor of the day by setting the fastest time of all, but it was around 1 second off his own fastest overall lap time during the entire five days of testing at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
Ferrari and Red Bull didn’t bother to set headline-grabbing times. And so it was, the last day of pre-season testing ended with plenty of sand-bagging and a no-mans land of questions with very few answers. So what’s going on? With limitations on how many engines can be used over the course of a season, it is now perhaps prudent to save the life of an engine.
Perhaps F1 teams have now prioritised engine longevity over life-sapping performance testing, specifically for pre-season testing. Bottas’ fastest hot lap was 1:15.7s, set during day two of winter testing. That’s three tenths slower than last years’ pole.
No other teams got close to Bottas’ fastest hot lap. Mercedes would later go on to suffer two engine issues out on track. The overall picture as the F1 circus moves towards the first Grand Prix in March is as clear as a foggy day. Testing is always about getting through a program and every team did just that.
The 2020 season should begin as it 2019 ended, Mercedes will have an edge over their key rivals, Ferrari and Red Bull. But how big that gap will be isn’t clear at all.