The 2020 Formula 1 cars and drivers have been putting down some laps at the Catalunya Circuit in Barcelona, Spain. Renault has finally revealed the body, if not the color, of their contender, and Racing Point surprised with times near that of a top team. Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon were able to get their R.S.20 onto the track and allowed a first look at what the car, formerly only hinted at in teaser pictures, looks like in the flesh.
118 laps were completed by the pair, the sixth-highest of the ten teams. Ocon covered off the circuit 62 times in the morning session, Ricciardo getting 56 laps. Overall in times, the team clocked the fourth fastest at 319.6 kilometers per hour, but in context may not be as quick in relative terms. Teams were testing aero configurations with wing changes and fuel loads affecting what was being put down.
An important part of the success potential for Renault will be the on-track chemistry between the larrikin Aussie and the up-an-comer. From Ricciardo’s point of view, he is willing to let Ocon find his own way in a race, however: “I’m prepared for competition, but I’m not prepared for fun and games. If down the track fun and games appear then I’ll deal with it at the time but I think I’m certainly coming in with an open mind and positivity, as opposed to, ‘oh ****, when’s he going to blow up?’ I’m not I’m not thinking like that.”
Ocon echoes that, with a reference to his former team mate, Sergio Perez. “What happened at Force India is not something I want to redo again,” he said. “It was not a nice atmosphere. We had respect, me and Checo (Perez), and it didn’t slow down the team or anything but the atmosphere between us was not so good.”
Williams. This team also only unveiled their look just prior to the testing session. George Russell and new team mate Nicholas Latifi posed with their red, white, and blue machine before Russell took to the track. The car featured a wider, more rounded nose module that the others, and a seemingly sharper upward flow for the front wing vanes. Design Director Doug McKiernan says the car has had extensive wind tunnel testing, and a focus on some key areas appears to have cooling efficiency increased. There’s been no wholesale revolution to the car’s base design, with McKiernan stating: “The main concept behind the FW43 is that it is a continuous development of the FW42, with no fundamental concept changes to the layout. The most important indicator that we are on the right path will be the level of correlation we have between the tool kit we use to design the car and what the track data is telling us.”
The team’s Chief Engineer, Adam Carter weighed in, with a clear indication that changes have come from all parts of the team’s network. “The decision to retain some of the core architecture of the FW42 means there has been less resource invested in developing new concepts, which in turn has rewarded the design team with greater bandwidth to optimize their work, evident in both packaging and component detail.”
Latifi has prior experience with the team, a measure that had him more favorably looked upon that the retiring (for now) Nico Hulkenberg. As a reserve driver and a clear talent in the F2 category, the 24yo Canadian impressed with his technical feedback and the easy manner in which he would sit with the engineers and mechanics.
The well-established pairing of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton completed 173 laps at Catalunya. Bottas took to the tarmac first and pushed through for 79 laps. Hamilton’s session was in slightly cooler conditions during his 94, and stopped the clocks with a best time of 1m 16.976s, 0.337s quicker than Bottas.
Bottas had been tasked with gaining aero data during his time out on the track plus looked to with respect to gaining feedback about the car’s reaction to changes in set-up. Hamilton continued that during his session, plus conducted system tests. The day, says Mercedes, focused on aerodynamic validation checks, reliability tests and confirming tire behaviors in different temperatures.
“I had a very good feeling, the car feels good and fast, but I’m sure we can make it a lot faster,” Bottas said later. “It’s been a really nice starting point, but it’s early days, so it doesn’t mean a whole lot.” The 2019 champion, Hamilton, agreed, with: “It’s been a good day and a really good start for all of us, considering we had a long break. So to come back and clock in over 170 laps just shows how hard everyone has been working over the winter. We will just take it one step at a time, getting good feedback from the car. We have a lot of data to download and analyze and we’ve got to keep pushing on.”
We’ll continue our pre-season wrap with the remaining teams soon.