Scott Mitchell: 5 team som imponerade
At this stage of pre-season, the teams all have a reasonable idea of where they think they are – and how good their rivals look.
It’s easier to spot some impressive teams than others. Our data is less than that of the competitors themselves but there is still useful evidence to analyse: long runs, performance runs and impressions we can gain trackside.
This is by no means a guarantee that these teams will be on top form next week in Bahrain, but here are five that impressed in testing this week – one way or another.
The world champion team looks in a class of its own. And although Ferrari is relatively close it seems to be better over one lap and weaker with tyre management.
Great reliability meant Red Bull could work through its entire programme and there were even some whispers it turned the engine down because it didn’t need to stress anything.
This is getting a bit repetitive now but it is worth stressing the point that after three full days Aston Martin looks in excellent shape.
The long run pace was superb, and everybody noticed it. So much so that the feeling in the paddock is that Aston Martin might be quicker than Mercedes and possibly even a Ferrari threat over a race distance.
Nobody at Aston Martin will say that. But one other thing worth adding is that after four hours or so of watching trackside Fernando Alonso looked like he could really push the car.
A lot of setup work has been done this week to create a good, broad baseline.
Ignore the laptimes. I’m convinced Alpine is holding back a lot of performance. Clearly, it did not do anything close to a qualifying lap.
I think the Alpine was running high fuel a lot of the time and also with a lower engine mode. The reason for that suspicion is speaking to technical director Matt Harman he said that Alpine knew it had something in reserve. And the only way it could slow itself down and guarantee a certain amount of laptime is with the engine settings.
On-track, Alpine didn’t look special. Not at Aston Martin’s level. But it should be at the front of the midfield and has worked through an impressive amount despite losing mileage.
Last year Alfa Romeo was part of the second group of teams in the midfield and could be a top 10 car on its good days.
Well, the long-run data I was sent after Saturday suggests that the Alfa Romeo might be the quickest car in that second midfield group – at least.
It looked good on track all week, not stunning but solid and very easy to drive. This was a car that lacked development last year but has undergone a huge amount of change over the winter to give it more potential.
The early signs are it has cured some of its worst weaknesses.
I think the Williams is still the slowest car. So, it might look a bit odd to be talking the team up.
However, it was in Bahrain 12 months ago that I could see just how bad the 2022 Williams was at braking while the car is loaded up. It showed how weak the car’s balance ultimately was.
Now, that is clearly improved. Not to the degree that makes Williams a nailed-on contender for points or anything like that. But it is a step in the right direction.
What concerns me about Williams is the absence of senior technical leadership. There is still no technical director or head of aerodynamics. If this car has progressed then there is a risk its development will suffer without a proper structure in place.
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