Data analysis: Ferrari top, Red Bull will challenge. Mercedes too quiet

After 3 days of testing, it appears a general pecking order has been established and Ferrari are not shy at showing how consistently fast their new SF90 car is, regularly topping the lap charts.

Perhaps a big surprise has been the Mercedes pace, or apparent lack of it. Traditionally, Mercedes have run conservatively in testing, usually opting for hard tyres almost exclusively, in a bid to not show their hand, and this year is no different.

That being said, after 3 days of testing, normally we’d start to see some better lap times in comparison to the previous year, but if Gary Anderson of motorsport.com is to be believed, then actually both drivers are lapping up to 2 seconds off where they should be during day three’s race simulations.

Certainly if today doesn’t yield an improvement and some running on the softest compounds, then Mercedes confidence must be supremely high or they indeed have some underlying issues that aren’t yet resolved.

GPS data analysis – a Ferrari and Red Bull Championship?

Ferrari are not only grabbing the headlines for fastest laps, but they also are proving devastatingly quick during race simulations according to Germany’s excellent publication, Auto Motor und Sport.

To quote: “If one can believe the GPS, then Ferrari has it’s nose clearly in front after the first two test days. According to these projections, Mercedes is still ahead of Red Bull. But there was a reason for that. The new Red Bull RB15 still lacked important parts.”

This is indeed true, Red Bull are missing some crucial aero pieces still, and this has been the reason for numerous spins from their drivers, especially Pierre Gasly. It had also been rumoured that the new Honda engine has been causing problems with vibrations, upsetting the balance of the car. Team principle Christian Horner has been quick to debunk that rumour however. TJ13 understands that the vibrations are indeed a thing, and something the team are trying to solve. More than two sources have revealed this to be the case.

Horner on the other hand is putting the blame firmly in an unresolved aero specification the team were having to run during the first two days.

“We drove the first two days with a Montreal rear wing. That’s why it was difficult to balance the car” says Horner.

By day 3, the Barcelona spec rear wing finally turned up, so AMuS decided to publish their GPS analysis based on the runs made today. Again, we see Ferrari top, Mercedes and Red Bull close together.

According to Red Bull’s analyses, at the moment it’s more like a duel between Ferrari and Red Bull than between Ferrari and Mercedes. “We see Mercedes behind us right now.” claims Horner.

“We are right on schedule. The car works as we calculated in advance. And the Honda engine is a rocket.”

“Pierre Gasly told us that the new Honda engine works much better than last year’s one. The power is available over a wider rev band. And the Max, he’s just raving. It feels a lot more power.”

“In addition, the engine responds incredibly softly and doesn’t have these dropouts like the Renault even when downshifting. This makes the rear much more stable when it turns into curves and downshifts at the same time.”

“Before our film day at Silverstone there were already four finished engines in the factory.

“We’ve never had that before [from Renault]. We drove a car at Silverstone last Wednesday and the second one on our VTT test bench.” – This is the test stand on which the entire car does virtual laps.

“We’ll stick to our [front] wing type because it works best for us. Of course we looked at the Ferrari concept, but our simulations showed that our wing has more potential,” Horner reveals.

“We haven’t started into a test so smoothly in ages.” concludes the team boss.

So clearly the honeymoon period is still in full swing.

Should we pay attention to AMuS’s GPS data? Well perhaps we should. Last year saw the publication claim, using the same data model, that Mercedes were still quicker than Ferrari despite slow lap charts and hard tyres. Yes Ferrari won the first race in Melbourne, but this was not down to their pace alone.

Had Bottas not messed his qualifying run up, the Silver Arrows would’ve most certainly locked out the front row, and clearly Ferrari were struggling for balance and outright qualifying pace on the Saturday.

Only after some peculiar Virtual Safety Car incidents, did we see Vettel’s Ferrari leap into the lead, going on to win the race.

Further, the same GPS data last year predicted that the Haas team were surprisingly fast in simulation, again this proved to be the case in Melbourne. Had the team not destroyed their chances with botched pitstops, the new American team would’ve surely been close to the podium.

Next week’s final test will be indeed very interesting and we’ll revisit the GPS model for our final conclusions.