Valtteri Bottas took his Mercedes to the top of the time charts once again on Friday’s final day of Formula One pre-season testing, but teammate and world champion Lewis Hamilton warned that performances were “not perfect”.
Two weeks out from the March 15 season-opener in Melbourne, Bottas, runner-up to Hamilton in the drivers’ championship last year, clocked a best run of 1min 16.196sec from 79 laps.
The Finn also finished the two sessions of winter testing with the fastest overall time of 1:15.732, the only driver to dip below the 1min 16sec mark.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo filled out the top three on Friday, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc fourth and Hamilton fifth.”On the whole, these tests were good but not perfect,” admitted Hamilton, who is hoping to equal the record of seven world titles held by German legend Michael Schumacher.
“We have had a lot of problems that we are trying to solve,” he added, in reference to the need for his team Mercedes and clients Williams having to change power units after breakdowns.
“We will see how long it will take to resolve them, but it is better to discover these things in tests.”Mercedes put in most laps in Barcelona with 903, ahead of Ferrari (844) and McLaren (802).
They also introduced the revolutionary DAS (Dual Axis Steering) system last week, which had rivals scratching their heads over its potential impact in the forthcoming championship.
“Their form is good and it’s better to have concerns during the tests than in the race,” said Christian Horner, the boss of Red Bull.
Horner had the satisfaction of seeing Verstappen, third in last year’s standings and widely viewed as a world champion-in-waiting, finish second fastest overall.
Ferrari, the only team not to have bettered their 2019 times on the circuit, were in cautious mood.
They dominated testing 12 months ago but once they got to Australia, reality hit them hard when Bottas swept to victory, the first of eight wins for Mercedes.
Ferrari had to wait until September in Belgium, the 13th race of the campaign, to win a race courtesy of Charles Leclerc.
“We are not hiding,” said Ferrari team chief Mattia Binotto.”We are not yet fast enough to hope to win in Australia.
But the season is long – we will have the opportunity to improve and be ready to win.”