After three thrilling days of testing, another week has passed. We’re now only two weeks away from the first Grand Prix and I couldn’t be more excited. While testing took up most of the news in F1 this week, we lost a true talent in Murray Walker. Memories and stories of his talent and kindness have been overwhelming this weekend.
Testing was made shorter this year, given the regulations left the teams with fewer changes to make coming into 2021. This definitely didn’t make the weekend any less exciting however, with some major surprises throughout the field.
The first day of a test is always hard to assess. The cars are very prone to issues and times are often slower as the teams get used to their new equipment. Concerns over the quality of the Mercedes and Aston Martin cars did start immediately however. Both cars spent good portions of the day inside the garage. A gearbox replacement for Bottas and electrical issues for Stroll left both teams very much on the backfoot.
What we did begin to see however was the speed and reliability of the McLaren and AlphaTauri cars, with both impressing hugely on Day 1. It was early days however and therefore we needed more time to fully understand who was looking good ahead of the season. With a sandstorm drastically affecting the second session, Day 2 and 3 would be vital to the teams.
The issues for Aston Martin and Mercedes only grew on Day 2 of the test. The new Aston Martin team spending a good portion of a second day in the garage having their gearbox replaced. Following a strong year in 2020 as Racing Point, doubts were beginning to creep in about this car and its reliability. Mercedes also had another poor day. Hamilton spun out onto the gravel with a crane lifting the car out, giving every team a good look at the championship winning team’s floor ahead of the season. Despite more concerns over the stability and reliability of the cars, Bottas did eventually manage to record the fastest time of the day, with Lance Stroll taking P2. The teams were far from impressive though.
Saturday was another exceptional day for McLaren and AlphaTauri however, with both teams and drivers seeming so confident in their cars. Another emerging success of the weekend was Alfa Romeo who seemed to be setting some seriously fast times. The team outperformed their works team Ferrari and set themselves up for a strong start to the season. Williams driver Nicholas Latifi finally gave us a first glimpse at the Williams, although the performance was hard to judge in such a mixed field.
We finally started to really get some answers about the performance of these cars on Day 3 of the test. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen continued to set faster times throughout the afternoon, leaving the team in the perfect position before the first race in 2 weeks time. Rookie Yuki Tsunoda hugely impressed, recording the second fastest time. This indicated how strong we should expect the AlphaTauri to be this year. McLaren started to fall away on Day 3. This isn’t a concern however, with their strength already well-documented. They are likely to have spent the day performing some more experimental tests, worrying less about the times.
Mercedes had another reasonably poor day, never managing to show any evidence that they will outperform the other teams this year. At the beginning of the weekend, many thought they were simply sandbagging. They may have been all weekend, but the poor performances throughout show that Mercedes may have a lot to do in the next two weeks. They weren’t the worse by any means however. The serious problems were again with the Aston Martin team, with both drivers finishing with the lowest times of the day. They are another team who are going to need to put some effort into bringing them back to where they belong towards the top of the grid.
Winners and losers of testing:
Winners: McLaren, Red Bull & AlphaTauri
Losers: Mercedes, Aston Martin & Haas
Remembering a legend:
Murray Walker was a true legend of F1 and his presence in the sport will never be forgotten. Since the news was announced, the Formula 1 community has been sharing stories and memories of the commentator. Generations of fans grew up with his voice as the soundtrack to their childhood. His enthusiasm and love for the sport will never be matched and his legacy will live on. While he is gone, he will never be forgotten.
We also remember Charlie Whiting who passed away suddenly two years ago today. Another well-loved member of the F1 community and someone who will never be forgotten by anyone who knew him.