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Mercedes and McLaren play catch up to Red Bull and Ferrari - What we learned at second test

Mercedes and McLaren play catch up to Red Bull and Ferrari - What we learned at second test

F1 News

Mercedes and McLaren play catch up to Red Bull and Ferrari - What we learned at second test

Mercedes and McLaren play catch up to Red Bull and Ferrari - What we learned at second test

F1 testing has drawn to a close with the Bahrain Grand Prix only a week away.

Teams and drivers have had six days to get acclimatised to the new machinery introduced by F1 this season, with some comfortable with developments and others seemingly on the backfoot.

With intrigue building as 10 completely different philosophies prepare for lights out next Sunday, what did we learn at the Bahrain pre-season test?

Red Bull and Ferrari on top

Ferrari coasted through five of the six test days across Barcelona and Bahrain being labelled favourites by rivals given their ease in finding performance as well as completing mileage.

The Scuderia was the only outfit to complete over 400 laps in Spain and completed the third most of any team in Bahrain whilst still being able to show off some of the pace held by the F1-75.

The confidence at Maranello was put on display when the team geared up for a full race rehearsal on the morning of day two, only to be scuppered by a red flag period.

But it would seem Red Bull has pushed itself to the top of the pile having kept its cards close to its chest throughout the first five days of testing.

Max Verstappen's blistering run on the final day in Bahrain put him a second faster than anyone else during the week and truly laid a marker down for his rivals, although the reigning world champion insisted he was not yet at "full beans".

Perhaps even more crucial is the fact neither team has experienced a major issue, unlike the majority of the field.

Mercedes has pace to find

Mercedes will be far from panic stations given it completed more laps than any other team in Bahrain, but the strength shown by Red Bull and Ferrari will be a concern.

Specifically, the Silver Arrows and driver Lewis Hamilton and George Russell seem to be lacking through low-speed corners compared to what we expect to be the top two.

Russell in particular found turns nine and 10 difficult to cope with as lap after lap he locked up and ran wide.

What rivals will attest to in order to explain Mercedes will be competitive is just how troublesome testing was for the team last year before Hamilton went on to win race one, though the Briton himself has played down the chances of a repeat.

There is also plenty of debate around the startling 'zeropod' concept on the W13 and how much performance the design will actually bring. The paddock will find out in qualifying next Saturday.

McLaren optimism hit by tough test

If McLaren entered the Bahrain test with hope and optimism given its exploits in Spain, any confidence would have fallen back to earth with a large thump.

Before the test began, Daniel Ricciardo fell unwell with what would transpire to be Covid, meaning Lando Norris was forced to drive all 24-hours of testing time.

When the car did hit the track, brake problems plagued McLaren, with team principal Andreas Seidl conceding it would be a "race against time" to fix the issues.

If the problems cannot be solved, it is difficult to see how Norris or Ricciardo would be able to complete a race distance given only 200 laps were run in the MCL36 - less than any other team.

F1's new cars show off raceability

Drivers, teams and fans were given a taste of how exciting racing could be this year with a number of on-track duels throughout the Bahrain test.

Most notably, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz duelled from the penultimate corner down to turn four with both following closely to each other through corners.

Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso showed much of the same with their own mini-demonstration, giving hope that the new rules will work when drivers go wheel-to-wheel in anger during the season.

Reliability issues hamper back of the grid

A few teams will be working frantically to iron out issues ahead of the first race having experienced serious reliability issues in Bahrain.

Williams, whilst not suffering a multitude of problems, did lose almost the whole of day two when the FW44, with Nicholas Latifi behind the wheel, caught fire on the rear brakes and caused an explosion of the rear tyres.

Elsewhere, Haas caught up for time lost when its freight was delayed ahead of the test and despite setting eye-catching times, the VF-22 looked to have experienced the worst of the porpoising problems that have surfaced with F1's return to ground-effect.

That was when the car actually hit the track, with small issues cropping up intermittently as they did in Barcelona.

In a similar vein, Alfa Romeo experienced yet more issues to compound the frustrations of the first test.

Alfa Romeo may have completed the fourth-most of any team across the three days but when the C42 had an issue, it tended not to be one that was easily fixable.

The frustration for all three teams is that the pace shown by each looked competitive but there is no point being fast if you cannot finish the race.

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