MONTMELO, Spain (AP) — The first week of Formula testing ended with Ferrari looking to be a step ahead of Mercedes.
Ferrari showed good pace and reliability throughout the first four days of testing in Spain, while Mercedes didn’t look up to full speed.
Although teams often avoid showing their full potential in testing, Mercedes has usually fared better at this point in previous seasons.
“They do seem very strong, no matter which kind of fuel load or engine mode they’re running,” Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas said of Ferrari. “Whatever you try to correct that for, in any case, they are quick, on short runs and long runs. I think we feel, at this point, that they’re going to be a bit ahead, but obviously it’s impossible to make a detailed calculation.”
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg set the fastest time of the week on Thursday with a time of 1 minute, 17.393 seconds at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon. Hulkenberg teammate Daniel Ricciardo was third, ahead of Bottas and his Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton. Charles Leclerc, who led the timesheets on Tuesday, ended sixth with Ferrari on a slower tire compound.
Hamilton and Bottas totaled only 115 laps with both cars on Thursday, while Leclerc ran 138 with his Ferrari.
“I think there is a lot of potential, but it’s not yet quite there,” Bottas said. “But I feel a sense in the team of a bit of an excitement to discover more about the car and to improve it, because at this point, it looks like we are not miles ahead of everyone. It seems like . Ferrari are in a better place.”
Hamilton on Wednesday predicted a stronger challenge from Ferrari this year. The five-time world champion beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel the last two seasons in the drivers’ championship. Mercedes has won the constructors’ title for five straight years.
Hamilton and Bottas had faster overall times than Vettel and Leclerc, although their laps came on faster tires. Mercedes also ran 12 more laps than Ferrari during the four days of testing.
Vettel was the fastest driver on Monday.
McLaren had a promising first week, being able to run more laps than in both test sessions combined last year. Williams, which started testing later than the other teams because of delays with its 2019 car, ran only 88 laps in total, the fewest among all teams. Alfa Romeo, formerly known as Sauber, had a promising week, racking up a high lap count and setting fast times.
Testing will continue Tuesday-Friday at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, home to the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix is on March 17.