Final round of F1 tests after champions Mercedes stun the opposition

Barcelona, World champions Mercedes have given their rivals plenty to think about ahead of Wednesday’s start of the second and final round of Formula One pre-season testing.

Dominant times from title holder Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, plus a new innovative Dual Axel Steering (DAS) system which caught everyone else by complete surprise, marked last week’s first three days of testing at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

Racing Point technical chief Andy Green told Auto, Motor und Sport it was a great idea because it is so simple. You just need to come up with it.

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said hats off to Mercedes for this kind of innovation while his Ferrari counterpart Mattia Binotti doubted DAS would be a game-changer.

Binotto’s driver, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, also did not want to make too much of it, dpa reported.

Maybe I am underestimating it but I don’t think it is the ticket for success. It takes much more to build a competitive car but it is certainly an innovation and we will see whether it is something everyone else should also have or not, Vettel said.

The innovation was made public on Thursday when footage showed that Hamilton adjusted the so-called toe angle of the Mercedes front wheels by pulling his steering wheel towards himself which helps manage tyre temperatures.

The system has been declared legal by the ruling body FIA for the upcoming season but cannot be used in 2021 under already updated rules.

It remains to be seen whether other teams want to copy DAS in time for the March 15 season-opener in Australia but it also sends a clear warning to them from Mercedes that they want to stay innovative and competitive even after six straight drivers’ and constructors’ world title doubles.

It’s been a solid first week and we’ve got some good mileage. It’s a true showing of all the incredible work everyone has done back at the factory and here at the track. I’m really proud of everyone, Hamilton said at the end of last week’s tests.

We’ve got to keep working hard, analyse all the data from this week and figure out how we can move the car forward and build on everything next week.

Bottas was briefly stopped by a electrical problem on day two but not everything went according to plan elsewhere either, with an engine problem stopping Vettel and Ferrari not topping the timesheets as in the past year but also saying they focussed on other elements.

Mercedes led the way with 494 laps, with Red Bull close behind on 471 while Ferrari had only 354 and will need some catching up this week ahead of their latest attempt to win a first title of any kind since 2008.

I am not as optimistic as last year. Some of the others are faster than us at the moment, I believe, Binotto said.

Source: Bahrain News Agency