F1 Testing: Teams set for crucial final week ahead of new season

The start of F1 2020’s winter testing provided fast times, new innovations and plenty of talking points – and now the teams and drivers are ready for the most crucial of second weeks before the season officially kicks off.

Mercedes will be looking to build on their strong start, while Red Bull and Ferrari up their pace, at Test Two – which starts on Wednesday morning and will all be live on Sky Sports F1.

  • How to watch F1’s Test Two on Sky Sports
  • The fastest laps of testing so far

This year’s testing programme is shorter than ever before – with eight days of pre-season running in Barcelona cut to six – and with mid-season testing also scrapped, this final three-day test is vitally important.

Here’s what to look forward to…

Records set to be shattered

One of the major talking points from Test One was just how fast these new-for-2020 cars are, with stable regulations giving teams more opportunities to develop and improve from last year.

Valtteri Bottas’ leading time – a 1:15.732 – was the second-fastest lap ever posted at the Circuit de Catalunya, just three-tenths off his record pole position time from Spanish GP qualifying last year.

Given there is usually a big leap in performance in the second week – the difference between the fastest times of Test One and Test Two last year was over a second – that record time should be beaten, if not shattered, this week.

It would only be an unofficial record as it’s testing, but it’s a sign of intent for F1 2020.

“I’ve never gone that fast in some corners before,” said Renault’s Esteban Ocon, who had a year out of F1 last season. “It’s definitely exciting because that’s just going to go faster and faster.

“We’re going to probably break all the lap records this year.”

Time for Red Bull and Ferrari to reveal their pace

While Mercedes streaked ahead of the competition last week, their main rivals were nowhere to be seen in terms of lap times. Red Bull and Ferrari finished as the sixth and eighth-fastest teams respectively, opting for a low-key start to F1 2020.

That should all change this week as teams get set for qualifying-style performance runs, potentially giving us a much better idea of the early pecking order.

Red Bull appear to be very pleased with their car, and paddock insiders believe they are Mercedes’ main rivals, while Ferrari are facing a critical week after insisting they are already playing catch-up.

But how close to Mercedes are Red Bull? And is it really that bad for Ferrari? We should get some answers this week.

Who will assert themselves as midfield leaders?

The midfield runners gave us a little more clarity than F1’s big three in the first test, with many of them seeming to follow Mercedes in revealing their pace cards a little earlier than others.

Racing Point, with their ‘Pink Mercedes’, were perhaps ahead in that regard, though Alfa Romeo, Renault and Alpha Tauri all looked good, too.

But McLaren went a different route. The Woking team, fourth last year, finished in-between Red Bull and Ferrari on the fastest lap sheets but, while expecting a fiercer midfield battle than ever before this season, have also been heralding their “best start to testing in many, many years”.

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