Anyone analysing what happened in last week’s F1 test should finish their guesswork with the same routine caveat – ‘Terms and Conditions (Ts&Cs) Apply’ – that accompanies every advert on radio and TV telling us only half the story but making it sound the business.
How could it be otherwise when a bunch of cars did a total of 4270 laps; evidence of incredible reliability out of the box, but little else of dependable material for useful conclusions.
I don’t know about you, but I lose the will to live halfway into breathless theorising that would have confounded the late Professor Stephen Hawking. As the bewilderment increased over the weekend, I drafted a ‘Testing for Dummies’ that goes something like this...
‘Here we have a list of lap times from the four days at Barcelona. What do they mean? Well, if we correct these times with the tyre offset depending on which of the five types has been run and add an allowance for the fuel on board – which we don’t know but assume there must be some fuel on board because otherwise the cars wouldn’t run – then, if we multiply that by the number of laps in a race distance (minus safety car laps when Gasly takes out Verstappen and Max shoves a marshal who happens to speak to him in French), but adding an additional lap when Liberty Media insist on having a ‘personality’ – who misses the leader because all crash helmets look the same from a distance of five metres these days – and drops the chequered flag for his team-mate two laps behind.
‘If we do all that and note that the second fastest car last week was on a C4, which is one step behind a C5 and one ahead of a C3 (none of which will be available in the shops after the end of this week, so get your order in now), deduct 0.09444 per cent for thermal deg (adding 15 per cent for the number of laps when cloud cover inconveniently came from the direction of Andorra, but remembering to deduct 2 per cent to cover taller drivers being allowed to grow their hair longer this year and have burger and chips for lunch), then we find that the Ferrari was 0.005s faster than the best lap in last year’s test, but 1.6s slower than the fastest lap in the 2018 Spanish Grand Prix (not allowing, of course, for Maurizio Arrivabene having disputed the lap times, been rude to poor Ted Kravitz and reduced Sebastian Vettel to tears for not reaching the podium).
‘Then, further taking into consideration the FIA medical delegate having to deal with an outbreak of very unpleasant low raked outwash caused by rear end instability, we can suggest that the red car is indeed quick and the silver one a little slower with the Red Bull possibly right there (not taking into account the Rich Energy guy being first into the paddock car park on Monday and therefore giving Haas, to paraphrase their tweet, a ‘superior performance over Red Bull’). But then we have to wait for Christian Horner to have a cosy chat purporting to be an interview with his ex-driver mates on the various TV channels before discovering that Red Bull may look good but life’s just not fair because it’s very difficult to whinge at the Honda guys in Japanese about the estimated 2 bhp they’re lacking and which has clearly been the fault of Cyril Abiteboul, not to mention Theresa May’s Brexit forcing Honda to close their factory in Britain.’
I hope that answers any questions you may have had. Please note that testing resumes this week, to be followed by more of the above next weekend, all of which will become totally irrelevant and forgotten at around 6 pm Melbourne time on Sunday 17 March when Daniel Ricciardo finishes on the podium. Ts&Cs apply, of course.