After Pirelli revealed the time gaps between the different tyre compounds, the first test timesheet sees Ferrari as the early pace setters.
The Italian tyre manufacturer have brought five different compounds to the Circuit de Catalunya for pre-season testing, ranging from the hardest C1 tyre to the softest C5 option.
It is Renault who sit top of the official pile after the first four days of testing, courtesy of Nico Hulkenberg’s 1:17.693 set in the final afternoon session on the C5 compound.
Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo follow with the next quickest times, then the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton occupy P6 and P7 respectively on the overall timesheet.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel are next on the list with McLaren’s Lando Norris rounding off the top 10:
1. Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:17.393 C5
2. Alexander Albon Toro Rosso 1:17.637 C5
3. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:17.704 C5
4. Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1:17.762 C5
5. Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:17.785 C5
6. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:17.857 C5
7. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.977 C4
8. Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:18.046 C3
9. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:18.161 C3
10. Lando Norris McLaren 1:18.431 C4
— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) February 18, 2019
But, using Pirelli’s time gaps as a tentative guide, a tyre-corrected leaderboard to the C5 option sees Ferrari shoot to the top of the standings and into the 1:16 benchmark.
“It’s still early days, but so far the tyres seem to be performing largely as we expected, with a performance gap of around 0.6 to 0.7 seconds between each compound,” Mario Isola, head of F1 and car racing at Pirelli, said.
“In more detail, it’s something around 0.6 seconds between C2 and C3 so far, and roughly the same gap between C3 and C4, which were the most used tyres in this session.”
So, on the assumption that there is a 1.2 second gap between the C3 to C5, the current timesheet would look like this:
1. Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.846
2. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:16.961
3. Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:17.311
4. Romain Grosjean Haas 1:17.363
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.377
6. Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:17.393
7. Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:17.520
8. Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1:17.580
9. Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:17.587
10. Alexander Albon Toro Rosso 1:17.637
Of course, these times should not be set in stone either as they do not reflect all the other unknown variables such as fuel loads and engine modes.
But, it does act as another reminder that we haven’t seen anything yet, and more than very likely won’t do so until qualifying in Australia!
Still, nice to speculate…