As Mercedes drivers continue to ignore fast lap times during preseason testing, there is a growing suspicion that the World Champions may have got their sums wrong with the W10 which may be an early flaw in the mighty Mercedes arsenal as they prepare for war in the forthcoming Formula 1 World Championship.
If a beautiful F1 car is one that wins, might their 2019 challenger be an ugly duckling of the legendary W0-family?
An illustrious family pedigree it is, with ten F1 world titles in five years by its predecessors the W10 has a tough act to follow.
From the first test last week there were reports of notable understeer from various tech sources, while the Champs are clearly keeping their powder dry it is not rocket science to assume things have been a tad tense in the Merc garage and factory this past week.
Hence they arrived for Barcelona Test II with a heavily revised car and a whole new front wing concept more to the style of Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Toro Rosso – all three teams whose packages have impressed early on.
After the first test, Valtteri Bottas described the W10 as being on a knife-edge but at least he got good mileage during his two days in the car however things got worse for the Finn on day one of the second test when an “oil pressure issue” seriously curtailed his afternoon in the cockpit.
He reported at the end of the day, “Unfortunately, after four days of flawless reliability last week, I spent most of the day waiting as we had an oil pressure issue on my first out-lap and had to change the Power Unit.”
“It was important to get a bit of a feel for the new aero package. My running was obviously very limited, but it seems like we’ve made improvements,” all but confirming the ‘old’ aero package (used last week) was a flop.
Tech chief James Allison added, “It was not exactly the day we hoped for, running for the first time with the bodywork kit that we expect to use in Melbourne, with a large part of the day lost to an oil pressure issue at lunchtime.”
“Nevertheless, either side of that problem we did do some useful things, finding that the car behaves a little differently with the new package.”
The “new package” being an array of bolt-ons that the team were able to ‘copycat’ from the first test and add to the W10 for test two, but the car was not born to be wearing the latest aero package and thus only time will tell if there is a quick fix, or even anything needs fixing.
Seemingly oblivious to the anxiety around him, Hamilton was in good spirits when summing up his morning stint in the car, “It’s been a beautiful day here in Barcelona and it was great to see that even more fans turned out today.”
“We got through our run programme and the car was feeling relatively good. It was an improvement from last week which is a good step. The tyres are also working better now that the track temperature is a bit higher,” the reigning F1 World Champion, like his teammate implying that version one of the W10 is indeed the ugly duckling.
But as we know ugly can turn into magnificent, if there is a rare hiccup in Mercedes’ preseason they, more so than their rivals, are more than capable of turning things around.
But for now, it’s worth keeping an eye on the body language in the silver pit garage as 15 March looms large while they remain with the handbrake on in testing…