Pirelli data hints at Ferrari's actual Formula 1 testing advantage

Pirelli's estimated differences between its 2019 Formula 1 tyres suggest Ferrari ended the first test with an advantage of half a second

Pirelli data hints at Ferrari's actual Formula 1 testing advantage

The top three teams in outright times at the end of the opening week at Barcelona were Renault, Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo, with Mercedes the best of the traditional benchmarks in fourth.

Ferrari was only fifth, 0.7 seconds behind pacesetter Nico Hulkenberg, but Leclerc's best time was set on the middle of Pirelli's five compounds.

The top six drivers, including Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, used the softest of the five compounds - which Pirelli estimates is 1.2s faster than the C3 used by the Ferraris to set their best times.

Applying Pirelli's estimates of the gaps to the C5 tyre reshuffles the top 10 lap times from testing considerably.

Adjusted times

Pos Driver Team Time adjusted to C5s Driver Actual time/tyres
1. Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m16.846s Nico Hulkenberg 1m17.393s (C5)
2. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m16.961s Alexander Albon 1m17.637s (C5)
3. Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1m17.311s Daniil Kvyat 1m17.704s (C5)
4. Romain Grosjean Haas 1m17.363s Kimi Raikkonen 1m17.762s (C5)
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m17.377s Daniel Ricciardo 1m17.785s (C5)
6. Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m17.393s Valtteri Bottas 1m17.857s (C5)
7. Kevin Magnussen Haas 1m17.520s Lewis Hamilton 1m17.977s (C4)
8. Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1m17.580s Charles Leclerc 1m18.046s (C3)
9. Max Verstappen Red Bull 1m17.587s Sebastian Vettel 1m18.161s (C3)
10. Alexander Albon Toro Rosso 1m17.637s Lando Norris 1m18.431s (C4)
11. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m17.704s Antonio Giovinazzi 1m18.511s (C3)
12. Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1m17.762s Carlos Sainz 1m18.558s (C4)
13. Lance Stroll Racing Point 1m17.764s Romain Grosjean 1m18.563s (C3)
14. Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1m17.785s Kevin Magnussen 1m18.720s (C3)
15. Lando Norris McLaren 1m17.831s Pierre Gasly 1m18.780s (C3)
16. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m17.857s Max Verstappen 1m18.787s (C3)
17. Carlos Sainz McLaren 1m17.958s Pietro Fittipaldi 1m19.249s (C4)
18. Pietro Fittipaldi Haas 1m18.649s Lance Stroll 1m19.664s (C2)
19. Sergio Perez Racing Point 1m18.744s Sergio Perez 1m19.944s (C3)
20. Robert Kubica Williams 1m19.642s George Russell 1m20.997s (C3)
21. George Russell Williams 1m19.797s Robert Kubica 1m21.542s (C2)

Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel move to the head of the order as the only drivers with sub-1m17s lap times.

Hulkenberg falls to sixth, behind Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi, Mercedes' world champion Lewis Hamilton and the Haas of Romain Grosjean.

There are more significant factors beyond the tyre compound that influence a lap time in testing, including engine modes and fuel levels.

Our technical consultant Gary Anderson has factored in these variables, as well as his own interpretation of the Pirelli data, in his end of test ranking feature.

Fuel is particularly tricky to account for, even though it is tempting to declare that, for example, Daniil Kvyat setting a 1m17.704s on one-lap outing must be a glory run on low fuel compared to Kimi Raikkonen setting an almost-identical 1m17.762s in a five-lap run.

Correcting the best lap times from the opening test as if everybody had used C5 tyres is simplistic, and does not produce a definitive picture of the competitive order.

But it serves to highlight just how misleading this week's headline times were, as just changing one element of testing can completely transform the leaderboard.

A tyre-'corrected' leaderboard also tallies with all the other available data and assessments that Ferrari holds an advantage.

The competitive picture will change in week two when teams begin to show more performance.

Leclerc said Ferrari was holding back this week and that its rivals were also sandbagging, while Red Bull was evidently not chasing lap times. That means the order will become clearer in week two.

In the meantime, though, Pirelli's data helps remove one of the many layers that make the picture so opaque - and further hints at Ferrari holding an advantage, whatever it may prove to be when it matters.

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