Preseason Formula One testing shows who has the speed to win the title and who is already having problems. As Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. set the pace Friday in the morning session of the second day of testing, Mercedes struggled with a set-up issue and McLaren admitted to missing its own targets so far.
Sainz has the fastest time so far over two days of testing. American driver Logan Sargeant, who is joining F1 with Williams, was only .063 seconds adrift with a time set on the softest and fastest tires.
Of the 10 drivers on track in the morning session, Sergio Perez was seventh-fastest for Red Bull — a contrast to teammate Max Verstappen setting the fastest time the day before — and Lewis Hamilton eighth for Mercedes.
Team principal Toto Wolff said the Mercedes car was “out of balance” for the second day.
“It’s hot and we just didn’t find the right setup for these conditions, which is part of the learning, I guess, with the new car,” Wolff said in comments to British broadcaster Sky Sports.
Mercedes driver George Russell said the team might not be ready to challenge for wins and titles when the season begins next week with the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“We definitely believe eventually we will have a car capable of getting into that fight,” Russell said. “Whether we’re going to have that next weekend in Bahrain I think may be a bit of a stretch.”
Times set in testing offer only a rough guide to a teams’ true pace for the season with the cars often set up in very different ways, sometimes with heavy fuel loads to imitate a full race distance. Title contenders may try to hide their actual pace from rivals, while smaller teams may chase publicity by aiming for fast times over a single lap.
Even so, McLaren could be facing a difficult start to the season with Lando Norris and rookie teammate Oscar Piastri.
“We, like everyone, have a lot of development coming, so we are encouraged at what we see around the corner, but I think we will be going into the first race off of our projected targets,” McLaren CEO Zak Brown said. “Hard to really know where that means we’ll all be on the grid.”
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