While lap times might have been misleading during the first three rounds of pre-season testing, with teams running an assortment fuel loads and test programs, Jenson Button has surmised that Ferrari might have a performance edge over the other top contenders, i.e. Mercedes, Red Bull and his own team, McLaren.
“I think the Ferrari is very strong,” he said, as reported on ESPNF1. “If you look at their runs today, they’re very consistent. I think they have better consistency than anyone at the moment. I think our pace is good, but there are still areas we need to work on for me to be happy with the car.”
He also described following other cars on the track yesterday, and observing their handling characteristics under braking. “I followed a few drivers today, including Fernando and Michael,” he said. “It’s always interesting to see what’s happening, you never know what fuel loads people are on, but you can see what sort of balance they have.”
He concluded that while the Mercedes and Ferrari seemed to be reasonably comparable, the Ferrari probably had better balance over all. “The Mercedes to me seemed like it was a little bit twitchy at the rear,” he noted, “and braking it looked like it was locking the rears. But if they’re on 150kg [of fuel] it’s understandable. It’s interesting. The Ferrari looked good on the circuit, good consistency.”
As for the McLaren, Button said that it performed well on a low fuel run, for a single lap speed (as shown by his quickest lap of today’s sessions), but he also acknowledged that the team needed to aim for greater performance consistency over the entire range of a complete fuel cycle, i.e. on race distance runs.
“For me, our car over one lap is getting there,” he said. “We’re improving step by step. And on the long runs, we’re improving every run we do. There’s so much information we’ve got from today – more than any other test day, for me anyway.”
Testing resumes next week, in the final pre-season round, at the Circuit de Catalunya, outside Barcelona.