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F1 preseason testing: The big questions going into week two

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Hamilton shrugs off Verstappen's comments at Mercedes launch (1:24)

Lewis Hamilton speaks about Max Verstappen's comments as the 2020 Mercedes car is revealed fo the first time. (1:24)

The second F1 preseason test starts on Wednesday (Feb.26) at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

The next three days of track time will give a better sense of what the pecking order looks like ahead of the Australian Grand Prix on March 15.

What is relevant this week?

We will see teams start to explore the performance of their cars over the next three days. While Mercedes set several eye-catching times across the first test, its rivals spent the majority of the first three days prioritising mileage over outright lap times. The first week gave some indications of which teams are better prepared for the new season than others, but making sense of the pecking order was a difficult task given how little representative running there was.

That changes this week, with teams focusing more and more on outright pace.

Qualifying and race simulations will take place, where teams effectively mirror what they would do on a race weekend, and that is where the most revealing short- and long-run analysis will come from. It's never a perfect science, as we still don't know fuel loads and engine modes, but it at least allows for some educated guesswork by the end of testing.

Will Red Bull or Ferrari be Mercedes' main challenger in 2020?

There is a quiet confidence at Red Bull this preseason. No team is going to make lofty promises about beating Mercedes but you sense Red Bull feels different about this car than any of its predecessors in the turbo-hybrid era.

Max Verstappen's body language has been good -- people at the team say he was ecstatic with it from the moment he drove it. Early impressions don't always translate into the same end product but it's a great position for the former world champions to be in at this stage of the year.

Contrast that to Ferrari, which has purposely taken a low-key approach to the opening week of testing after it falsely raised expectations with a strong preseason 12 months ago. The team had an uninspiring first week but was clearly not looking at performance, finishing 2.5s off Mercedes' quickest times, and appeared to be running with lower engine modes than customer teams Alfa Romeo and Haas.

Ferrari might well be happy to go into the new campaign with muted talk around a championship challenge. It looked strong at points last year but, as always, the key to beating Mercedes is to produce a car that is competitive for an entire 22-race season.

If either team has delivered a car that can fight Mercedes, we should get indications of it at some point this week. Comparing the headline times of Red Bull and Ferrari's performance runs to those of Mercedes will be one of the major talking points come Friday evening.

Who looks like the best of the midfield fight?

The midfield battle has been better than the championship fight in recent seasons - this year's could be closer than ever. McLaren beat Renault to 'best of the rest' honours last year in what was a straight fight between the two. While those two should do battle again this time around, you can expect to see other teams in that mix in 2020. It seems as though a number of teams in the midfield have made a significant step ahead of the new season.

If you believe the early hype, Racing Point's controversial 'pink Mercedes' could well be this year's strongest midfield car.At launch, team boss Otmar Szafnauer predicted at least a podium apiece for drivers Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez this year. That's incredibly bold given the current state of F1 and how difficult it has been for midfield teams to finish on the podium on merit, but the outfit formerly known as Force India has overachieved in the past and clearly hopes to do so again this year.

Alpha Tauri has targeted fifth position in its rebrand year and it certainly has a strong foundation to achieve that -- the AT01 car is running Red Bull's gearbox and suspension from last year. The Italian team has a solid opening week of testing and there's been nothing so far to suggest the team has set too lofty a target for the coming campaign.

Is Haas in trouble?

Haas finished the opening week of testing with the lowest mileage count and with no laps which hinted at its overall pace. It's always easy to attach negative headlines to the least productive team from a test but the mood at Haas is still fairly grounded -- usually at this point in a season you can sense which teams are starting to worry about the upcoming campaign.

Nothing suggests the alarm bells are ringing at Haas just yet but it cannot afford another week similar to the opening test. The team lost valuable time on two occasions - one caused by a Romain Grosjean mistake, the other by a car failure on day three. The team struggled to understand its car for much of 2019 so avoiding further hiccups in this upcoming test is essential for ensuring Haas goes to Melbourne as well prepared as it can be.

How much has Williams recovered?

Williams is clearly in a better position than this time last year -- its car actually arrived at the opening test and was the first to hit the track on the Wednesday. Williams endured its worst ever season last year, recording a fortunate point through Robert Kubica at the German Grand Prix, but is confident it won't be propping up the order every weekend this time around.

It might be a tall order to expect Williams to leap back towards the midfield, but any improvement on last year will be noticeable given how far off the pace they were.