by H. Mayor / photo: F1
How is Formula 1 pre-season testing progressing? With only two weeks to the start of the World Championships the countdown has started. Teams are fine tuning their game and although a time for testing and experimentation some might be hiding some cards up their sleeve for the real thing. These weeks of first contacts and impressions have positioned the teams in different places, it is time for a quick review of what these first weeks have meant for the different outfits:
The positive notes
Ferrari: The Italians are big news this pre-season as far as generating high expectations is concerned. They gave much to talk about from the star: a single seater perfectly adapted to the new regulations and boasting the technology and features to bring it to Mercedes’ level. With two experienced drivers at the wheel, the Italian outfit is performing above and beyond what was expected of them. Vetted and specially Raikkonen (incredible pre-season from the Finnish driver) have achieved the best times of the pre-season and completed one of the highest number of laps ( 956 only bettered by Mercedes).
Mercedes: They have continued to dominate the tarmac, now closely followed by Ferrari. They have left the impression of having settled into their leading position while holding something back for the future. Bottas and Hamilton have gone around the track more than anyone else (1.096 laps, over 5.000 km/h) and their times leave no shadow of a doubt that they will be at the head of the World Championship once again this year. No surprises here anyway, the biggest highlight being the top level of competitiveness set up by Bottas in his first contacts with the single seater.
Renault: One of the pleasant surprises of the pre-season so far. They haven’t set any exceptional lap times but have competed well. A great achievement considering they are just out from a very difficult year. Hulkenberg is a definite asset (Palmer on the other hand could do better) but the great news is their engine’s performance. Just some improvements needed on the reliability front but the team says they have the issue “under control”.
Neither here nor there
Williams: Stroll and Massa have performed above expectations over these first sessions although they still need to improve their times. Despite this, they leave the impression that the FW40 has come a long way and could provide results very soon, particularly on the first stages of the competition.
Red Bull: Although they have been progressively picking up on their performance, the feeling still is they are going to need something extra to reach the wonderful level of 2016. They haven’t put a great volume of work (just 684 laps) spending considerable time on the pit fine-tuning their single seater. Ricciardo and Verstappen are still great assets, able to get all the juice out of their car better than anyone else.
Toro Rosso: Carlos Sainz has been one of the season’s names, smoothly evolving within is single seater which has been clearly enhanced by its new Renault engine. Good prospects now for points in Melbourne, or at least to a good fight for them.
Sauber: One more year they will be on the tail wagon at the championship only able to scratch a point here and there whenever the conditions allow it. Although this comes as no surprise their pre-season has been more that okay with a reliable single seater and many kilometres under their belt.
In need of improvement
Haas: A declining pre-season for Grosjean and Magnussen leaving a taste of uncertainty over the level of performance they might be able to muster at the start of the championships. From what we have seen, they won’t reach great heights.
Force India: Plenty of work and training ahead of them if they ever want to be competitive. The 785 laps achieved by Pérez y Ocon have shown a slow car still needing a lot of development work ahead. They might play some role in the fight for points but not just yet.
McLaren: Tortuous pre-season for the British outfit leaving a very troubling feeling for their fans with real chances of falling very low right at the start of the Championships. They have done the least number of laps of any team, with a slow car, ridden with technical problems. The Honda engine seems to be the key to so much misery and Alonso and Vandoorne are already getting ready for a nightmarish beginning.