Pre-season notes: Mercedes and Ferrari set the pace; uncertainty in McLaren and Red Bull

H. Mayor / photo: F1

With the start of the season on the horizon, the tarmac is starting to get familiar with the ten outfits (Manor will finally not take part) that will compete head to head at this year’s Formula 1 World Championship. We are just at the pre-seasonal testing stage but we can already have a taste of next season’s most likely broader lines. Among these we can observe the excellent performances of Mercedes and Ferrari, Renault meeting its growth expectations and the weak executions of McLaren, Toro Rosso and even Red Bull.

The great début put up by Mercedes has been all too obvious after getting the fastest pre-season laps and pointing to their leadership role in this year’s competition. With Hamilton at half throttle the Brackley factory has shown off its new W08 at the hands of Bottas who can count more kilometres of rallies under his belt than anybody else.

On the other side of the coin is undoubtedly McLaren, main topic of conversation due to the numerous problems of their single seater. Their inauspicious start has meant the loss of two working days on the track and has left both Alonso and debutant Vandoorne uneasy and frustrated. Doubts are already being cast upon the reliability of the new Honda engines on the Championships’ milieu.

Ferrari and Renault

Back on a positive note, Ferrari has featured the biggest step forward of these sessions with Vettel taking his vehicle’s performance on the track up to that of Mercedes. The new SF70H seems to have hit the spot on all its specs: a vehicle that is solid and fast, precise when breaking and responsive to the pilot’s dynamic. The hard and silent Maranello’s winter seems to have birthed something remarkable. Sergio Marchionne, the brand’s president confessed excited: “It is more powerful than we were expecting, we don’t know if powerful enough to win the championship, but it is a big step forward”.

The other piece of good news is about Renault: with no real chance to compete for the whole of last season, its first tests show a real qualitative jump forward. Although not yet at the level of the top teams, it could accumulate points regularly, even more so with the reliable Hulkenberg at the wheel. More uncertain is Red Bull’s future which will have to live up to its own very high goal post from 2016. So far neither Ricciardo or Verstappen have been able to squeeze all the juice that their machines are  supposed to have, but it is still early days.


The start of the pre-season has also opened a window into how the battery of changes introduced in the regulations for 2017 are going to affect the sport.  The new cars are indeed bigger in size and capable of reaching greater speeds as has been shown by the first test results. Several drivers however, have shown their fears that overtaking might have become more difficult from now on, something that only the coming competitions will tell.

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