by M.C. | In the weeks before the official start of the competition, F1 and MotoGP stories are already filling news bulletins, web-pages and social networks… The motor sport pre-season increasingly resembles that of the world of football and, although there has been no last minute signings here, there are plenty of anecdotes and details from each scuderia, vehicle and driver to feed the fans’ curiosity. These last few days are being particularly intense in this respect.
First Formula 1 tests in Barcelona
In F1, after the official vehicle launches of the previous week, the first round of official tests took place between Monday and Thursday. The Catalunya circuit in Montmelo-Barcelona (Spain), was the chosen location to try out the final models that will open the competition in Australia on the 25th of March. Storm Emma, however, made an unexpected appearance, bringing plenty of rain, snow and fog with it. Despite the adverse weather, and sessions having to be considerably cut short, some conclusions can still be drawn from what we saw:
- Mercedes is still the strongest team, at least for now and as long as Ferrari, or another unforeseen team, demonstrates otherwise: Valtteri Bottas leaded on Tuesday and Lewis Hamilton posted the best times overall across all tests on Thursday. Once again Toto Wolff’s team has all the cards to repeat last year’s victory.
- Nobody knows how Ferrari will do, but having Sebastian Vettel on top form, everything points to them staying very close to Mercedes.
- RedBull comes up as a very firm contender as Daniel Ricciardo showed on the first day of tests, setting the best time of the day.
- McLaren gave enough reasons to be optimistic after their disastrous last season: Stoffel Vandoorne was one of the best drivers of the last day with only Hamilton ahead of him. But it was not all smooth sailing for the Britons. Fernando Alonso lost a wheel mid-race on the first day and his engine suffered from overheating at some stages. Both incidents, we are reassured by McLaren, are already dealt with.
- Everyone seems to have their hopes up for Renault to be the great surprise of the season and with Carlos Sainz in such great shape in the team, they might as well be so.
The last tests of MotoGP in Qatar
There has been a number of MotoGP tests in this pre-season. The first, at the Malaysian circuit of Sepang, saw the strengthening of Jorge Lorenzo and the Ducatis. The second testing sesion of the most important motorcycling competition in the world, took everyone to the new circuit of Buriram (Thailand), in mid-February. There, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda team) was the best pilot.
This coming weekend, from the 1st to the 3rd of March, both teams and pilots are busy tweaking their bikes and trying to improve their times in Qatar. This same circuit will see the start of the official competition in two weeks from now, on the 18th of March. As we await to see how the weekend develops, Yamaha is already reliving some good sensations with Maverick Viñales posting some of the best times. Ducati and Jorge Lorenzo seem to be experiencing a comeback after the bad experience in Thailand.
Only time will tell if all this initial forecasts fulfil themselves during the long and exciting F1 and MotoGP seasons.