Brought to you by TJ13 contributor Oddball
Well racing fans, the long (cough..cough) wait was over and the teams didn’t pull their punches. As the clock ticked down and the hour hand struck the 12 and our 2017 season officially got underway.
The official breakdown of the running order was:-
Red Bull: Ricciardo
Force India: Perez
Toro Rosso: Sainz
The first car on the track was the stunningly scluptured Renault with the mighty Hulk behind the wheel.
The new look cars appear sleaker and with a more aggressive stance,If this translates to a quicker lap time or better racing I will reserve judgement but first impressions..’It is good’.
Last year’s time to beat ( 1m 22.765s) was set by a storming Kimi in the less than impressive Ferrari.
The Renault was quickly followed by Magnussen on his debut for Haas, the off again,on again returning Massa at Williams, and Ericsson at Sauber. The defending Mercedes headed up the rear of the first runners and as the green light flashed, the track came back to life.
This was short lived as after the installation lap each car peeled back into its waiting,heated stable and the track fell silent again…But not for long as the Ferrari of Vettel sprang to life. This was closely followed by the Red bull of Ricardo.
Both cars looked fantastic but the detail on the Redbull really did blow me away.
It’s obvious that Newey has had input into this car and out of all the runners,IMHO this looked like a winning machine…Oh for hind sight on that statement as less than 30 min later I am forced to eat my words because the first redflag of the season was brought down as the Redbull ground to a halt due to a failed sensor.
Breath time for the fans and a full reset for the teams as the Redbull counterweight is brought swinging onto the recovery truck.
At the second green light,Hulkenberg (Renault) and Vettel (Ferrari) were straight back out on track but this was not all systems go for the orange McLaren.
(Does anyone else think it looks like the old orange Arrows?)
An oil leak put Alonso’s morning into turmoil. I am sure he is now wishing he could have moved over to the vacant Mercedes seat as the problems of last year seem to have been remembered.
The air was still a chilly 10 Deg C.
However, many of the runners had chosen to run the medium tyres and the lap times showed.
These initial laps came in at around a 1min 26 sec so it is some way to go to match the sub 1:23 of last year but as the laps fell so did the times.
The expected front runners didn’t take long to get upto speed.
The Ferrari and Mercedes began to trade lap times and for the first time we got to see what these monsters could do.
Soft tyres seem to make the difference as both early times came close to last year’s.
The Ferrari team appears to have a very stable car that is more suitable for the old champion. Could this have been why Vettel battled so hard with the last few cars? Maybe the critics had a point,’an aero sensitive driver’.
The Mercedes of Bottas was equally impressive, lap after lap the silver Fin circled. The small fish huddled for shelter in the pits as the counter stopped before lunch at 79. A very ominous telling for what the season holds.
Just before lunch the Hass that had made a return to the track hit problems.
Approaching turn 10 The back wheels locked sending it spinning Into the barrier.
Magnussen Limped back into the pits and again the track fell silent
My own early thoughts are these,
Mercedes unstoppable, Ferrari fast but in limited runs while McLaren,Red bull and Hass have very early problems….Let’s just hope I am wrong.
1. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m 22.791s (61 laps)
2. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m 23.169s (79)
3. Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m 23.709s (38)
4. Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m 25.552s (37)
5. Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m 26.319s (22)
6. Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m 26.404s (15)
7. Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Renault 1m 26.726s (15)
8. Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m 27.363s (29)
9. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-TAG 1m 28.712s (4)
10. Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda No time set
The lunch wagons revenge
Red Bull: Ricciardo
Force India: Perez
Toro Rosso: Sainz
As lunch began to settle in the paddock all eyes fell to just two garages. Mercedes had brought in the big guns… Hamilton Mk4 ,maybe that was down to the shear number of laps that Bottas managed or just so both drivers could be equal but the team didn’t explain the lineup.
The second team was the unlucky McLaren stable who appeared to have a donkey rather than a lean Filly in the box.
Last year’s ride needed to be a forgettable folly but it appears that mistakes have not been rectified.
Any team should,and especially one of McLarens pedigree, be ready for winter testing. A powertrain needs to be in a bench tested state before it arrives at track. Yes, that’s what testing is, it’s there to iron out problems but if your car does not run it’s just a wasted day.
The poor Alonso’s luck just doesn’t want to hold as the team changed out the complete engine. It was great work by the team but it really can’t have been received well with the management.
Later that afternoon,Ron was seen with a bag of sugar and a funnel 😉 the thin moustache and black cape failed to fool the eagle eyed fans.
The session started much the same as the morning.
A slow build up as the teams began to understand just what they had.
With each lap that was ticked off,the lap times began to fall.
The track temperature began to steadily climb and reached 29 Deg C,this with the addition of the soft tyres brought about the ever altering board.
The Williams was the surprise of the afternoon as they began to chase the charging Mercedes and the flying Ferrari.
Hamilton placed his usual stamp on the day as he set down the initial marker followed closely by the Ferrari and Williams.
Against the odds the McLaren of Alonso managed to put aside their problems and set a pretty respectful time,pity it still only left him in 10th place.
Redbulls problems seem to continue as a failing battery put a charging Ricardo back into the box.
But even this glitch could not halt the ever smiling Dan.
A real surprise for myself was the shear number of laps that the teams managed to complete.
Vettel broke the 100 mark and many of those were close to last year’s all out time of a 1:22 with change.
The current regulations with the 4 unit per car limit does at least look hopeful..Unless your driving a Honda (sorry,slight dig there) couple this with the excellent aero and increased tyre grip I only hope for some closer racing.
So now the sun sets on the first days outing for our teams. We have some winners, some surprises and some absolutely gorgeous looking cars.
It was of no surprise where the Mercedes boys ended up but a strong push by Ferrari and Williams brings some hope to the situation.
Red bull looked very hopeful but some weak mechanicals seem to have crept in there…And as for McLaren..Enough said.
Front runners Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Redbull
Middle pack Force India, Renault, Sauber-Ferrari
Finding their way… McLaren (sorry people but what is wrong with Honda??)
I know it’s only the first day but from these times it looks like we will have a race on our hands. Massa surprisingly quick for an outwardly underdeveloped car.
1. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:21.765 – 73 laps (afternoon)
2. Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 1:21.878- 126 laps
3. Felipe Massa – Williams – 1:22.076 – 103 laps
4. Kevin Magnussen – Haas – 122.894 – 50 laps
5. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1:22.926 – 39 laps
6. Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes – 1:23.169 – 79 laps (morning)
7. Sergio Perez – Force India – 1:23.709 – 39 laps
8. Carlos Sainz – Toro Rosso – 1:24.494 – 51 laps
9. Nico Hulkenberg – Renault – 1:24.784 – 57 laps
10. Fernando Alonso – McLaren – 1:24.852 – 29 laps
11. Marcus Ericsson – Sauber – 1:26.841 – 72 laps