Reading the tea leaves from F1 winter testing can be as exacting a science as theoretical physics, and following the much lauded ‘big 2017 rule change’ there’s more than the usual number of variables to throw into the equation.
That said, it’s quite helpful when certain F1 people in the know let something slip which helps us understand whats actually going on behind the smoke and mirrors. So here’s a big thanks to Force India’s Andy Green, who’s provided this insight when he let slip how well the Mercedes power unit has developed over the winter. He’s described the step forward in power as “unprecedented” and beyond anything the simulations had allowed for.
That’s no damning with faint praise – eh Mr. Green?
Given that overtaking will be even more difficult this year, the car with the most guts to power through the ‘dirty air’ and pass the rest of the field will have a race and championship winning advantage that even the magical aerodynamic power of Guru Newey will find difficult to negate.
Of course having the most grunt doesn’t always mean the car will be quickest around the whole of the circuit as Newey Red Bull designs of old have demonstrated. Quick through the corners but slower down the straights, combined with pole position and a run and hide race strategy from Sebastian Vettel saw the Milton Keynes posse win quadruple F1 titles back to back.
This morning there was a hint of in fact how powerful the Mercedes W08 really is. Lewis Hamilton set off on a long run, with the soft tyre and more than half a tank of fuel on board. His quickest lap was a session topping 1:21:766 which interestingly was set on the first lap of the stint. Clearly with fresh tyres and low fuel this would have been between 1.5-2.5 seconds quicker – depending on how much fuel Lewis was carrying this morning.
Simply put, a potential time in the 1:19’s with soft tyres here on just day 2 of winter testing will garner some serious respect from Mercedes rivals this evening when the media round of interviews gets underway.
Add this to the awesome reliability the W08 is also demonstrating and at 23/20 – Lewis Hamilton looks like a good value bet for the 2017 drivers’ F1 title. Then again Valterri Bottas at 4/1 – maybe as an each way bet – is even more value for money.
In other testing day 2 morning news, McLaren-Honda’s run of anni horribilis is set to extend for another year. Today the disappointed driver was Stoffel Vandoorne who pottered about for a while and then stopped the car. McLaren initially said this was merely some ‘set up niggles’, but just before lunch we learned that power unit three was being fitted to the MCL32. A spokesperson revealed, “We lost power to the power unit. At the moment we don’t know what has caused the issue. We are currently changing the power unit in order to investigate fully and identify the cause. We will update you when we have further information.”
Clearly a power unit that’s lost its power is problematic for racing cars – and in what is still an engine formula, engines are a major problem for MacHonda.
Sauber also spent the morning fitting a new engine and the Renault car only managed an installation laps just before lunch because the team were fitting ‘new parts that had arrived overnight’.
Red Bull Racing are causing some murmurings amongst the F1 hacks. The RB13 is about as basic as it gets from an aerodynamic perspective. There’s no fancy bits and pieces of bodywork here there and everywhere, just lots of smooth surfaces and a huge amount of rake in the chassis setup. The big question is whether there are exciting twirly nobs of carbon fibre in transit or has Adrian Newey decided a perverse back to basics approach is the new black in the complexity of F1 winglet design?
Local Farmer complains Ferrari have taken some fencing and a gate without permission
Ferrari did their best to match the flying silver arrow, but Kimi was over a second off the Mercedes pace – though his times were set on a harder set of medium compounds. Last season Ferrari suffered on harder compounds – but as yet its not clear whether the extended time they’re spending on the medium tyre is to solve these issues or because the new red machine now prefers them.
Sergio Marchionne appeared briefly and told the assembled masses the Ferrari car ‘meets expectations’ and is a ‘big step’ forward on its predecessor. Craig Scarborough noted that Maurizio Arrivabene has been on the Ferrari pit wall for both days of testing so far. Quite unusual indeed.
Lance Stroll had an off after just 12 laps this the morning and due to a lack of front wings, Williams confirmed his time in the car is done for today. Its a steep learning curve for the millionaire’s rookie son.
With around 15 minutes to the lunch break, Lewis set off on the supersoft tyres and delivered a lap record breaking 1:20:938.
Mercedes have already made the biggest improvement of all the teams from their best time in Barcelona testing 2016.