Test overview: Mercedes and Ferrari in front of Red Bull

With the final test all wrapped up it is time to predict what we can expect in two weeks time. For me Australia can’t come soon enough. So is it possible to draw a conclusion from the tests? Lets try.

First things first: Speed!
The fastest lap of these wintertests was set by Kimi Räikkönen with a time of 1:18.634. Compared to last years time (Also set by Räikkönen in his Ferrari) of 1:22.765, that’s an improvement of 4.131 seconds. Not the, by the FIA, promised 5 seconds, but then again I am fairly certain we haven’t seen any team give it their all, sandbagging is part of the game. And times in testing are almost completely useless. As Craig put it earlier this week: “Ferrari might have only had a teacup of Shell in their tank.”
Ferrari’s impressions.
The overall impression, for me (yes, I am a Vettel fan), was good. Perhaps even the best I’ve had in 10 years. And I am a very pessimistic person, so that says a lot! Not only have they been lapping quick times, throughout all test days. But what’s even more, they’ve had a very reliable test session. Last year they used three engines during testing. This year they sticked to one. I wouldn’t say they hadn’t had any problems at all, because that would be a lie. There was an electrical problem, a hydraulic leak and a small crash for Räikkönen. Nevertheless they were 98 laps up from their total of last year, bringing it to 952 laps in total.
Many of the trackside connaisseurs went on record to say that it looked like the Ferrari had the best handling of all the cars. Gary Anderson felt like the car was painted on the road. Martin Brundle hailed their traction in corners. And Ben Anderson said he clearly could hear Vettel sandbagging through the last corner. Predicting that Ferrari had some extra performance left but didn’t want to show their hand already.  GPS data suggests that Ferrari made a clear difference towards Mercedes in the fast turns 3 and 9.
Ferrari was the only one breaking through the laptimes of 1:19. And thus Mercedes saw a chance to pass the title of favorites towards Ferrari. Perhaps a way of relieving themselves of extra pressure? Both Lewis Hamilton and Niki Lauda stated that Ferrari could be two to three tenths in front of them. But are they really?
Mercedes’ impressions.
Mercedes went on to do what they did last year. Drive great distances. However, where they got 1294 laps under their belt last year, they have “only” managed 1096 this year. All of their laps were driven with a good amount of fuel in their tank, according to Mercedes engineers. Because “You learn nothing from fast laps with no fuel on-board”. Their words, not mine. All this resulted in a fastest lap of 1:19.310.
Where the engineers of Mercedes predicted that a 1:18.6 was possible, during the first week of testing, they lowered it to a 1:18, or perhaps even slightly under it, during the second week. This sounds about the same as Pirelli engineers predicted. Of course everything had to come together for that. During these tests their fuel load was too much, their engine was running conservative and Hamilton stated that he hadn’t been able to find the right set up.
All points to the fact that there is nothing to panic about at Mercedes. There were no real big problems to report. Even when, like earlier mentioned, some Mercedes folk tried go get the pressure off by saying Ferrari was quicker than them. Most problems they had were bits and pieces breaking off of their floor, introduced in week 2. This worried Aldo Costa, Mercedes Chief Designer, but not enough to abandon floor model 2. “We have lost two days with the floor, because the pieces that broke off interfered with our test results. This, of course, doesn’t gives us 100% certainty about the floor. We’ll have to see in Melbourne what will happen next.”
Red Bull’s impressions.
At the end of last season the same connaisseurs predicted RBR to be the main challengers for the 2017 title. Unlike their main rivals, Ferrari and Mercedes, RBR came with a very smooth aerodynamic car. And to continue on the same page as previous years, it wasn’t that smooth shape that gave them troubles. All problems were related to Renault’s V6 in the back of the car. Whether it was MGU-K related or “just” a turbo failure.
This all resulted in RBR driving around with conservative engine modes, bringing their total of laps on a much smaller number of 634. Toto Wolff believes that RBR can get 7 tenths off their times, once they turn up in Melbourne, when they are able to turn off the conservative setting of their Renault engine.
On the penultimate day RBR seemed to have a total black out with a car that was 2 seconds of its pace. Unfortunately for them, it was that day that Mr. Red Bull himself was at the track to see the progress his team made. Ricciardo blamed it on a wrong set-up. The last day Verstappen was back on track, but this time round the lap times were good. Young Max conducted tests with two different front wings, as RBR is expected to show their real car come Melbourne.
Unlike Mercedes, both Red Bull and Ferrari drove the two test weeks with the first design of their car, with minor adjustments. Mercedes brought big aero changes for the second week, and is expected to bring even more to Australia. Ferrari isn’t expected to bring any big adjustments for the first race, since they hardly ever did that.
Williams’ impressions.
Williams seems, once more, to become the best of the rest. The much bespoken rookie Lance Stroll and the even more bespoken come-back kid are driving a car that seems to follow the RBR philosophy. Clean and smooth lines. But the bad news is that the number four team of the field seems to be 1 to 1.5 seconds behind the top three, according to calculations. However, the good news (this is me trying to be positive) is that young Lance got his crashes out of the way in week one. He actually did pretty good, for a rookie, in week two.
So far it was quite easy to make up a top 3. Little doubt who will be no. 1, Ferrari or Merc? At this moment RBR clear 3rd. And the top 4, you can all agree, was made by putting Sir Frank’s team up there. But after that it becomes harder to tell. Renault, Toro Rosso, Haas and Force India all had their problems. Just like all of them also had some positive moments.
Renault’s impressions.
Renault has engine troubles. I’ve mentioned it before. This will be their main concern, since it doesn’t only affect them! Biggest asset of the team is that their staff is bigger than their rivals. And with rivals I mean those outside of my top 4, in this article. Second asset is their no.1 driver. Hülkenberg, for me, is one of the best of the field. I have never hid my love for him and I won’t do so now. I believe, once Renault gets back on top (and they will, they know how) they can finally give the Hulk a fighting chance for the title. 2017 will be to early for that, but perhaps 2018.
Toro Rosso’s impressions.
My God, I love that car. Since day one of the tests I had different pictures of their car as my phone wallpaper. This is, by far, the sexiest car of the field! Besides Mercedes, the only one with a good looking nose, and a livery for the ages. Unfortunately it wasn’t a trouble free two weeks for them. Biggest problem? I hate to say this again, but yes, it was the Renault engine. All the other problems occurring this week had to do with the stability of the car, according to Franz Tost. He did believe it were rather small, solvable problems. I hope so, for Carlos Sainz sake. A driver with great promise, if you ask me. I know you didn’t but I’ll tell you anyway. Ideal scenario would be a car for him to show his talents in and Ferrari buying him for 2018. Sorry Räikkönen fans, but he has to retire someday. Neither Ricciardo nor Verstappen is stupid enough to leave the RBR team, so this might be Sainz his only option for a top team.
Haas’ impressions.
I haven’t seen Haas do a single low fuel load lap. Not that that is a bad thing, on the contrary. They nearly doubled their amount of laps during this test, compared to last years. Always a positive sign. Any real problems occurred during the last day. Grosjean went off track, there was a faulty sensor and a water leakage. Still, feelings are positive at Haas, that they will be able to fight for a high place, inside the midfield.
Force India’s impressions.
Their biggest problems seemed to be with the exhaust. But they still managed a reasonable number of laps, in what must be the ugliest car of the field. I’m sorry, but it is. However, they feel they have made big steps in their set up. And compared to last year they think they have a better understanding of how the tires work. Their main improvement goal is to get the car on a diet. 10kg lighter in Melbourne is the target. How many of us haven’t made that New Years resolution?
So far the midfield. Since we have lost Manor the first impression for ‘the team to be last, each race’ would have been Sauber. But behold! There’s a new kid in town.
Sauber’s impressions.
The Swiss based team said they only concentrated on long runs with maximum fuel load. Because of that they feel that the gap of 1.5 seconds to the midfield isn’t a real representation. But their main goal is to strike in Melbourne, when others might struggle with reliability. Sauber has proven to have a reliable car, during this test at least. 788 laps puts them in the top 3 of most laps driven!
McLaren’s failures.
The team with the worst season ahead can only be the Woking based one. Four (!) engines in eight days? And four times they could fix the one that was in the back of the car. While the new rule states 20 races will have to be done with four engines. That’s 60 days. Will they have used 30 engines at the end of the year? Japanese engineers looked for days what the problem might be. First it was a bad designed oil tank. Then it was an electronic problem (to which McLaren switched all electronics over night). Then suddenly they couldn’t explain why the engine failed.
Now the latest version is that the engine vibrates so much that, over time, all the electronics get disconnected. The engine shakes itself in to breaking down. That’s like a kid, rolling down a hill, for fun. Just to throw up once it he gets at the bottom. All it brought to the team was the least amount of laps and lap times three (!) seconds slower than the one of Räikkönen. Remember how I said times are unimportant during tests? Well, this is the exception that proves the rule. Conclusion? This will be Alonso’s worst season and a very hard first season for, my fellow countryman, Vandoorne. Only real spark of hope for you, Mclaren fans? The token system is gone. Perhaps Honda can change just enough until the last race of the year, in order to get, at least, one point.
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32 responses to “Test overview: Mercedes and Ferrari in front of Red Bull

  1. Either the author doesn’t have mother tongue English or he simply isn’t a writer (maybe both). This article read like a school homework essay. Sorry.

    • It is his third language. English as a mother tongue not required for effective communication in these internet days. My daughter has English as her native language, German fluency as that is where she grew up, and is functional in in as Asian language as that is where she now lives and works. It isn’t as great as her knowledge of her first two languages but she effectively gets around, gets fed, watches films and television, and comments on the internet in her newest tongue. She’s almost as smart as our author! Thanks, bruznic.

      • A while back I got told the Queen’s English is dead anyway. Pretty soon only the people of the island will speak it. And they will have to adapt to the majority…

    • Well, my German is limited to ordering a beer and my Dutch can only manage a smoke. i found the article very informative.
      I do disagree on a few points. For myself,it’s the Ferrari that gets the beauty award.

    • It took far more energy for you to point all that out than it would have done if you’d just got over yourself and appreciated the effort / intent / content while accepting the less than perfect diction as the price of by-fans-for-fans content and made you own snappy contribution to the discussion.

      No one likes a snob.

      Regards,

      RogerD*

      * Recovering snob

  2. As you could write pages on the winter test for each team – I think this article does give a good overview. M-B looked solid and the car was reliable, though some commentators such as Gary Anderson said they didn’t look as well planted as Ferrari. Ferrari have clearly upped their game and I for one believe their increased performance is for real and they are at M-B’s level. The question for Ferrari is can they develop the car during the year. RB haven’t shown what the car really is capable of because of the Renault engine and in fact may never because of that. No matter how big RB are they still are privateers and dependent for a major component from someone else. Williams look solid and I think Stroll will do a good job. I’m impressed by Haas but they still need to straighten out the brake issue.

    As for McLaren – I’m much more interested in how Brown and Boullier handle things. Do they stay with Honda or start looking elsewhere? A wrong move could finish McLaren off.

    • The McLaren thing: that’s indeed a good question. This year will bring the answer depending on: 1) will Honda show progression 2) will Zak attack?

      • Right now McLaren F1 is a paper tiger. They have a massive technical base and lots of engineering know-how but all of that is being essentially paid for by Honda. If Honda get the engine straightened out, all is well and then they can start moving forward. If Honda doesn’t, at some point McLaren will have to decide what to do. if a divorce occurs, Honda will undoubtedly have to hand over to McLaren a pile of cash, but without a major / title sponsor that money won’t last long, especially when they have to pay for their engines and Zak Brown is probably the wrong person to be in charge as he has no / little knowledge as to how an F1 team is run or how to fix the team.

  3. Thanks for that, bruznic.

    I think the most valuable testing impressions are from those seeing and hearing the cars live. On that basis, it seems that Ferrari have jagged a good one this year. Fk, I hope so.

    MB were just looking to deflect attention from the size of their wallet at every opportunity. If you look ‘sandbag’ up in the dictionary there’s a photo of a W08.

    RBR were ridiculously quiet on all fronts, which is VERY unlike them. I’m stuffed if I know what that means – it was like they were a bit bored of it all.

    I was a bit surprised at the ‘well-developed’ cars that the silver and red teams wheeled out of the shed straight up. A touch of premature optimisation, I would have thought. Note that I once read a book that mentioned computational fluid dynamics and I have done a Google search so I am an expert* on F1 aerodynamics.

    I’m with Horner on the fins and random extra winglets. Embarrassing appendages.

    And finally, bruznic, my friend, I can’t agree on the enduring damp patch you have for Hulkenberg. He’s had his chances in OK cars – Perez made more of an impression in the same gear and he’s an also-ran. Unless the change to yellow overalls flicks some kind of switch for Nico II this year, well he might as well pack it in, for mine. Middling talent, at best.

    BTW,
    …once Renault gets back on top…
    pmsl as I rofl and lol whilst I smh. Wake me up for that one 🙂

    *not an expert

    • RBR: Image and video hosting by TinyPic the dutch have their hopes on this image. The bull is incomplete. So they think red bull has something up their sleeve in that area. Do they think they can get the FIA to ban sharkfins? Idk.
      Right now my time at work is up so I’ll get back to the rest of your comment later. Some good points in there, which I’d like to address!

    • https://www.jamesallenonf1.com/2017/03/f1-test-analysis-is-ferrari-really-ahead-of-mercedes-heres-what-to-look-out-for/
      This is a very good read about testing. Check it out!
      As for hulk, remember the trilogy of the feeder series I did? In the second one I compare hulk to perez.
      The reason I like hulk is because he’s a rain driver. I always respect a rain driver more. When he drove le mans, the last hour or so it rained, not to heavy but still enough. Hulk did it on slicks and without his wipers on. No-one else did that. That, in my book, is a great racer. 😉

      • Yh, I’ll spot you the ‘Hulk in the Rain’ thing. Exceptional touch required, but than ain’t enough. But if I’m going to pick one item of clothing to wear in a summer sport when it might rain 10% of the time, it’s not going to be a wetsuit.

        Having said that, anyone who has spent time sitting out the back waiting for a set during an extended mid-winter dawn patrol will tell you of the transcendent wonder of relieving youself in your wetsuit.

        So Hulk is like that. Great in a very specific circumstance. The rest of the time? Errr… No…

        Hmmm… That got a bit weird…

  4. Not likely that Ferrari was in cup of tea fuel level as they did further laps at speed after the quick lap so it was at least 0.6 of sec off a true ultimate pace if every lap counts as 0.3 of sec per lap

  5. Nice reporting, bruznic! Keep up the good work!

    “Hülkenberg, for me, is one of the best of the field.”

    Statistically Hulkenberg seems to be on the same level as the likes of Grosjean, Perez, Kvyat, Kovalainen and — please don’t stab me! — Maldonado. He’s definitely behind the likes of Massa, Raikkonen or Bottas, and nowhere near an Alonso, Vettel or Hamilton. If he really is that good, he hasn’t yet showed it in his overall results.

    https://f1metrics.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/who-was-the-greatest-f1-driver/

    And you should consider that three years in, Perez and Hulkenberg are historically one of the MOST evenly matched and balanced pairing.

    Not only this, but Hulkenberg was one of the worst performing drivers on the grid in 2016…
    https://f1metrics.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/2016-model-based-driver-rankings/
    “As Perez and Hulkenberg end their three-year partnership, the overall head-to-head tallies stand at 34-24 to Hulkenberg in qualifying, 27-24 to Perez in races, and 238-226 to Perez in points. As the table below indicates, they are among the most balanced teammates in history.”

    We should not forget that while Perez has managed to rack up 7 podiums with Force India and Sauber, Hulkenberg has managed none with the same teams. We’re getting outside of bad luck territory here… So you can’t really expect Hulkenberg to be one of the bestest out there unless you have the same feelings for Perez, which I suspect very few do.

    “A first podium somehow continues to elude Hulkenberg and he is now just 11 starts away from reaching Sutil’s record of 128 starts without a podium.”

    THIS SAID, and even if it might not look like it, I too am a supporter of Hulkenberg and would badly like to see him succeed… I think the move to Renault makes sense, just like Fred’s stay at McLaren makes sense, as in this day and age only a manufacturer (or RB) can get you anywhere near a title.

    • I know, landroni. I know. But somehow we get more sentimental for people that speak to us. Don’t know if you read this: https://thejudge13.com/2017/02/02/the-verstappen-effect-feeder-series-obsolete-money-talks/ if not please do, I compared hulk to perez. With one extra factor, DNF’s. And as you can see hulk had a bit more of bad luck. But I agree with most of what you said, except for one thing, perez, raikkonen and massa all got a chance with a top team. Hulk didnt. But, like I mentioned to roger here, I like hulk for his ability to drive in the wet. I’m a sucker for rain drivers. Most fans went crazy about max in brasil because of his searching for alt lines, but the reason why he did that is because RBR told him that the hulk is doing it, and it’s working. So he should give it a shot too. 👌

  6. I’m back in the US for a visit and recently saw a Honda commercial where they were promoting their racing heritage.
    At the end they showed an Indy car speeding off.
    I found it ironic that it wasn’t the new McLaren.

    • Honda supply a lot of Indy teams with engines. And are a major sponsor of ABC / ESPN who cover the Indy races. So most Americans are probably more familiar with Honda’s efforts in Indy.

  7. McLaren are nowhere and their season if gone already ? Comedy gold hahaha, let them implode, it’s only been 4 years since they ditched Hamilton.

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