F1 2017 : Pre-season testing is done and here’s what we learnt from it

The second test has finished bringing pre-season testing for the 2017 Formula One season to an end.

Although testing can be largely deceptive, the question on everybody’s mind is the same – Are Ferrari really the front runners for 2017?

octane-vettel-raikkonen-1412LB5D8911.jpgPhoto credit : grandprixtimes.com

It’s something nobody expected to be saying going into testing this year. Given the Mercedes dominance and the issues Ferrari have had over the recent past, most level headed individuals predicted Mercedes to smash it again. To be fair, I still think they will.

Then Ferrari arrived. They were quick.

“Nothing new”, I thought, “Ferrari are always quick in testing and then they drop off throughout the course of the season”.

Then they were reliable.

“That’s impressive”, I thought, “Hopefully they can keep this going”.

Then they were super fast and super reliable.

“Oh my god, what is going on!?”, I wondered along with the rest of the skeptics.

So, who are the front three teams this year?

As expected, it looks like it is still going to be Mercedes, Ferrari, and RedBull.

However, we are pitting RedBull to be the third team with a bit of a gap to plug to Mercedes and Ferrari while we thought that this was the year RedBull would be the ones in Ferrari’s place.

Although the Renault engine has been very good, the Ferrari engine has been incredible as well. It would appear that Ferrari are in with a good chance of competing with Mercedes and the gap is significantly smaller compared to last year.

valtteri-bottas-f1-2017-pre-season-testing-spainPhoto credit : RedBull.com

What about the other teams?

Williams F1 seem to be the best of the rest given their performance during pre-season testing. “Felipe’s aggressive driving style suits these new cars”, said Rob Smedley. Massa seems to be carrying the team with Lance Stroll still learning the ropes, as expected.

Renault seem to be in decent shape behind the Williams followed by Force India, who seem to have dropped off a bit from their fourth place last season.

The midfield is expected to be tight as Toro Rosso and Haas seem to be hovering around the same area.

With Manor having folded, Sauber naturally seem to have taken up backmarker duties.

McLaren however..

skysports-stoffel-vandoorne-mclaren-testing_3906249.jpgPhoto credit : Sky Sports

If you were expecting McLaren Honda to challenge for top 3 or at least top 4 like I was, I’m so sorry – come give me a hug.

McLaren Honda are a huge unknown this year. Having broken down more times me during exams, they haven’t been able to string long distance race runs. This means that not only is their reliability terrible, it also means that they haven’t discovered problems that might occur during race distance long runs.

“We have only one problem”, said Fernando Alonso, “that is the power unit”.

Huge problem though, Fernando.

Reading into fastest lap times solely doesn’t tell us much.We need to look at the number of laps completed in testing as well.

Last year, Ferrari were fastest in testing and went win-less all season. This year they’re fastest too, but with huge improvements in reliability and long run pace. That’s important.

However, Mercedes have completed the most laps in testing this year (1096) as opposed to Ferrari at 956 and RedBull way down at 684.

Given this and the fact that I believe that Mercedes and RedBull must be sandbagging too, I’d say Mercedes are still top but Ferrari are hot on their tail with RedBull just a bit behind, although I believe RedBull will close the gap in no time.

I do hope that it will be a very close battle between the top three teams in 2017. Testing is done. We’ll see what happens on track in Australia.

– Aditya Bhat.

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