The battle for the first pole-position of the season is closing down, after eight days of testing in Barcelona, the teams and the drivers are getting ready to fly to Melbourne for the season premiere on 26th of March.
The two testing sessions allowed the teams to test their new cars and discover their strengths and weaknesses. The drivers had the opportunity to take a taste of the new designs and the new tyres as the regulations have changed since last season.
Mercedes were the team which covered the most kilometres in Barcelona, 5102 km was clocked during the two testing sessions. Ferrari, tried to stay close to the silver arrows as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen completed 956 laps, 140 less than Mercedes. Despite some issues which the Italians faced the SF70H looks very reliable and fast. Raikkonen set the fastest lap in Circuit de Catalunya, 1:18.634s, while he was running on the super-soft compounds, whilst, his team-mate Sebastian Vettel was by 0.390s slower on the ultra-soft tyres.
Lance Stroll’s crash in the first days of testing cost time to Williams, the Canadian rookie driver had some difficulties with the FW40, but despite that, he completed 386 laps and clocked 1796 kilometres. From the other hand, the ex-retired Brazilian driver, Felipe Massa didn’t face any difficulties and he managed to familiarize himself with the new car very quickly. Felipe set the fifth fastest lap in testing, 1:19.420s, 0.786s slower than Kimi Raikkonen. Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa completed 800 laps combined two laps more than Sauber.
The Swiss team was not as fast as its competitors, but they look more reliable than Toro Rosso and McLaren. Sauber covered 3668 kilometres, similar distance in kilometres was covered by Force India. Marcus Ericsson, Pascal Wehrlein and Ferrari’s third and reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi had the chance to drive the C36. Ericsson was the fastest driver among those three drivers with 1:21.670s and he also completed the most laps, 445, as Wehrlein drove for 192 and Giovinazzi clocked 151 laps.
Mercedes split all the testing days between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, hence both drivers had the chance to drive the W08 every day. The Finn, completed 628 laps in Spain whilst his team-mate clocked 468 laps. Mercedes’ drivers didn’t face any serious mechanical or electrical problems with the new car and that gave the chance to cover more than 5000 kilometres.
Red Bull had some technical problems and they forced to change their engine during the testing days and that did not allow them to cover much distance. Max Verstappen set the sixth fastest lap, 1:19.438s, and he placed behind Felipe Massa. Daniel Ricciardo clocked 337 laps and covered 1568 kilometres.
McLaren-Honda disappointed their fans as they had several serious issues during the eight days of testing. McLaren had to change many times Honda’s engine, and that didn’t let Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne complete as many laps as they wanted. The Spaniard clocked only 190 laps, 45 less than Stoffel.
Next stop for teams and drivers is Melbourne, where the real abilities of the cars will be revealed. Ferrari set faster laps from Mercedes, but the pre-season test is not the ideal for safe conclusions as teams are usually trying to hide their strengths from their rivals.
Victor Archakis – @FP_Passion