After eight days of intensive testing, we’ve been given a few insights into what the teams are going to bring to Melbourne in two weeks’ time. For some, the testing was a resounding success, some simply got on with their business and others wished they could quietly crawl into a hole and hide.
There have been some major stories about Honda which seemed to take up most of the coverage, but in between the gossip, we learned a lot about every team on the grid and their hopes for 2017.
There’s not many teams who can turn up to testing and on day two be running full race simulations. The power unit ran almost perfectly for both weeks and barring a few minor incidents, they seemed to complete their whole testing package. Consistently at or near the top of the time sheet and over a thousand laps in the bank. The news for the coming season looks very promising for the boys from Brackley.
So, 2017 could see more of the same Mercedes domination. They don’t appear to be shooting themselves in the foot anytime soon. A quick and consistent car with two great drivers, we should expect to see at least one of them on the podium at every race.
Who can set the fastest time in testing and still be backing off on the last corner of every lap? The Iceman managed to do just that. The sand bagging from Ferrari was obvious for everyone to see and it gives us hope that there will be a fight at the front of the grid. The only worry is that they topped last season’s testing timesheet and then fell away when it really mattered.
Predicting a Ferrari win at some point in the season, would seem like a pretty safe bet. They will be up there and challenging, not at every race, but at least they will be closer than last year.
The new aero-dynamic rules should play into Adrian Newey’s hands, at least according to F1 folklore. There were rumours flying around the paddock, that Red Bull hadn’t brought their latest and greatest package to Barcelona. A serious update is expected for Australia and if this is the case, another step forward should follow.
They were always on hand to clean up any mess left by Mercedes last year, but this season, they should be able to expect to be mixing it with in the top three. Podiums will come and they could be surprised by one or two wins.
Lance Stroll got a rude awakening in the first week of his F1 career. He had a few offs and crashed, that’s expected and better that he do it now and not in an actual race. The rude awakening came in the almost instant comparisons to Pastor Maldonado on social media. That was the low part of Williams’ testing, the high came on the time sheets where they were regularly seen in the top three slots.
If their testing pace was not showboating, then Williams could expect a better season this year. Reclaiming fourth spot is a real possibility and the testing times suggest they can keep Force India in their wake. Unfortunately, there is little chance of them continuously challenging the top three teams.
A couple of engine issues and break downs was all that really befell the Force India drivers. They seemed to keep their heads below the radar for two weeks and didn’t overtly worry the top of the time sheet. They did, however, put in a lot of laps and they completed full race distances with no problems.
If consistency brings points at the start of the season, it could be a very good start for the Force India drivers. Picking up early points, whilst a few other teams sort out their engine problems and reliability could see them comfortably in the top half and pushing Williams for the all coveted forth spot.
Last season Roman Grosjean was moaning about his brakes and this was the running commentary from his for his eight days of testing. Somehow, before they head to Australia, the team needs to either get to grips with the existing brakes or to change supplier. Other than that, the engine looks healthy and the car doesn’t look too bad either.
They aren’t going to be troubling the top five teams at the start of the season. They could come strong through the pack if they sort out their brake reliability. A couple of points finishes is all that we really see happening for them.
Revealing a car which looks stunning, is a great way to deflect the attention from their lap times. It’s a shame because on day eight in like for like conditions and tyres, they topped Force India, Renault, Sauber, Haas and McLaren.
This season could see Toro Rosso mixing it with the top of the mid-field in a lot of the races. They won’t be there every race, but will be able to pick off points here and there. A few inspired drives from a rejuvenated Kvyat and Sainz could put them back on the driver’s market map.
The publicity machine was working well building up to the tests. Anything yellow and black was getting tagged and tweeted. This brought a fair degree of attention to Hulkenberg and his first run in the Renault. In fairness to him and Plamer, they both delivered what they could. The car sat out a couple of times and had some issues, still nothing as bad as the teams behind them.
Being able to complete a race distance means that Renault will easily be able to be the eighth best team. Challenging the Toro Rosso or Haas cars will be a push, but they should be there or there abouts with them. Points finishes will be celebrated and anywhere near a top six place could be treated as a win.
They just very quietly got on with testing. Very little noise came out of the team and very few people were studying their times or cars. If you needed to sum up their testing program, then you would be forced to use the word consistent. Nothing inspiring but also nothing bad.
It seems that Sauber are going to be reliant on wet races and mixed conditions to be able to fight for points. The good news is that they will not have to worry about coming tenth in the championship and could almost be guaranteed ninth if the Honda engine isn’t drastically improved.
So many column inches have been attributed to McLaren and more accurately the Honda engine, that by now you must know that is has issues. Issues being a very nice way of saying that it doesn’t work. The most consecutive laps McLaren managed was eleven. That tells you everything you need to know about testing and their chances in Australia.
The might and money behind Honda, should, ensure that the engine gets improved and in double quick time. The issue is that whilst they are fixing the engine, everyone else is improving theirs. If the McLarens manage to complete the Melbourne Grand Prix, it will feel like a victory for them. The ambitions are high, but the outlook is very, very low. They could very easily finish tenth this year and be looking for a new engine supplier before the summer break.
(Images Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)