Pre-season testing – Day 1.
The new Formula 1 season has officially begun! These are the headlines from the opening day of the first test.
McLaren-Honda have a nightmare.
This season was supposed to be a new dawn for the McLaren team. A new, striking colour scheme, a new, ambitious leader, and a new, exciting young driver. It all started so well. As the track opened at 9am, Fernando Alonso burst into the sunlight to begin his new campaign. At 9.02, the double World Champion was back in the garage. An oil leak deep within the Honda power unit would keep his car off the track for several hours.
This is a worryingly similar story to what we witnessed precisely a year ago. While McLaren were quick to mention the successful running they had done during a filming session on Sunday, those lost hours would have been extremely painful.
You can bet there is an extremely frustrated Spaniard inside the McLaren camp wondering if he is set for another embarrassing year. There is time to recover however. This team is more than capable of bouncing back and by the end of the day, Fernando had managed to get 29 laps on the board. He will be wanting to recover lost time over the rest of the week, it’ll be interesting to see if the team alter their programme accommodate him.
As a first day, the team would have wanted more. Lap times are not important yet, but they were clearly running the car some way off the absolute limit. That is where the team will have the most to learn.
Red Bull suffer at the hands of Renault.
The team touted as the most likely threat to Mercedes’ dominance had a tough day. Red Bull were once again the cause of the first red flag in winter testing. Ricciardo’s car came to a stop inside the first hour and the sight of a Red Bull returning to the pitlane on the back of a truck was far too familiar.
As we enter the fourth year with these power units, reliability has become far less of a problem for these manufacturers. But, if any of the four suppliers were to suffer any kind of gremlins, you could almost guarantee that Renault would be one of them. And so, it was that following the initial installations, the Red Bull unit suffered a sensor glitch that caused the car to grind to a halt.
Although the problem itself was minor, I can imagine the reaction from Christian Horner was fairly scathing. None the less, the team did eventually manage a half century of laps. That is still a way off their competitors however.
Bottas is now unable to stop smiling.
That smile as been permanent since Valtteri signed for Mercedes. And why wouldn’t he be smiling? He’s landed a seat at the team that have won virtually everything in the last 3 years. Looking at today’s performance, there is plenty of evidence to suggest the Finn will fighting for plenty of wins over the next 10 months.
He managed to get plenty of laps under his belt on day 1 and his confidence will be sky high. Although he only ended up 6th quickest at the end of the day, he looked comfortable when he addressed the media afterwards.
It will be interesting to see how long that smile lasts. His contract remains a one-year shot, the pressure will surely tell at some point. I back him to succeed. The Championship has needed a new contender.
Sebastian Vettel hit 100 laps in his Ferrari.
Ferrari were very impressive, as they often are in pre-season testing. The car left the garage early and was a constant runner for the rest of the day. The second team to achieve 100 laps, reliability seems good. Sebastian Vettel achieved a lap time that was only a tenth shy of Lewis Hamilton’s chart topper. A good start for the Prancing Horse.
The Italians really need to convert their testing form this season. For the last two years, they have appeared more than a match for Mercedes, only to stutter and fall when the points are scored. The tolerance of failure at the team is becoming lower by the day. They need wins. They need wins and a serious title challenge. Third best will not be enough for them this year.
Vettel will need to do more than he managed last year. His position has been a topic of speculation in recent times. His record does not guarantee him a seat, and nor should it. He needs to prove to his team that he can bring success back to Maranello.
Mercedes remain quickest and completely bulletproof.
It’s business as usual for the world of Formula 1. Mercedes completed the most laps, set the fastest time, appear to have the best engine and one of the best cars. Both drivers have settled very quickly into their new beast, and both completed race distances during their respective stints. The rest of the field have something to aim for.
Day 1 was interesting. There are definitely some positive signs that this season could be a great one. The cars look fantastic, the speeds are absolutely as impressive as we hoped. Let’s see what Day 2 brings.