Pre-Season Testing – How are the top 3 shaping up?

That’s it. Pre-season testing complete. The teams are now packing up and on their way to Melbourne for the opening race of the season. Some will be happy with their work over the last two weeks, others will be suffering some pretty stressful and sleep-free nights between now and race day.

Test, test and test again

Mercedes performed as expected, right at the sharp end with both pace and reliability. For the third year running, the car came straight out of the box and just ran and ran. New man Bottas was strong, the early signs of his pace in the car are looking good, but I don’t think his half-second advantage over Lewis Hamilton will last for long.

Hamilton was struggling with the balance of his new Mercedes during the opening week of testing. That’s a fairly standard reaction for a driver sitting in the car for the first time, much of his second week running appeared to be performance based. Such was their reliability, the team were able to run their programs without a hitch.

They had a singular electrical problem which stopped them from running during the wet running last Friday.  Lewis Hamilton’s “false injury” quote could tell a deeper story. Although, I find it hard to imagine that any team, no matter how confident, would forsake any kind of running at that stage.

Quiet optimism for Ferrari

Mercedes definitely started out strongest, but Ferrari steadily began to match, and then beat the World Champions as testing went on. The car appeared to be genuinely quick, eventually setting the fastest times on all four tyre compounds. The fact that Kimi Raikkonen’s fastest lap on Supersofts was quicker than his fastest on Ultrasofts says to me that there was a fair amount of variation in fuel loads. As I analyse the lap times further, I doubt their reliability.

I don’t think there is an doubting the Ferrari has pace. Perhaps for the first time in a number of years, they may well be in contention for race wins. I am optimistic that Kimi’s lap times are genuinely quick. He was as good as, if not better than, Vettel last season. I see no reason why he can’t continue that form.

The Italians are definitely quick, and they are certainly reliable. Second only to Mercedes on the laps completed table, they look to have at least kept up with Mercedes in the power unit department. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Red Bull.

A good car, but same old problems?

The Renault power unit suffered a number of niggles that decimated their running. The pace was there, all three Renault powered teams spent moments at the top of the time sheet. There has definitely been some scale of progress with that engine. But for the Red Bull team, running at reduced power to ensure the thing doesn’t brake-down is not an option. Race victories have to be the target for this team in 2017.

As it stands, predicting a running order for Melbourne is virtually impossible. No one has a clear advantage. All three of these teams could unleash another level at a key moment in qualifying. The opening weekend of the season cannot come soon enough.

(Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)

(Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)

Simon Ostler

I am currently training to become a Journalist. I write best when my subject is something I enjoy. I have spent time working with CAR Magazine and Parkers.

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