Five things we learnt from the Barcelona winter tests

March 12, 2017 12:44 am

The 2nd of the two winter tests ended this Friday. A lot of data crunching and testing for the teams before they head to Australia in two weeks. Here are a few things we can take away from the test.

Ferrari tops the time-sheets, but Mercedes still the favorites

After 8 days of testing, it was Ferrari who put up the fastest time over the two weeks. But they did so in 2016 as well. And also in 2015. And we know how those seasons turned out. Raikkonen was the fastest and the only one to break into the 1:18s. Followed by teammate Vettel at the end of the final day of testing.

Ferrari do seem to have good pace but still unclear if they’re ahead of Mercedes. The Silver Arrows are rumoured to have run their engines only to 5/8th of its power. If that is the case, which it is very likely to be, Mercedes will still be leading the pack in Australia but hopefully with Ferrari not far behind.

Red Bull didn’t have a bad couple of weeks at all. Both drivers getting some good laps under their belt. People were surprised to see such a simple car from Adrian Newey without all the intricacies we’ve seen on other cars. Very simple barge boards and no T-wings. But Red Bull might be saving some parts for Australia so that their rivals don’t copy them for the first race.

Disastrous start for McLaren

Certainly a déjà vu moment for the team from Woking. McLaren haven’t got a decent run in either of the two tests. On the first day, they said it was an electrical issue and would be fixed easily. But the same electrical issue kept coming up through out the week.

The epicentre of the problem seems to be vibrations from the power unit. The Honda power unit is said to have been suffering from vibration issues which is causing multiple problems to the engine peripherals. This caused parts to loosen and fall off, which lead to the multiple electrical issues.

At this stage, it doesn’t look like an easy fix. Honda will need time to come up with a solution and test the new fix. Stoffel Vandoorne, making his full debut this year will be disappointed and so will two time champion Fernando Alonso. It would definitely be a miracle if McLaren are able to get both cars across the finish line in Melbourne.

Williams likely to lead the midfield

Lance Stroll at the Autosport International Exhibition.
National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, UK.

The top three teams seem to be a light-year ahead from the rest of the pack. The gap might be more than a second. But we can only be sure in Australia. The team that looks likely to lead the mid-pack seems to be the Williams.

After a couple of spins in the first test, Lance Stroll had a good week in the 2nd test. He got a lot of time in the car. Carrying out a lot of race simulations, and completing the entire race distance for the first time on Thursday would’ve given him a lot of confidence.

Felipe Massa seems to be very quick. Rob Smedley says that the 2017 car suits Massa’s driving style perfectly. His lap times very pretty quick and he looked quite confident with the car. Williams will most likely be the team in 4th place followed closely by Force India and Toro Rosso.

The new tyres will last forever

Tyre degradation was one of those things that the teams were quite unaware of before testing. Usually the Barcelona winter tests are quite hard on the tyres. But this year the tyre degradations seemed very low. The ultrasoft compound lasted about 22 laps before there was any significant reduction in grip.

This sort of performance from the tyres was quite unexpected as many teams have confessed. The softs would do the complete race distance and the mediums would last even more.

This means that most races will now be one stop races. Which also means less chances for undercutting. Some midfield teams might opt to start on the softs or mediums and do the entire race distance without stopping. Pirelli are said to have a back up compound if needed but the likelihood of it being used is low.

The cars are quicker than expected

Kimi set the fastest lap of testing with a 1m18.634s. That is already 5 seconds faster than the pole lap last year at Barcelona. Kimi even said later that he could’ve gone faster on that lap. And we do know that Ferrari hadn’t turned up the engine to the max yet.

It was predicted last year that with the regulation changes, cars would be 5 seconds faster. But we’ve already crossed that mark in the testing. That would mean the cars are much faster than we had expected.

Ferrari and Mercedes can easily find another couple of seconds, if not more during qualifying when their power units are turned to 100%. The cars are definitely quicker and much more difficult to drive.

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