The Formula One 2017 season is barely three weeks away and all the teams have finally launched their challengers for the season. To break the cars in and rack up some mileage, the teams took part in the pre season test at Barcelona. These tests are crucial because of the new rules laid down by the International Automobile Federation (FIA). There are four main engine suppliers this year, namely Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda and Renault. Everyone hoped that with the new rules in place some team was going to step up to challenge Mercedes.
But as is evident from the testing results, Mercedes are firmly the favorites again. In an interview with Motorsports.com, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen said that Mercedes still had the power advantage at the beginning of the season. But Verstappen believes that Red Bull are capable of catching up with Hamilton and new partner Valtteri Bottas. He also said that they were only focusing on their program and did not pay attention to what other teams were up to. Red Bull’s main objective for the Barcelona test was reliability.
While Mercedes and Ferrari traded fastest times, both the Red Bull drivers Ricciardo and Verstappen slotted in behind them as the best of the rest. Ricciardo’s best time of 1:21.153 on the soft tires saw him placed 5th behind Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. Verstappen ended the four-day test in 7th place, with the Red Bulls split by the Renault of Jolyon Palmer. Verstappen’s best time of 1:21.769 was set on the 4th and final day of testing. Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel were the only drivers to dip below the 1:20 barrier with lap times of 1:19.705 and 1:19.952 respectively. Bottas’ lap was set on the purple banded Ultrasoft tires and Vettel’s time was set on the yellow banded Soft tire. McLaren’s woes seem to be continuing with the mechanical issue that halted their test program. The Woking squad and their Japanese partners will definitely be working around the clock to rectify all issues before the next pre season test in Barcelona, where they plan to introduce their Melbourne spec engine.
While Mercedes and Ferrari are duelling it out, Red Bull seem to be unwilling to play their hand just yet. What will happen in Australia in 3 weeks time? Only time will tell.