A Closer Look at the First Pre-Season Test

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Bethonie Waring, Mar 3, 2017.

  1. Bethonie Waring

    Bethonie Waring

    preseason test.jpg The first preseason test is over and, as much as we try to tell ourselves that we can’t read too much into timings and lap numbers, it’s not that easy.

    Mercedes and Ferrari caught the fans’ attention as they topped the times, whilst McLaren and Williams hit the headline for slightly different reasons, but all ten teams took to the track this week, and this is how they got on.


    New driver, new car, new staff, but you’d be forgiven for thinking not much has changed at Mercedes. The German teams spent the build up to testing trying to assure everyone that there was a chance they could be caught this season, but the first test ended most people’s hopes. Not only did Mercedes top the overall timings, they also completed the most laps over the four days. The only problem the team appeared to have was an electrical fault that meant Lewis Hamilton didn’t get a chance to run in the wet weather test. The fault mysteriously cleared up in time for Valtteri Bottas to get in the car, but we’re pretty sure it had nothing to do with the fact Hamilton didn’t really want to take part in the wet weather running.


    Eric Boullier described Ferrari as his “surprise of the test” and it’s easy to see why. After a difficult 2016 where their high expectations were missed, the team really exceeded everyone’s expectations over the course of the test. The team topped the timings on two of the four days. Lap times may not be entirely trustworthy, but the team did show consistency and reliability. Those trackside said the Ferrari looked the best around the circuit and, though they may not appear to be on Mercedes’ level, they already seem to be closer than expected.

    Red Bull

    Red Bull spent the majority of the four days more than a second adrift from Mercedes and Ferrari. The results don’t look promising for any Red Bull fans, but the team weren’t running for times, focusing on reliability over topping the timing screens.

    “I think, for now, we haven’t really got too involved in the performance runs,” Daniel Ricciardo told reporters in Barcelona. “We’re trying to get some laps, some consistent laps, for reliability as well, to make sure nothing’s getting hot or there’s no problems. The lap times, for now it’s not too representative.”

    Ricciardo still doesn’t expect to be racing against Mercedes and Ferrari when Melbourne rolls around, but he doesn’t expect to be too far behind them either.

    Toro Rosso

    It was a much more mixed test for Toro Rosso. Whilst both drivers are confident the car has potential, the team were troubled by engine problems. A drive train issue in the morning of the third day ate into valuable time. Though they managed to fix the problem and send Carlos Sainz on his way again, a more serious problem caused the car to stop on track and ended the afternoon session.

    Engine related problems meant the team barely got out of the pits on the final day of the first test.

    Though the times that Toro Rosso did manage to put on the board don’t look very spectacular, the team didn’t appear to be pushing for times, spending the first two days of the test gathering data. Toro Rosso are aiming for the midfield, but they’ll have some tough competition.


    Haas preseason.jpg From the outside, Haas appeared to have a pretty solid test, finishing high up on the timing screens on every day and completing more millage than they have done in any other test, but problems fractured the teams running.

    Brake problems were frequent at Haas towards the end of 2016, and it looks like that problem hasn’t entirely gone away. It wasn’t the only issue that the American team faced in Barcelona, but it’s probably one of the most worrying, seeing as the team has been trying to resolve this issue for months now.

    “We are not completely done with the brakes,” said team principal Gunther Stiener. “Our biggest problem is inconsistency.

    “So, again, we have sometimes a brake that the drivers are really happy with, and then we get a set which we are not happy with. And we lose a lot of time.

    “It is not only the time to change it, because the driver loses the confidence. Then, when you put the next one on, he needs to get into a state again that he is confident about what he gets. So we are not done with that yet.”


    McLaren’s problems were a little more obvious, especially in the first two days.

    Honda now have two years’ worth of experience with the new engine regulations, but they hadn’t really been able to change much due to the engine token system once the first engine they provided didn’t really provide the power they wanted.

    With the token system removed, they’ve been able to try a radical new design, but it doesn’t appear to be working quite the way they want it to.

    The first day, an oil tank issue was to blame for the fact that the team got hardly any running, but a full failure on the second day was a little more worrying. Worse still, Honda don’t appear to know what the cause of the problem was.

    “Because we don’t know the cause of the problem, we can’t tell [what progress will be like], but I believe we can, of course, solve the issue before Melbourne,” said Honda’s Yusuke Hasegawa.​

    Strangely, the final two days of the test saw no problems. The team weren’t exactly focusing on times, just trying to get a decent amount of running whilst the engine was working, meaning they rarely left the bottom half of the timing screen.


    Day one, and the recently un-retired Felipe Massa was behind the wheel of the car. It was a strong day of solid running, and Massa ended the day third fastest.

    Then Lance Stroll got behind the wheel.

    It’s probably a little too easy to claim the teenager as the “new Maldonado”, with Stroll taking three accidents in two days, but it’s probably a little unfair too.

    The second day, Williams got very little running when Lance span on his second run due to low grip, breaking something on the front wing that Williams needed to send for the factory to replace.

    Day three, the team managed to get some good running in between Stroll’s accidents.

    “We’ve had a good day, learning about the car while also doing aerodynamic and mechanical testing,” said Rob Smedley. “We’re still in the early stages, but things are looking promising and it’s been a good boost for the team to get some significant mileage under the belt.”

    Williams decided to sit out of the final day of testing when Massa was due to run again. The team discovered damage to the chassis and decided against running on safety grounds. They are due to be back on track by the next test.


    It was a relatively quiet test for Renault. Besides having to limit their running on day on due to the life span of the new brake ducts and a spin for Jolyon Palmer on day three, the team didn’t fact too many issues, and actually ran better than Palmer expected.

    “It’s a pleasant surprise at the moment,” he commented.​

    “I think we’ve had quite a strong week, performance wise, but we don’t really know what everyone else is doing yet, and we don’t know what everyone’s going to bring, updates next week and in Melbourne. We’ll have to wait and see.”

    Force India

    Force India also had a quiet week. The team weren’t really high on the timing screens all the time, and they weren’t putting in quite the same number of laps as some of the top teams.

    Besides not running in the first afternoon session as a precaution due to a problem with the exhaust, the team apparently faced no problems. If that’s the case, fans should hope the team have been sandbagging a little, because they appear to be a little way off breaking into the top three at the moment.


    Like Force India, Sauber only faced one significant problem throughout the first test – a power unit issue on the second day of running.

    The team ran extensive programmes throughout the three days their power unit was doing what they wanted it to, and the team ran some relatively strong times. Marcus Ericsson finished ninth in the overall order whilst Antonio Giovinazzi, who stood in for Pascal Wehrlein, finished fourteenth.

    For more thoughts on Formula One and the latest news, head to the Formula One sub forum here at RaceDepartment.

    What team do you think was your star of the test? What do you expect from next week’s test? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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  2. Knoxstar


    Ferrari were the star or maybe surprise but I don't think Mercedes has "turned up" the engine as they regularly did in qualy last year.