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Two weeks of Formula 1 testing in the books, and we’ve officially reached the weirdest time of year.
No longer are we dealing in the blind speculation that characterises January and February, but yet we can’t be certain that what we’ve seen is quite the real deal.
Like solving an equation with some of the numbers smudged out, we work with what we think we know – sometimes it turns out to be right, sometimes it’s completely erroneous.
And yet, that never stops us from attempting to suss out the F1 grid before the season opener – after all, it’s quite fun – so read on for a look at what we think we know after another four days of testing, and come back in a few weeks and laugh at how wrong we were.
Another impressive week for Ferrari
If you wanted a summary of Ferrari’s testing performance in two words, here it is: choo choo.
From championship hopefuls with a dash of desperation, to front-runners with a copious amount of confidence, the Ferrari hype train is full steam ahead.
Kimi Raikkonen’s 1:18.634 on day four of testing was nearly seven tenths faster than Valtteri Bottas’ day 2 best of 1:19.310 (both on supersofts), while Sebastian Vettel could’ve probably hit the 1:17’s on his ultrasofts had he not pulled a Usain Bolt before the finish line.
Of course, times in testing have to be taken with a grain of salt, as the usual restrictions on fuel and well… the very legality of the car don’t apply, but that’s still blistering pace that at the very least, and puts them in reach of Mercedes. What a difference two weeks can make.
Where are Mercedes?
Isn’t that the million-dollar question?
Coming off the back of three consecutive world championships, Mercedes find themselves in an interesting position.
Two relatively trouble-free tests that saw them regularly finish at the top-end of the timing sheets, and yet with Ferrari’s resurgence, we don’t know quite whether they’re actually this evenly-matched for pace, or they’re putting on a masterclass in slow-playing that would have even the most world-class poker player jealous.
You could make a case either way, depending on how much stock you put in the aforementioned 7 tenths supersoft deficit, versus the fact that this is, you know… Mercedes. In either case the team remains something of an enigma, and it seems that is exactly how they want it.
P3 for Red Bull?
If there was any team that was neither under nor over, but merely “whelming” in Barcelona, it was Red Bull. Where Mercedes and Ferrari were engaged in a fight to grab the headlines, the four-time world champions seemed content to go about their business with an air of understatement more akin to Dunder Mifflin than an energy drinks company.
The RB13 is by no means a disappointment, but when Max Verstappen is quoted saying he’s not “too worried” about the car, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Williams make a play for “best of the rest”
After making headlines in the first test for all the wrong reasons, week two in Barcelona was exactly what Williams needed.
Topping the timesheets on day 1 and coming second on day 2, the team staked their claim to the “best of the midfield” title, in the process besting fellow also Mercedes customers and 2016 fourth-place getters Force India, who are rumoured to be having their own problems with auto-obesity.
Helping matters was the buzz on social media with eyewitness accounts of the FW40’s performance through the Circuit de Catalunya’s fast corners, while Lance Stroll seems to have ended his love affair with the Barcelona barriers, allowing the team complete over 600 laps.
They may still be a ways behind the big three, but given their comparatively limited resources, it has to been an impressive showing from the Grove outfit.
No end in sight to McLaren woes
Good news McLaren fans, it’s not as bad as you thought it was. Bad news, it’s much, much worse.
Such is the plight of McLaren after two disastrous tests, that it is fair to wonder if they are actually the worst outfit on the grid – hardly a believable proposition before testing, given their budget, improvement last year, and pedigree.
They simply can’t stay on track, and it’s awfully hard to beat Renault and Haas – let alone the underpowered Sauber – when you’re parked in the garage.
The problems with the Honda engine are clearly more deep-seated than anyone foresaw, and as a result, the team’s hopes have been buried before the season has even started. How long it takes them to recover is anyone’s guess, but this is truly McLaren’s darkest hour.
|Barcelona Best Times – Test 1 & 2 Combined|
|Driver||Team||Compound||Lap Time||Test Day|
|Verstappen||Red Bull||SUPERSOFT||01:19,438||DAY 8|
|Sainz J||Toro Rosso||ULTRASOFT||01:19,837||DAY 8|
|Ricciardo||Red Bull||ULTRASOFT||01:19,900||DAY 5|
|Perez||Force India||ULTRASOFT||01:20,116||DAY 8|
|Ocon||Force India||ULTRASOFT||01:20,161||DAY 7|
|Kvyat||Toro Rosso||SUPERSOFT||01:20,416||DAY 7|
|Celis||Force India||ULTRASOFT||01:23,568||DAY 3|
Who impressed you the most in the second test? Who was the most underwhelming? How much stock can we put in Ferrari’s times relative to Mercedes? Let us know in the comments below.