The first day of pre-season testing. Christmas morning for F1 fans, who have been deprived of track action for an entire winter. Having my Twitter timeline engulphed in F1 sights and sounds was simply brilliant.
Simply brilliant is also how Mercedes would describe their first day of official track action in 2017, as for the fourth season in a row, they have exploded out of the blocks. Meanwhile, Red Bull and McLaren endured a baptism of fire as reliability woes serve to provide some early season question marks.
Here are FIVE THINGS WE LEARNT on day one of pre-season testing.
Mercedes W08 “is a beast”
Since the V6 Hybrid era rumbled into life back in 2014, Mercedes have been the kings of pre-season testing. Their mileage numbers are rarely anything less than stunning and 2017 has so far followed the formbook, with the W08 proving a relentless force today.
Valtteri Bottas clocked 79 laps this morning while Lewis Hamilton emerged to complete a similarly impressive 60 laps this afternoon.
Mercedes’ reliability puts them in a fantastic position. Bottas and Hamilton are gaining more experience of the 2017 machinery than their rivals and the team can obtain more data, making the entire package stronger. It begins to snowball into what can quickly become an insurmountable advantage.
It’s a frightening prospect and the type of opening day that will leave Mercedes’ chief rivals a touch uncomfortable tonight.
2017 tyres seem very durable
While it is very early days and far too soon to draw any conclusions with regards to the characteristics of the 2017 tyre compounds, clues have emerged to highlight that the new rubber provided by Pirelli will allow drivers to push harder and for longer than in previous seasons.
It was always on the cards. Wider tyres increase the mechanical grip by creating a larger contact patch. This, in turn, makes tyres less prone to overheating – one of the leading causes of degradation – therefore allowing drivers to lean on the compound to a far greater extent.
Soft, medium and hard tyres were the only compounds to make an appearance today. Unsurprising given that the opening day is simply an exercise in covering distance and probing for teething problems. We will unquestionably have more questions answered as the week progresses.
All new Honda powerunit may take time to bed in
It’s been a long time coming but Honda has finally adopted the Mercedes powerunit philosophy which has proved so successful. This fundamentally re-engineered powerunit may seemingly take some time to bed into the McLaren package.
The team suffered a frustrating day. Fernando Alonso’s beautiful lid design – reminiscent of 2015’s “camo-Bull” livery – was rarely seen by fans trackside. The MCL32 suffered an oil leak in the morning prompting an engine change. By the chequered flag, McLaren had completed just a quarter of Mercedes’ mileage total.
Given that McLaren ran faultlessly on Sunday during their filming day, it’s fair to predict that the Woking outfit has the capacity to make up for lost time in the coming days.
With only eight days of pre-season testing available to teams, however, a truncated day is not what anyone needs.
Red Bull RB13 as vanilla as it seemed
Vanilla is probably too strong a word in which to describe the rather minimalistic RB13. However, the Newey-inspired Red Bull does lack the visible flair of the Mercedes and Ferrari interpretations of 2017’s regulations. Just like in the promotional video, the RB13 is without the triple-element upright, warped side-pod packaging and novelty bulkhead winglets on circuit.
As I noted in Sunday’s article, they may have unlocked performance in other ingenious ways, but the Red Bull is visibly more basic than their rivals.
This could, of course, alter dramatically over the seven remaining days of testing. Though if they do require an aerodynamic boost, then they will need more mileage than today if they are to establish solutions. Reliability was not a strength of Red Bull’s opening day of 2017.
Testing is more accessible than ever
Signs that Liberty Media were about to make F1 more accessible to digital audiences were evident at the end of 2016. The “F1 Live” feature in Abu Dhabi, for instance, saw drivers join MC David Coulthard for what could only be described as 30 minutes of banter. Simply put, it was a sensational departure for F1’s usually mundane online output.
Today, Lewis Hamilton took to Instagram to allow fans the ability to share in his first experiences of the W08, while the F1 Twitter page was a source of video content throughout the day.
Teams have evidently been afforded more freedom to publish content and it is a fantastic change. I look forward to seeing how it expands over not just this week, but the season as a whole.