It’s crazy to think that today’s chequered flag marks a quarter distance in 2017’s winter test programme. Melbourne seems an age away to fans but not for teams anxious to reach the bottom of their tick lists prior to making the trip down-under.
For McLaren’s sake, I hope their to-do-list is decidedly short, as limited running today as a result of yet more powerunit woes has once again considerably hampered their progress. Honda left with egg on their face and embarrassing parallels to 2015 are already being drawn.
Here are FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED on day two of testing…
Oil tank design flaw hampers Honda
Stoffel Vandoorne today proved that the McLaren Honda MCL32 has not taken a particular dislike to Fernando Alonso. Instead, it is simply a package that is, at present, woefully unreliable.
Honda have managed to shed some light on those issues which kept Alonso marooned in the garage for much of yesterday. A flaw in the oil tank design meant that the engine was failing to effectively scavenge oil. Of course, the classic testing cliché was thrown around in various press releases yesterday; “it’s better to have these problems now, rather than in Melbourne.”
However, after another day and another powerunit change restricting Vandoorne to a measly 40 laps, McLaren will be wise to bench this particular line. It can only carry you so far into pre-season.
Mercedes not ready for full speed race sim?
Unquestionably, Mercedes have been the class of the field so far this pre-season. Yesterday, they exploded out of the traps with monumental mileage and impressive lap times to match. Today, they continued their trick of defying reliability laws and taking their lap total to a stunning 320.
Incredible to think that this is only day two.
Mercedes are so far ahead with their pre-season programme that they managed to complete a race sim this afternoon, with Valtteri Bottas putting the W08 through it’s paces. However, it was a rather curious run.
Bottas’ pace was far from outstanding. In fact, some went as far to call it “slow.” Bottas posted fairly consistent 1:25’s across a 22 lap stint that would have undoubtedly been completed with the powerunit in race mode. Max Verstappen, who lapped in the RB13 today, managed 1:23’s and 1:24’s during a similarly extensive 14 lap run at the same point in the afternoon.
Verstappen may have been in a more aggressive engine mode or was simply carrying less fuel. It’s important to note though, that Bottas very nearly found the barriers on the exit of Turn Nine after losing the car over the kerb. Evidently, the Finn was pushing, hence his slow times have raised a few eyebrows.
Parts are at a premium
Is Lance Stroll the unluckiest man in Barcelona? The Canadian is certainly a candidate after suffering a rather innocuous spin at Turn Nine this morning. Despite recovering to the pitlane, his and Williams’ day was over.
During his trip through the gravel, an element of the front wing of the FW40 broke and with the team not having a spare component trackside, they were unable to return to the circuit. Evidently, they did not favour Red Bull’s approach from 2015, where they sent Kvyat out without a front wing, simply in a data gathering exercise.
A replacement part is being flown into Barcelona overnight, with the team optimistic of resuming running tomorrow morning.
Many of you may be thinking, “but if Stroll spun off, surely he’s not unlucky. It was his fault.” A valid argument indeed, but consider that Stroll was actually caught out for over-correcting his initial slide. His lightening fast reactions exacerbated his problems.
Drivers are certainly not afraid of overtime
Racing drivers are anything but lazy. They may occasionally confess to finding testing mundane or even go as far as labeling the ordeal as “boring,” but they certainly work hard over the course of the pre-season period.
Tweets have emerged showing Sebastian Vettel – who, bare in mind, did not even take to the track today – still at the circuit after 8pm. Not only that, but the German was clearly happy to sign autographs for fans despite his late departure from the office.
At least the mood in the Ferrari debrief will have been buoyant following an impressive day for the Scuderia. Kimi Raikkonen moving the squad to the top of the timesheet with a lap on the soft compound tyres that has certainly inspired optimism among Ferrari fans.