Dauntingly, for those who have endured difficult weeks, today marks the midpoint of 2017 winter testing. The final day of the first test saw this season’s wet and intermediate compounds showcased as the circuit was twice artificially watered to induce representative wet running. Mercedes’ first major technical issue ensured that Lewis Hamilton missed out on experiencing what wet weather will feel like in 2017.
Given that Hamilton joked that he would “fake a pulled muscle” when speaking to journalists on Wednesday night, I doubt he was too disappointed. Mercedes have had a pretty good week.
Here’s FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED on day four of pre-season testing…
Mercedes still have more to come
The first week of pre-season has been a story of more Mercedes superiority. The reigning champions have exploded out of the blocks with superb reliability and speed to match. Hardly surprising when you consider the caliber of engineers within Brackley and the sheer resource the team has.
Despite Ferrari threatening to be a thorn in Mercedes’ side, the Silver Arrows appear to have plenty in hand.
Sky Sports F1 has reported that Mercedes have been running very conservative engine modes when on track this week, instead choosing to push their powerunit to it’s breaking point in dyno sessions. This means that they can record astronomical mileage numbers as they are rarely hampered by breakdowns. An electrical glitch this morning has been their only significant glitch, hence this strategy clearly works.
As such, Mercedes clearly have latent speed in their W08. While we suspect that Red Bull and others are also keeping their true pace under wraps, it looks likely that it may not be enough to overturn the Mercedes advantage.
The reigning champions seem set to pick up from where they left off when the paddock convenes in Melbourne.
Pirelli optimistic that tyres can provide strategic complexity
One of the major concerns many fans have heading into 2017 is that strategic intrigue looks set to be all-but eradicated due to the longevity of stints completed in testing. Wider tyres are less prone to overheat and as a result, the rubber can naturally last longer.
One-stop races have been forecasted by many teams and this has been a notion proven time and time again this week. However, Pirelli Motorsport boss Paul Hembery has been quick to diffuse concerns, highlighting that testing fails to stretch the tyre to it’s limits, given the less aggressive engine maps being run, along with lower track temperatures.
“We haven’t yet seen the cars in full race conditions,” Hembery told Sky Sports. “We believe there is two, maybe three seconds to come here, and three seconds is a massive amount of energy going into the car.
“So what might seem conservative right now, when you’ve got 30-degree heat in May and cars are going three seconds quicker, it changes the whole scenario.”
Haas still plagued by brake issues
Haas have clearly failed to receive the “second season syndrome” memo, as the American squad have so far proved that they are ready to build upon their debut 2016 showing. Romain Grosjean has built upon the solid start made to pre-season by new teammate Kevin Magnussen, with the Frenchman recording 118 laps today.
This high mileage will unquestionably aid their battle against their brake issues that were a hindrance during their maiden season and, as Team Principal Gunther Steiner has admitted, are not yet fully understood and resolved.
Fans not only party surprised by Ferrari pace
McLaren’s Eric Boullier has gone some way to disproving the classic testing cliché, “we only care about our own performance, not that of others.” The Frenchman has stated his surprise regarding the pace of Ferrari in this opening test and their apparent ability to match Mercedes.
Regarding the pre-season pecking order, Boullier said, “Obviously it is difficult to say, because you don’t know the level of fuel, you don’t know especially the engine, how many switch downs you are on the power curve, obviously.
“But if I may say so, the Ferrari is surprising and people were not expecting Ferrari to be matching Mercedes’ laptimes. Red Bull are a bit down, but you never know the fuel level.”
The second week of testing should reveal more clues as to the 2017 order. At present, the general assumption seems to contradict that of Boullier’s, as many are still skeptical that Ferrari’s speed versus the mighty Mercedes is actually genuine.
Oxford English Dictionary, take note…
We have a new word to add to the pantheon on great motorsport-specific phrases. Those words that when used, will prompt an impromptu high-five from the next nearest motorsport fan.
Unsurprisingly, we have the @RenaultSportF1 Twitter account to thank for the inspiration.
Sensational. I’ll inevitably be looking to crowbar this particular phrase into many an article over the course of the season.