Next stop, Melbourne. Today marked the final day of pre-season testing, with drivers and teams anxious to clock the final few miles and gather as much data as possible to kickstart their 2017 campaigns. FP1 in Australia will be the next opportunity for evaluation.
Ferrari were one again top of the pile today, as Kimi Raikkonen further cemented the notion that the Scuderia could be set to right the wrongs of 2016 this year. We waited all afternoon for a Mercedes response, but it never came. We will have to wait until Melbourne to know if Ferrari have indeed done enough this winter to overhaul the Mercedes juggernaut.
Here are FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED on the final day of pre-season testing…
Even Ferrari haven’t shown their full hand
Pre-season is so often a story of sandbagging. Team personnel practice their poker faces and armchair pundits like myself spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to draw conclusions from fairly meaningless timesheets. This year, the sandbagging seems to have been at an unprecedented level.
With 2017 set to be a fierce development race, this is hardly surprising.
Even the pacesetters Ferrari are yet to unleash their full potential, despite Raikkonen’s rapid 1:18.634 today suggesting otherwise. “If we want we can go faster but that’s not the purpose of the test,” Raikkonen stated. “Obviously you try to go as fast as you can whatever we decided to do.”
This squares with the fact that Kimi went on to complete another timed lap after he set the best time of the week. Evidently, his SF70H wasn’t running on fumes when it blew the opposition away this morning.
It has almost been accepted as fact that Ferrari are not sandbagging as much as Mercedes, but with the distance between the two teams so vast on the timesheet, the reigning champions will hope that Ferrari are near maximum performance already. If not, then Hamilton and Bottas may not catch them.
Mercedes beating Ferrari on tyre preservation
While Maranello have had the advantage on the timesheet this week, Brackley have had the edge on the long runs. This trend was replicated today, with initial figures portraying that Ferrari’s SF70H might be harder on its tyres than the Mercedes W08.
While Hamilton enjoyed 20 laps on the ultrasoft tyre yesterday, with lap times never fluctuating beyond a one-second margin throughout the stint. Raikkonen completed a similarly lengthed run during his race simulation today, instead on what should be the more durable supersoft compound.
He started the run with a 1:24.510, yet ended slipped into the 1:26’s and eventually finishing with a 1:27.616. Track conditions could have played a pivotal role here and of course, we cannot be sure of how much fuel Mercedes ran during Hamilton’s equivalent stint. However, these figures provided food for thought.
Hamilton has not yet discovered a “good window” for his W08
While the general consensus has been that Mercedes have been keeping plenty of performance in their pocket this week, Lewis Hamilton’s comments following his final day in the car suggests that he is yet to find even the keys to his car’s ultimate performance.
In an interview with Motorsport.com, the triple champion stated, “I haven’t got it into a good window yet. I don’t know if it can go as fast as them [Ferrari]. I really don’t. We will find out. We hope we can. They have done a fantastic job, as I said.”
Music to the ears of Ferrari fans, yet this could easily be another sub-plot to Mercedes’ winter of sandbagging. Only time will tell.
ERS issues become story of Renault’s week
McLaren have been the headline makers with regards to pre-season reliability woes. Heck, the Woking squad have had such a difficult eight days that the website comically called http://www.hasmclarenbrokendown.com has spawned out of the misery.
However, Renault will no doubt be heading into the season with their own reliability concerns. As reported on Wednesday and Thursday, Renault teams have struggled with ERS issues all week, resulting in low overall mileage. With Toro Rosso grinding to a halt on track today and Red Bull suffering a turbo issue this morning, none of the Renault powered outfits can head to round one of the season confident of reliability.
These three teams lie towards the bottom of the overall mileage charts, only beating McLaren’s meager 425 lap total. Red Bull’s 684 laps is hardly the form of champions when you consider Mercedes’ mammoth 1,096 completed.
Alonso’s press-conference criticisms proven again
Fernando Alonso’s brutal attack on Honda in Wednesday evening’s press conference was the poignant moment of this winter as far as the latest debacle at Woking is concerned. However, his suggestion that the Honda powerunit is as slow as it is unreliable was once again proven today.
Alonso’s 1:21.389 was a full 2.7 seconds adrift of the week’s fastest time, despite the Spaniard running Pirelli’s softest compound. McLaren seem as though they will be locked in a battle with Sauber to avoid starting the Australian Grand Prix from the back-row of the grid. Not where McLaren thought they would be in 2017.