The Barcelona Test: Day One Recap

Preseason testing began at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this morning, marking an end to the winter break. Formula One fans rejoiced as they had their first opportunity to see the 2017 cars on track. While lap times cannot be taken at face value alone, we can take some insight from today’s running. Here is a team-by-team evaluation:
Mercedes
Red Bull
Ferrari
Force India
Williams
McLaren
Toro Rosso
Haas
Renault
Sauber

Mercedes

The Silver Arrows tallied 152 laps of running without problems today, 24 more than their nearest competitor. Valtteri Bottas drove the W08 during the morning session, while Lewis Hamilton took over testing duties after the lunch break. Bottas topped the morning standings with 79 laps completed and a best time of 1:23.169. From the Mercedes AMG Petronas team report:

“It was a very good first morning for us. We were doing quite a lot of mechanical tests, checking systems, while trying to do mileage. We did 79 laps, more than a race distance, which is very good for the first morning of running.”

Bottas, when asked about the driving characteristics of this year’s cars, went on to say:

“The car feels very different to last year. You can definitely feel the impact of the new regulations – the increased loads, the bigger, heavier cars, and more grip. I think they look great. They’re great fun to drive and they’re fast in the corners too.”

merc-bottas-test-day-1
Bottas had a solid first run in the W08, his best lap was just three tenths off the morning session’s best
Hamilton was not to be outdone by his new teammate, completing 73 laps in the afternoon session with a day-best time of 1:21.765 on the soft compound tire. Also from the Mercedes AMG Petronas team report:

“It’s been a good day, a really positive day for the team,” said Lewis. We’ve not done any work to get the balance perfect yet, as today was all about ticking off the list of checkpoints and racking up mileage.”

merc-ham-test-day-1
Hamilton topped the first day’s overall time chart
Mercedes appear to be the team to beat once again in 2017. The first day of testing is all about reliability, gaining as much data about the car as possible. While Hamilton’s best time was 1.4 seconds clear of Bottas’ I wouldn’t read too much into that. Between track evolution, tire compounds, temperature and car setup there are way too many factors in the way of a fair conclusion. The team are off to a blazing start in Barcelona.

Hamilton will drive in tomorrow’s morning session with Bottas taking over in the afternoon.

Red Bull

The Red Bull RB13 didn’t have the best debut today, having two separate technical issues which limited Daniel Ricciardo to 50 laps worth of running. Ricciardo had only four laps under his belt when the morning session concluded thanks to a sensor problem. Head of Race Engineering Guillaume Rocquelin explained in Red Bull Racing’s team report:

“Obviously we lost quite a bit of time today, which was frustrating. That was largely a function of the issues we had – a sensor problem this morning and then a problem with the energy store later on. Both are hard to access, so required some time to sort out. It meant we didn’t get real track time until around 4pm, but after that we ran without issue.”

Here is what Ricciardo had to say, also from Red Bull Racing’s team report:

“Today’s session was okay, I felt I got up to speed relatively quickly,” said Daniel. “We had a bit of a slow start this morning but the afternoon was better and the last two hours were more like a test. It’s nice to end the day on a bit of a positive.”

ric-testing
Ricciardo set the fifth best time of the day with a 1:22.926
After Sunday’s online reveal, today’s testing was the first real view of the RB13. Note the “pingu” nose. Here is an explanation from Sky Sports’ Ted Kravitz:

“It’s a hole about the size of a credit card and it ducts air underneath the nosecone, said Kravitz. “The intention is to disrupt what’s called the boundary layer, which is when air starts to get disrupted over a surface. While it might not cause too much disruption at the point it’s hitting the nose, the disrupted air only gets worse and worse the further downstream of the car it goes.”

Max Verstappen takes over the RB13 for tomorrow’s testing duties.

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel put the Scuderia on his back on Monday, running 128 laps of the Catalunya circuit. His best lap time was 1:21.878, which was just over a tenth off of Lewis Hamilton’s best effort. The kicker: Hamilton set his best time on the soft compound tire, while Vettel set his best time on the medium.

seb-testing
Vettel’s best time was just a tenth off Hamilton’s. On a slower tire!
While it would be easy to conclude that Scuderia Ferrari may have a car equal to or better than the Mercedes based on the best lap time, preseason testing is never that simple. We don’t know if the SF70H was running on low fuel at the time, or even if their car was completely legal. While the signs are encouraging, let’s hope that the Tifosi take today’s successes with a grain of salt.

Kimi Raikkonen takes over testing duties tomorrow, with Vettel back in the seat on Wednesday.

Force India

Sergio Perez completed 39 laps in the morning but had no running during the afternoon session due to technical issues. This is what Perez had to say of day one, from Force India’s team report:

“It was a day of two halves. The morning was very productive: we managed to do a lot of what we had planned and we tried some different set-up options and tyre compounds. Things were looking quite positive throughout the morning and we had the chance to learn a lot from our new car. Unfortunately we didn’t run in the afternoon as a precaution and that cost us some track time. Hopefully tomorrow we can make up the lost ground with Esteban in the car: with a solid day, we can complete the rest of our programme and move forward with the plan.”

perez
Perez had the 7th fastest lap of the day with a 1:23.709
Also from Force India’s team report, Chief Race Engineer Tom McCullough added:

“The morning went largely to plan as the VJM10 completed its first few laps. We built up the mileage on the car, doing short runs at first and then increasing the lap count. This allowed us to complete the basic systems checks on the car. We also started some aero mapping and got a useful first understanding of the 2017 tyres. Our work was cut short with an exhaust issue and we ended the day early as a precautionary measure.”

Esteban Ocon takes over testing duties for Perez tomorrow.

Williams

The FW40 was handled by veteran Felipe Massa today, who ran an impressive 103 laps in total. From the Williams team report, observations from Chief Test & Support Engineer Rod Nelson:

“We did some pretty good tests – short runs, long runs, compared the soft and medium tyres. We are still getting to know the FW40, so it is an interesting time of year and it is looking pretty reasonable at the moment.”

Massa seemed to enjoy day one of testing, also from the Williams team report:

“Today was a good day. The first day of the test is always one where you hope everything on the car works well and that it’s reliable, and with 103 laps on the board I’d say that wasn’t bad at all. In the morning, we made a few set-up changes and checks so we knew that everything on the car was working in the right way. There was some waiting around whilst that was done thoroughly. That said, the lap count racked up in the afternoon after all those initial checks and changes were carried out.”

Regarding how the 2017 cars feel to drive, Massa said:

“I’m really enjoying driving. There’s much more grip and they go much quicker in the corners. We can brake much later and reach high speeds much quicker.”

massa-3
Massa’s best lap of the day was a 1:22.076, just three tenths off Hamilton’s best
It appears that the Williams team are off to a solid start in testing. They will continue their program with rookie Lance Stroll at the helm of the FW40 tomorrow.

McLaren

Team Woking had a difficult start to testing today, having run just one lap during the morning session due to an “oil systems issue”. The entire power unit was swapped, and McLaren ended up running 29 laps in total, the least of all teams. From the McLaren team report, here is what Fernando Alonso had to say:

“Obviously today hasn’t been the most perfect start to winter testing, which is a little bit disappointing. We lost a lot of track time which isn’t ideal at pre-season testing, but the situation is what it is, and there’s nothing we can do, said Fernando. “It’s too early to fully assess the performance and the feeling of the new cars under the new regulations, but at least aesthetically they look much more like Formula 1 cars should look. Let’s wait and see what happens in the next few days, but I’m very motivated and ready for the new challenge.”

Also from the McLaren team report, Racing Director Eric Boullier:

“Of course, it’s disappointing to have encountered issues so early in the running, but this situation is not too unusual with a brand-new car. It’s better to have these issues here than in Australia. Honda is investigating the problem carefully in order to find the proper solutions, so we need to let them do that before drawing any premature conclusions.”

alonso-helmet
Alonso’s best lap was a 1:24.852, tenth best on the day
Today wasn’t an ideal start to McLaren’s campaign, but there is still time to get on track before Melbourne. Rookie Stoffel Vandoorne will be driving the MCL32 tomorrow.

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz completed 51 laps for STR today, having no major issues with the car. The Scuderia had a quiet day of testing, described by Sainz for Toro Rosso’s team report:

“I end the day with a positive feeling after my first outing at the wheel of the STR12. Everything felt good and I’d say we’ve made a big step forward compared to last year in terms of downforce and grip – I felt it straight away during the first laps of the morning and it put a smile on my face. Of course it wasn’t the smoothest of days and we would’ve liked to complete more laps, but you know that this is always going to happen on the first day testing a brand new car. All in all, a decent first day and it’s great that the season has finally kicked-off!”

Further thoughts from Technical Director James Key, also for Toro Rosso’s team report:

“Although we had to stop a little bit earlier with a bit of a niggle on the front of the car, we will get this sorted for tomorrow. The main priorities today were to get miles on the car and to do the basics right, so we did some aero work in the morning and after that we went through a long list of basic checks on our new car, considering there are so many things to learn. It was really all about laps and fundamentals today, and it will be the same tomorrow with Daniil.”

sainz-4
Sainz’ best time was a 1:24.494, good enough for eighth fastest on the day
Toro Rosso hope to get more mileage on the car tomorrow with Daniil Kvyat at the helm.

Haas

The VF-17 was in the hands of newcomer Kevin Magnussen today, who managed to complete 51 laps despite a spin which pitched the nose of the car into the barrier. The team were able to replace the nose cone over the lunch break, allowing Magnussen to complete the day’s testing. Here are Team Principal Guenther Steiner’s thoughts from Haas’ team report:

“The plan was to do more, but that’s how the first day goes sometimes. We had a few issues, but that’s normal. They are to be expected when you have a new car and we sorted them out. We are here to learn and that is what we did. Our learning process is a lot better than last year because our people have worked together for a year now and we know more about the car. We are a lot better prepared.”

Magnussen also had a few things to add, from Haas’ team report:

“We had a few issues, but the good thing is that they were small issues. Even though they stopped us from some running, it wasn’t something that is at all worrying for the coming days. It’s kind of the typical baby problems you have with the cars when they’re completely new. Except for that, the first feeling of the car is nice. It’s good to finally get that feeling of the car after looking at it, and all the anticipation for the faster cars. It’s a good feeling. Today’s been a day I’ve enjoyed a lot.”

mag-4
Magnussen had the day’s fourth fastest lap, a 1:22.894
Romain Grosjean takes over the wheel of the VF-17 for tomorrow’s testing.

Renault

The R.S. 17 was driven by prize signing Nico Hulkenberg today, completing 57 laps of the Catalunya circuit. The car ended up spending more time in the garage than anticipated, as modifications to the brake ducts were required. Hulkenberg had positive things to say, from Renault’s team report:

“It was an exciting first day with a new team and a completely different type of Formula 1 car. It feels very different out on track with a lot of new aspects to discover as we’re at the start of a steep learning curve. The car certainly feels faster than those to the previous regulations and it is fun to drive. You certainly realise you’ve got more downforce in the corners. It wasn’t the most trouble-free day, but it’s been a good start in my new home.”

Chassis Technical Director Nick Chester also had positive things to say:

“Even though we didn’t get as many laps as we wanted, it’s been a productive first day of the test for the R.S.17. We have made good progress in terms of understanding the balance required for these new cars and we have a good direction for tomorrow. It was great to have Nico in the car and we ended the day with a long run to give us a good amount of data to work over. We did lose track time whilst we rectified some issues with the front brake ducts, but we have that in hand. Overall, we learnt a lot today.”

hulk
Hulkenberg’s best time of the day was a 1:24.784, three seconds off the pace
Jolyon Palmer will take over testing duties tomorrow.

Sauber

Switzerland’s Sauber are the only team running a 2016 power unit, which brings stability if not pace to the table. Marcus Ericsson completed 72 laps today, but was the slowest of the runners. The team’s pace is not established just yet though, as they exclusively worked with the medium compound tire. Ericsson had positive feedback from the session, from the Sauber team report:

“The new car was fun to drive, and it is nice to feel that there is more potential. We had some minor issues, but on the other hand it was the first time we were running the car properly. Overall, it has been a productive day. I completed 70 laps overall, which is a good effort for test day one. Now we need to go from here to have a successful first week of testing.”

ericsson-garage
Ericsson was the slowest runner of the day, with a best time of 1:26.841
Antonio Giovanazzi takes the wheel of the C36 tomorrow. 

Testing resumes from Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in the morning.

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