Formula 1 2018 - Pre Season Testing Round-Up

By The Way - Weekly Columns


Formula 1 2018 is almost upon us. The eight days of pre-season track action is over and now all anybody in either the paddock or online as a fan can do is speculate and the excitement ahead of the new season grows day by day. But, what did we learn in the two pre-season tests? Lets break it down. During the first week, the weather more than played its part on the Friday when the teams lost a whole day due to snow which affected most of the continent. A more than useless piece of information is that Fernando Alonso’s McLaren topped the timesheets that day even if he was the only driver to set a time. Four different drivers ended the first four days as the fastest driver. Daniel Riccardo was fastest on day one, Sebastian Vettel was fastest on day two which proved to be the day which saw the most track running. Six teams managed a total in excess of 150 laps and five of those teams were within six laps of each other on the first two days of running. As I say, day three was almost a complete washout but Alonso did manage to set a lap time which could not have been more meaningless given the circumstances. The final day of the first week saw the cream rise to the top. Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time on the medium tyres despite only completing 69 laps – three laps over race distance on a much drier day in Barcelona with Stoffel Vandoorne second in his McLaren on the new hypersoft compound with Vettel third on the soft tyres. Because of the lack of running on day three, Alonso managed 51 laps in the other McLaren and finished fifth fastest. Perhaps strangely, it was the Toro Rosso Honda that completed the most laps in the first week – a sight that would have left McLaren fans scratching their heads given the rough time that they had with the Japanese engine manufacturer. A shade under 325 laps were completed by Red Bull’s sister team, a handful more than Mercedes. Force India managed the fewest laps in the first week with their total being around half the amount of Toro Rosso.

Three days later and the second test got underway. Day one saw Vettel not only rack up the most laps of the day with 171, but four of arguably the best six drivers on the grid, occupied the four fastest times with Vettel fastest. Both Mercedes were on the soft compound while Vettel and Verstappen were on the Mediums. Half a second was the gap between them, too. Day two saw Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest time of the day and another 165 laps in the bag. Hamilton was second, 0.3s behind the Australian and with Bottas and Vettel third and fourth, it was the slightest of changes in the pecking order. Ricciardo was on the hypersofts, Vettel on the softs and both Mercedes were on the Ultrasofts. The 1.4s margin between the four drivers was about right. Day three saw the second week of testings most productive day in terms of track running. Vettel was fastest on the hypersofts and the German four time World Champion smashed the Barcelona lap record albeit unofficially with a 1:17.1, two seconds faster than the 2017 pole position time! Five drivers racked up more than 150 laps on day three on a range of compounds. Reliability, at least in pre-season, looks to be under control from the majority of teams. The eighth and final day of pre-season saw Kimi Raikkonen bag the fastest time coming close to Vettel’s lap time the previous day. Alonso made sure McLaren’s winter ended on a high after posting the second quickest time right at the end and Carlos Sainz’s Renault was third – the top three all having set their fastest times on the hypersofts. The Mercedes of Hamilton and Bottas were 11th and 6th respectively but the drivers and team have both said they are happy with the progress over the winter. To Melbourne and the field looks as competitive as ever. Twenty-three thousand laps were completed over the eight days of testing with Mercedes completing the most amount of laps ahead of Ferrari. McLaren have some work to do having left Barcelona with the least track time out of the ten teams. Eleven days until the first race of the season in Melbourne; the countdown is on!