F1 Pre-Season Testing Day 1: Will it be more of the same in 2017?

It’s only the first day of the first pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but the warning signs are there for F1 fans that await the new season praying for an injection of excitement come lights out in Melbourne.

Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheets at the end of day 1 in Barcelona as World Champions Mercedes clocked up an impressive amount of laps on the first day of pre-season testing. The Silver Arrows split their day between Hamilton in the afternoon and Finn Valtteri Bottas who took to the track in the morning.

Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished the day a tenth shy of Hamilton and this is especially encouraging for the Italian marque as the German’s time was set on Pirelli’s medium tyre compound. As always, times set during pre-season tests are to be taken with a pinch of salt as teams attempt to conceal their true performance prior to the season opener. This point was reiterated by Mercedes’ Toto Wolff in an interview with Sky Sports Pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz. The German explained that the specifications of the cars revealed during the launches and ran today would not be those present as the season gets underway.

The other points of note from today are that Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and the McLaren of Fernando Alonso had limited running as their sessions were cut short by a sensor issue and engine troubles respectively. You can almost hear the groans from Woking…

For those of you who cling on to the faintest of hopes that testing times are indicative of true performance, please see below for the fastest times from day one.

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Day 1 classification. Source: F1.com

The Pingu nose, the T-Wing and the Shark Fin

In the absence of true pace being shown during pre-season testing, one of the most intriguing aspects of winter tests (especially following a shake-up of the technical regulations) is the often interesting aerodynamic parts that adorn the challengers from time to time.

Red Bull are sporting a hole at the tip of their nose and are the only team in the paddock to do so. The “Pingu Nose” as it has been dubbed, is aimed at better directing air as it hits the nose and diminishes its effects on sensitive parts further back as it passes over the car. From what we have seen so far, it isn’t groundbreaking in its aerodynamic usefulness but then again you never know and we may see others go down this route should it shave some time off for the Milton Keynes-based squad.

Mercedes and Ferrari drew attention during launch week as their new cars included differing versions of the T-Wing. As testing got underway others followed suit as they looked to better work airflow over their rear wings.

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Lewis Hamilton completed an afternoon’s running for Mercedes, complete with all-new helmet design and T-Wing. Source: Mercedes AMG Petronas 

The new regulations introduced for 2017 were aimed at improving the show and one of the key factors addressed in regards to this is how the cars look. The rules were aimed at making the machines look more aesthetically aggressive and let’s face it, they do. Wider, longer-lasting tyres coupled with intricate aerodynamic appendages are certainly pleasing to the eye, however one area that has attracted criticism is the inclusion of shark fins on the engine covers. Pretty they are not and I for one am not giddy with excitement at their return.

If the FIA have missed a trick with ugly engine covers, though, then what comes next can only be classed as a shocker.

Turbulent times ahead…

Yes we are very early on and I really do not want to start flogging a dead horse before a single racing lap has passed, but it already seems that the new regulations will do little to improve the show in racing terms.

The cars look aggressive and their reshaping in conjunction with stunning livery changes definitely please those in search of design beauty.

You don’t need me to tell you, however, that the sport’s biggest drawback is its lack of toe-to-toe racing and overtaking opportunities. Only a single day of testing has elapsed and already drivers are already commenting that it is in fact harder to follow in the dirty air of a competitor than it was before and there haven’t even been any on-track battles as of yet.

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Drivers mentioned that following each other was even harder than in previous years. Here you can see the hot air coming off the rear wings of the Renault and Ferrari. Source: F1

It looks as if enthusiasts will be treated to tyres that take more pain but due to the rush of dirty air coming off the car in front, are unable to facilitate overtaking maneuvers as the following driver wrestles their car through the turbulence and around the corners.

What use is a grid of twenty beautiful F1 cars if they are unable to satisfy apart from lining the pockets of the corporations whose names reside on them? There are exciting times ahead as technical genius Ross Brawn has been drafted in to address F1’s key sporting issues but it is a bitter pill to swallow that in the meantime fans should be handed a sub-standard show every other Sunday afternoon.

Keep the faith

This does not mean that I am giving up the ghost. I’ll view testing and 2017 as a clean slate and live in hope that those behind have at least narrowed the gap to the world champions and will at the very least give them a run for their money this year. Mercedes have been able to canter to the world title for the last three years so let’s hope this is not the case this time around.

Who knows – a different team could spring a surprise and we could by some miracle be treated to a season of overtaking feasts and various winners.

Fingers crossed.


Headline image: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.


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