Testing for the 2017 Formula One season drew to a close last week after eight days of track action at Spain’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. After three years of Mercedes’ dominance, fans are hoping the rule changes this year can shake-up the order.
Testing very rarely provides an accurate picture of the form book — there are just too many variables to consider. Nevertheless, the two four-day tests at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya did throw up tantalising little hints regarding who stands where.
Mercedes have dominated F1 for the last three years, marching to both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles and winning 51 of the 59 races since the start of 2014. Their new challenger, christened the W08, looked easily the most aggressive and brutal of the cars unveiled at the time of its launch.
Unsurprisingly, it has been quick out on track, too. Lewis Hamilton and new teammate Valtteri Bottas have topped the timesheets on three of the eight days of testing. But more crucially, they have been racking up the laps, completing 1,096 tours of the 4.655 kilometre Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, more than any rival.
But they haven’t quite had it all their own way. Ferrari appear to be right with them. The sport’s most successful team endured a trying and winless season last year but have been quietly going about their business, saying little and setting no expectations.
Between them, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have completed 956 laps in total and topped the timesheets on four of the eight days of running, with the Finn even setting the fastest time of the winter on the final day. Ferrari have flattered to deceive while Mercedes have hidden their true pace in the past. But if the battle between the two does turn out to be as close as testing suggests, then 2017 will be a season to savour.