Analysis: Red Bull the great unknown as F1 teams head for decisive final test
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Red Bull F1
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Mar 2017   |  6:50 am GMT  |  159 comments

Today sees the start of the second and final test in Barcelona before the start of the new season of F1.

And after a first week in which a picture began to emerge of which teams are looking competitive and which are not, this test should provide some clearer indications as the teams bring more advanced aerodynamics and other developments to their cars and push them harder for performance.

While it was clear enough that Mercedes remains the team to beat and that Ferrari has done a remarkable job to find speed in its car from last year to this with the regulation change, the great unknown in terms of potential race winners and title contenders is Red Bull.

Max Verstappen

That team will be under the closest scrutiny this week in Barcelona, as technical observers scrutinise the new bodywork for signs that Adrian Newey and his team have come up with something special to launch them into the title hunt.

Because last week they didn’t look that exciting. There were some real positives, like the clear sign that the Renault engine has made some progress, with straight line speeds improved in relative terms. But the lap times did not catch the eye and Ferrari looked the main challenger, with a car that it clearly fast and gentle on its tyres.

So this has led to speculation that Red Bull was simply clocking up mileage last week to prove the reliabiity and holding back its true aerodynamic package until this week, when it will find another second a lap.

Mercedes F1

Of course they will not be the only team with significant updates this week. The rate of development at this stage under a new set of regulations is very high and will continue to be so for most of the season, especially if we have a title fight between two or more teams, as everyone hopes. With the resources available to the top teams and the sophistication of the simulation tools the teams have these days, this season could see the highest rate of development.

It’s unlikely we will see a completely clear picture of outright qualifying pace this week and we know that Mercedes always has an extreme engine mode available for the decisive qualifying laps, something Ferrari has not been able to come up with in the hybrid turbo era. We will only see the true picture emerge in qualifying in Melbourne, China and Bahrain.

However, as a snapshot of where things ended up last week in the testing, looking at the comparable long run pace of the cars, this plot (click to enlarge) gives an idea. The lap time in seconds is on the vertical axis and the lap number on the horizontal. Basically, the lower down on the plot the lap times are, the faster the car. The difference between running at 80kg and 105kg is over a second, (which would lower the grouping down by a block.)

Hamilton’s pace advantage over Bottas is clear as is the consistency of the Ferrari runs.

There were not many race simulations last week. The decision to run Day 4 as a wet test caught a few teams out in that sense, not leaving sufficient time from initial runs on Day 1 and the unfolding programmes, to get around to a race simulation by Day 3. Both Mercedes drivers did one, with signs that they were working the tyres harder than Ferrari. Ericsson did a race simulation in the Sauber. Haas almost completed one.

Ferrari tended to do what looked like lots of medium-high fuel running in the afternoon but only one or two runs at really high fuel right at the end of each day – when they wouldn’t have had time to complete a race length anyway – so there is a question mark about whether they were running at the maximum fuel load 105kg or more like a baseline 80kg. (The same is also true of Red Bull)

If it was the full 105kg, then Ferrari are right there with Mercedes. We will find out for sure this week when they complete a genuine race distance run. But even if it was the lower figure, Ferrari is clearly looking pretty good.

Ferrari F1

Another key watch point this week will be the performance of Valtteri Bottas to his new team mate Lewis Hamilton. Last week in the longer runs Hamilton was clearly faster, while Bottas picked up his short run pace through the week so he will be looking to have a really strong couple of days in the car to boost his confidence ahead of the transfer to Melbourne.

Ferrari was second fastest and then there was a slightly bigger gap last week to Red Bull. These are the three teams that carried out all the Pirelli development test work last season on the 2017 tyres, so they also have that advantage over the others, even if the data from the tests was shared with all teams.

Sebastian Vettel

In midfield it looked quite close between Haas, Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso, with Renault in the mix as well. Williams had a difficult week with Lance Stroll’s accidents costing track time, while Toro Rosso also didn’t get much representative running and most of that was on the medium tyre, which is a lot slower than the soft.

Renault improved steadily as the week went on and will look to consolidate that this week.

Then at the back is McLaren and Sauber. All eyes will be on the McLaren garage and Fernando Alonso for signs of his intentions given the dire state of affairs with the Honda engine. Not only is it not at the level that had been predicted, it doesn’t appear yet to be at the level of the end of last season, while the other manufacturers have gained around 25-35hp over the winter.

McLaren F1

Meanwhile after making a positive impression as a substitute last week Antonio Giovinazzi now drops back to the bench at Sauber as Pascal Wehrlein gets his first test for his new team. He missed last week as a legacy of an accident in the Race of Champions.

As for the look of these new cars, F1’s new MD of motorsports Ross Brawn gave the clearest hint yet, in an interview on F1.com, that he will be making moves to ban the ugly shark fins. He said they are “the unintended conseqences of new regulations. So over time we need to iron out the unintended consequences and get the things looking more pure.

What are you most curious to find out about at this week’s F1 test? Leave your comment below

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159 comments

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1
Berg Lloyd-Haig

25-25hp over the winter

Range didn't seem to be the one intended.

2

Not only is it not at the level that had been predicted, it doesn’t appear yet to be at the level of the end of last season, while the other manufacturers have gained around 25-35hp over the winter.

Hey the teams gained another 10hp in a few minutes this AM at the stroke of a pen!

Have to say James this is clearly making a dramatic story line for the season which you cant loose with. Honda have a couple of problems not seen in bench testing when they get to the track. They turn down the wick to get in some test miles to baseline the aero for McLaren. McLaren must be grateful to get some laps in..... and need to slap a CAD guy or two upside the head for the oil tank problem.

So what happens next 1) the engineers in Japan find the problem, do a fix for reliability reasons, and the team finds the missing performance. James gets a headline of Honda's dramatic return to form. 2) The numbers and form never stacks up in 2017, and James gets to cream them over how the 2017 engine was dead on arrival......

The real story is that F1 is pushing the envelope of what a hybrid power plant can achieve and moving into new areas of technology. Some, like Ferrari, have innovated distinct improvements, others like Renault are getting close and Honda, still seem to very much be on the learning curve. If Honda really want this, they will get there. Just depends if the money men say no more before they succeed, like in the recent recession. That inside story at Honda would be the really interesting one. As it seems they did not grenade the engine in last weeks test, I am guessing there is some good new data available in Japan to fix things.

3

I don't think the fins should be banned. They make the cars look different. If they are banned, to me , it just makes the rulemakers neurotic. The engineers should be given space to innovate; instead of wasting time & money.

4

They look different how? Different like WEC fins that uglyfied that series?

5

Wow, plus 33. Does this mean that people like the shark fins now?

6

I figured it out. A team asked their employees to vote they like the shark fin.

7

Ross Brawn might have to change his thinking! Who'd have thought he'd come up with an unpopular knee jerk so soon?

8

The "unintended consequences" are the T-wings, not the shark fins. The fins add variety to the designs, each team's fin had a unique shape to it, and at this point I deem it as an integral part of the livery. The previously mentioned idea of 'safety concern' over the fin is just a bogus excuse for justification to ban.

A safety concern over the T-wing is justifiable as they could easily break off and hit driver behind... and look like a goofy reminder of the chimneys, antlers, barges, and misc crap affixed to the 2006-8 cars that frequently became carbon shrapnel in the road.

They still haven't completely gotten rid of the phallic nose cone legislation either... focus the attention there instead... THAT was unintendeded for sure.

9

I'll eat my new McHonda cap if you get more than +1...

10

Hope you're hungry!

11

I can only assume all the up votes are to try and get you to eat your cap... otherwise the worlds gone mad!

13

@sir
How does it taste?😄

14

I dunno, I think JA sent it to the wrong address.

15

What about eating one Honda cap for each +1? With SALT. So much salt.

16

Unfortunately I am #quittingSALTtoday. Had to be done...it's trending.

17

Hahaha....how'd you like it served? Hot / cold with mayo and how about a few fries to go with that lot? Enjoy

18

Hahaha. Looks like you'll be eating your hat with mc 🍟.

19

Served on a flatbed truck with a dash of tangerine.

20

Glen, maybe F1 should become a spec series. Much cheaper and the fans can all get together and design the ultimate F1 car that everyone will think is beautiful, without exception.

21

hahahaha!! That would be very funny and.. disastrous! I can imagine people fighting if it should be like "70's style raw retro monster" or a super modern F1 car. So after the dust has settled the result would be something like this:

22

Yet more evidence that deep down, people really dig fins. 😄

23

Hamilton’s pace advantage over Bottas is clear

Music to my ears 🙂

24

If Mercedes use the extra engine mode to steamroll the field at 86% as they have been. And it is Lewis all by his lonesome without a team mate challenge, the music you hear is anothet 25 million remotes switching off F1. Maybe even 50 million. Who knows?

25

@ Sebee
Already 20% of british tv fans have done just that, and thrown their merc caps in the bin to boot. Not my figures, I got this from an english newspaper that claims, incredibly stupidly, that the cause for plummeting support was that HAM lost the title. Someone tell them it went down to the very last race!!!
Just as plausible for the drop in viewers may be they had enough of a series consisting of just HAM and his team mate.

26

Phil glass. The articles I have seen about the fall in UK ratings pin the blame on the switch to pay per view, and then the further switch of the remaining free to air content from the BBC to Channel four.

27

F1 was behind a paywall in UK since 2012.

I'll give you switch from BBC to Ch.4 as a reason only because I don't know if Ch.4 is free and free to air with same geographic coverage area.

28

Sebee. Channel four is free to air but it isn't anything like as popular as the BBC, there has also been a lot of criticism of the poor quality of the coverage and the lack of promotion done by Ch4. Here is an article that talks about this issue, and another that talks about the reasons for the global fall in ratings.
https://f1broadcasting.co/2016/12/15/formula-1s-uk-viewing-figures-drop-significantly-year-on-year/
http://motorsports.nbcsports.com/2015/02/14/as-f1-tv-viewing-figures-continue-to-fall-globally-is-there-a-solution-to-the-problem/

29

You know what I find hilarious? The huge drop in season long UK ratings in 2016 is being blamed on Lewis not winning WDC in a few write-ups. Last I checked, the WDC was lost in the final race of the season. No new paywalls were put up.

Maybe, just maybe these kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and they intuitively know it's a dog and pony show and they choose to not follow?

30

I think it has a lot to do with the android magic boxes that more and more people are using. Is there any sport whose viewing figures are increasing significantly? If F1 put out a pay feed to stream the broadcasts, and it's a reasonable price, then you'll see significant take up.

31

KRB, all sports have seen similar drops in viewers, as has all TV programming. The move to pay per view has been the major driver of those lower viewing figures, this is an inevitable consequence of charging people for something they used to get for free. People tend to think that whatever their own pet hate about F1 is, then everyone agrees with them and this will be the major factor. The fact that ratigs started to fall in 2009, and have been dropping at a pretty steady rate ever since seems to point away from anything on track being to blame, as there wasn't any fundamental change to the regs for five years after ratings began to fall. There will always be many different reasons for something like this, but the switch from free to air to pay per view is clearly the major factor.

32

I have a sneaking suspicion Merc have got it wrong this year. Struggling with these (slightly) warmer temps... Hamilton complainng about a damaged floor (but he didn't go off!!), set-up window seems narrow, high deg, irregular lap times...
You heard it here first!

33

Sir Tease, Bottas couldn't get a lap time out of the ultrasofts this morning, seems that they are struggling with that tyre at least.

34

You really think so? After 2012 and 2013, they invested a ton in getting on top of any tire deg issues.

Hamilton did a 1:20.4 on softs at the start of a 16-lap stint today. What was Vettel's stint length for the 1:19.9?

If that's Mercedes on a bad day, then that's pretty good.

I don't think Mercedes will be far ahead like they were 2014-16, but I think they're ahead still, with Ferrari the ones behind. It should be good!

35

It's a hunch.
Lighting up the rears four years ago has nothing to do with this completely different current formula. So if they learnt something from that it's long irrelevant now.
Don't believe the hype on lap times. High fuel, low fuel, sandbagging/flat out, soft softer softest tyre... Sooner or later over a full day everyone's going to do the same thing and produce a lap representative of their pace.
But like I say it's just a hunch. And at this time of year i think that's the best thing you have to go on.

36

Invested how?

In secret tests?

Or by saying that if they make the tires more to their needs Pirelli will get the Mercedes OEM contract?

37

Yes, ultra secret tests that they told the FIA all about.

You think Pirelli changed their tires based on Mercedes' needs? Your evidence of this? Or is it the usual flimsy supposition?

Brawn was big on suspensions and mechanical grip. That's why Merc have owned sector 3 at Spain for the last few years. They also invested heavily in brake duct tech, to dissipate heat so they no longer cooked their tires.

38

One of my clients works in R&D at Brackley and I asked him about the problems that Merc were experiencing with tyre deg (back in 2013). He confirmed exactly what you have just stated KRB - Merc were moving heaven and earth in order to resolve their problems with tyres.

39

We're in a completely different era now. It's quite feasible that the new regulations have brought new problems.

40

And? Merc will still be the best equipped to analyze and fix any problems. Others might have happened upon solutions earlier, but if so the lead time advantage will be low, before Merc find it too. Just my opinion. Merc are the best all-around team at the moment.

41

You may well be right, who knows - none of the 'experts' have reached the same conclusion as you, but that doesn't mean you are wrong. Only a couple or so weeks and then we will find out.

42

If you are correct, then the tweeting tantrums will at least provide some entertainment value.

43

Mercedes playing ball and agreeing to win only 11GPs this year? I can buy that. Mercedes struggling in this PU era? Only if FIA put stick in their spokes.

44

The FIA under Todt are about as conspiratorially proactive as the Dalai Lama (the previous one, not the current mischievously passive aggressive one).
Liberty Media on the other hand... Well. Although the current "climactic" climate surrounding the auto industry has their hands tied regarding V10s vs Hybrids, (unfortunately our last convo on this topic was severed by Mod's refusal to post your replies, so my own replies to your replies still lay dormant in my notebook) they ARE ready and willing to play a velvet-clad-hand-in-the-shadows role regarding this years championship. They CAN NOT afford this season to be nothing more than a year long coronation of Sir Hamilton and his fourth WC. You often allude to an MMC, you've brought those shadowy shenanigans into the spotlight. Added to that, the incredulous outcome in Bahrain, has seen Merc necessarily take their hand off the tiller and only too happily pass the baton on to Chase and Co. You KNOW that mo is hiding something right? (as a side note at this point it is quite sad to see such a pillar of transparency and fair play as Ross Brawn is, unwittingly drawn into this fix) Don't expect these shark fins to be banned anytime soon because they work! And Merc don't have one. It will be hard to spot because these media companies are damn sly at subliminal manipulation of the masses but for those with their eyes open and a powerful flashlight in hand the sleight of hand will not sleight unnoticed. I know you'll be watching, as will I. (Note: it may not actually be so sleight if Hamilton keeps making blunders like saying the floor was damaged even though he didn't even go off!!!) on a completely different but related note... That Hamilton quote? An obvious reference to Bottas damaging the car and a not so subtle mind game after days earlier lauding his "no games" relationship with Bottas... The gall of the guy!

45

You really think that was some mind games aimed at Valtteri? He could've damaged the floor by going over a curb, etc.

People are far too quick in seeing a slight where there was none, when it's Lewis.

46

Hamilton questioned the issue of cause by pointedly omitting himself as the cause. So unless he is again questioning the mechanics, the blame naturally falls at the feet of the only other guy driving the car. I'm probably reading too much into the whole thing but it is odd that he made the point of not going off himself. It reminds me of his post race comments in Abu Dahbi where he immediately blamed reliability for his championship loss. A valid point to be sure but the timing was questionable. I don't think the guy ever switches off when it comes to winning. ( not with a mike around anyway )
If you're going to come here and be a regular reader/contributor you've gotta expect your fave driver to be slighted and questioned. It happens to all of them. You think it happens more often to Hamilton. I'm not sure about that. You're pretty good with stats, how about we do a survey over the next year. Let's tally negative comments towards Hamilton and Ricciardo. We'd probably only have to do a few rounds before we got representative figures. I warn you now though, I will soon tire of counting and may not trust your bias if I'm not collecting data myself but it's worth a shot no?
Actually, [Mod] is probably the person for the job. They have to read everything anyway and there are probably a few slights that we never get to see.
How's about it [Mod]?

47

I don't think the guy ever switches off when it comes to winning....

I agree - yet somehow you manage to make that sound like a slight 🙂 Surely that's what he is paid to do - win.

48

Sir Tease, there's valid criticism and then there's just-searching-for-any-stick-to-whack-with criticism. I think you're reading too much into his comments. I don't think Hamilton is as Machiavellian as all that.

Lol, did you just write that you'd like me to log the data, but that you would then not likely trust the data I had logged?!?!

I believe it's a certainty that Hamilton cops more criticism than any other driver, bar none. It goes with the territory I realize, but sometimes it gets a bit much.

49

Your last paragraph validates my suspicions about your data collection. A clear bias.
😉

50

My data logging integrity is beyond reproach. What you read there was my anecdotal evidence.

Do you really think Ricciardo would rival Hamilton in the criticism stakes though?

51

Are you up to double digits yet - and still no apology!

52

I think One Republic and Timbaland have a song about this issue.

It's too late...too late.

53

Oh c'mon C63!!! You didn't like the competition over the last three years? Would've been [Mod]ing boring without it. Bottas is just dialing himself in.

54

Now here's the thing - I'm all for competition... unless I have an interest in the outcome. Then I like it to be as one sided as possible (with my guy doing the winning). One of my all time favourite seasons was 1992 (followed by 1993 in CART) when Mansell won by a mile. I would be quite happy for Lewis to win every race from pole and wrap up the WDC by September - I appreciate that my view point would not necessarily be shared by everyone but that is my view nonetheless 🙂

55

Fair enough, I can understand that and even subscribe to a certain extent. It does, however eventually taint the experience. ( in my experience) For example: my love of cricket peaked and then was decimated during the Warne and McGrath era. Now I'm a little bit meh towards the Aussie team, even though they regularly lose again, the wins aren't so special anymore as they were in the Allan Border and onwards period.
Easy winning eventually dilutes the joy.
But we all have our own viewpoint as you say. I'll be very interested to hear your opinion at the end if this year turns out to be a Hamilton walkover.

56

turns out to be a Hamilton walkover....

Honestly, I will be delighted if that happens. I really will. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that if you are a neutral or support someone else it's no fun, but I've seen enough final race showdowns where my guy didn't take the crown to know which I prefer. Alll those years of supporting Mansell taught me that 😳

57

@ C63...Could it possibly have been anything else?

58

Sorry Kenneth , you've lost me !

59

Dear oh dear..'.I would be quite happy for lewis to win every race etc etc etc. and your POV etc etc. Could it possibly have been anything else?.

60

Sorry kenneth, I'm still not sure what your point was.
Answer me this - if Red Bull can deliver the car and if by some miracle Ricci can get the better of Max would you complain? I don't think so, I think you would lap it up. Go on tell me you wouldn't 🙂

61

fair enough. everybody entitle to his own liking.

62

When the car wins 86% of the Grand Prix over a period of 3 seasons, how unreasonable is it to credit 86% of the success to the engineers?

The remaining 14% - split it up between the drivers as you please.

63

I'd put it slightly differently -86% engineering domination allows the driver with 110% skill level to apply himself for less than 50% of the time?
C63, surely you'd rather see your guy getting all the credit for his driving in the annals of history rather than there being the big asterisk looming overhead?

64

@LKFE

86% engineering...

Sebee's stat's don't make sense, nor do they add up (nothing unusual there). If I understand them correctly he is saying that Mercedes won 86% of the races over the last 3 seasons and is awarding 100% of the credit for that to the engineering. The remaining 14% is then allocated to the drivers. How does this make sense? It doesn't but hey ho, never mind.
As for your suggestion that I'd rather see my guy getting the credit - well yes, I suppose so. But it ain't gonna happen, people (like yourself) will always twist events to suit their own agenda and they rarely, if ever, look at things dispassionately and apply an even handed approach. I can't control what others say or think, and I'm quite content with my own appraisal of the relative skills of the drivers so it doesn't really bother me - I find the constant stream of vindictive bile aimed at Ham a bit tedious, but that's about it, it doesn't worry me unduly. So, whether Ham wins by a country mile (2015) or by a whisker (2008) there will always be those who say it was only because of this or that or whatever - the asterisk will always be there when it's some one else's favourite driver (you must have noticed that).
I just prefer the win by a mile scenario as it's better for my nerves 🙂

65

C63, I'll admit i was poking a bit of fun. 😉
But those of us not interested in winning for winning's sake want to see a contest. Last season was a revelation because we saw a contest of 2! I agree with you that you can put an asterisk over almost any of the WDC's, but the MB domination era asterisk has just replaced Pluto as a planet!!

As for twisting events..I call it perspective, and we all have one.
I will say that an awful lot of the "negativity" toward Hamilton is born out of the uneven playing field that he sits atop. But he also doesn't do himself a lot of favours in the endearing stakes either.

66

MB domination era asterisk has just replaced Pluto as a planet!!

Maybe in the short term some people will see it like that, but that's not how history will remember things. Take Prost as an example - do people denigrate his achievements and say that it was only because he had access to superior equipment ? No, they remember him as an all time great - yet for his 4th championship he was parachuted into the all conquering Williams and paired with Damon Hill (who was contractually obliged to play second fiddle) and it was a cake walk. Hamilton hasn't only won races and championships in the best equipment (it's always been good, but not necessarily the best) and I have absolutely no doubt he will be considered one of the all time greats in years to come, and mention of the Mercedes advantage will but a distant memory.

67

Mercedes domination over last 3 season is unlike anything that has ever been seen in F1. If you think this is due to the drivers, you're living in denial. It was engineered, planned, PU development started 7 years before 2014 - confirmed and on record by Lauda.

Mercedes created a car that any driver on the grid would drive to wins and championship. Jenson would. Massa would. Rosberg did. Vettel would. Kimi would. Alonso would. Webber would coming out of retirement.

We know you are hard locked in here in Lewis fandom, but I see very little in Lewis achievements at Mercedes. He beat his non-champion team mate 2 out of 3 times, but his team mate defeated a 3x and reigning champion. And 2008, well you know how I feel about that. A 100% proven fraudulent Grand Prix is included in the 2008 standings directly impacting the WDC outcome. A total and complete fraud committed on F1, which is confirmed, beyond doubt and nothing was done to undo the fraud or exclude it from the standings. I have argued there are clear and fair for all options to undo that fraud in the form or excluding the result completely or calling the GP result before the fraud is committed and awarding 1/2 points.

People complain about Vettel or Schumacher domination. Their domination, a benefit of engineering too, is nothing compared to Mercedes domination. Red Bull won 53% of the races over the 4 year championship stretch vs. 86% for Mercedes. You tell me what contribution engineering made here before you give Lewis any more credit than 7-10%.

Rosberg at least was honest when he said look, the driver difference best to worse is .3s at most. And 2014 and 2015 the car had 2s on the rest of the field. Simple math there. Car left 1.7s on the table for any driver over the best in the second best car. 1.7s per lap in F1 is a lifetime. The difference between running and walking.

68

All of the drivers mentioned would have to beat Lewis. All of them could win, like Rosberg did, if the reliability was as uneven as last year, except Massa and Webber. If it was even though, I think only Alonso would run Lewis close (as he did in 2007).

Again with your silly 2008 hangup. I laid it out to you clearly, as to how your half points idea could never happen. Sports must adhere to their rules and regulations at all times. There is no mechanism in the R&R's to do what you suggest. Ergo, no legal way.

You're an unscrupulous lawyer's wet dream ... you don't like a judicial outcome (or quasi-judicial in the Crashgate case), but still want to plow headlong into the judicial buzzsaw before you. 'Cos you know better ... 😃

As C63 says, in 40 years when we're in the dirt, how do you suppose Hamilton will be viewed? His teammates were always in their prime, yet he has a winning record against every teammate. He has the most wins in non-WCC cars of any driver, so it's not just the car for him. He's won in every season, for 10 straight seasons Only Schumacher has won in more consecutive years. To doubt his achievements becomes ever more bizarre with each passing year. Talk about being locked in to a certain position. Never could legislate for stupid and incongruous human behaviour; still can't.

69

Yup...great point. Your car has a 2s advantage on the field as was the case on 2014 and 2015 without doubt, you don't need to work as hard for it as a driver.

70

Sebee, this two seconds a lap nonsense again?! Prove it or drop it.

71

First, it was never 2 secs, and second, what was his gap to Nico? This wasn't Barrichello, Irvine, Coulthard, Fisichella or Webber in the same car with him.

Then spotting Nico a 25 pt lead at the first race? Yeah, Hamilton did zero work with the wins in Malaysia, Bahrain and Spain that year. When he went from the pit lane to 3rd in Hungary, while Nico went pole to 4th, Hamilton was just along for the ride? How's that work then? Same thing last season with him winning in Monaco from 3rd while Nico went P2-to-P7.

There are too many races where it's clear as day that Hamilton has moved the car up to positions others would not have been able to, to ever consider him a "lucky passenger" driver.

72

You're actually using Monaco last year as an example of Hamilton being the sole cause of a win ??

73

His driving put him in the window to benefit from Red Bull's error. Red Bull could have run around in the pits for another 10 secs and been out ahead of Rosberg. So yeah.

Wolff is on record recently saying that the Monaco win was down to Hamilton, as they didn't have the fastest car on race day.

74

Don't forget that Ham also went from full wets to dry tyres (no inters in between like everyone else) - I don't recall anyone else ever doing that in a race. And it was the choice of tyres at Hams final pit stop which caused the confusion at Red Bull as they decided to use a different set of tyres at the last moment - in the rush they forgot where they had left them . It wasn't like Ham just inherited the lead due to the person in front breaking down - which is how some folk would have us believe.

75

Yeah, in 2014 and 2015 we didn't see Mercedes qualify 1s clear any day and 1.5s or more clear when they overshot on the engine setting, and pull out 2s per lap in the first stages of the race until they could lock it down with 15 to 20s advantage and cruise till the end in control. Never happened.

76

Can you list the races where they did please?

Red Bull in 2010 regularly qualified over 0.8 secs ahead of all others. In Hungary that year they were 1.2 secs ahead of all others.

77

Your guy is winning only and entirely thanks to Mercedes engineers, not necessarily because he is "the best". You do realize this, right?

78

Only and entirely? Lewis won the likes of HUN13, JPN14, USA14, BHN14 and MCO16 primarily because of his driving. With even reliability in 2016, Lewis would have won the title, but Mercedes couldn't provide that. Did he win in 2016 only and entirely because of Mercedes?!? That line is better applied (though it still fails) to Rosberg last year, but not to Hamilton. Did Hamilton win MCO15, GBR13, or MAL16 only and entirely because of Mercedes? His driving in those races deserved a victory, but it didn't happen, because of Mercedes. Let's not think that it's all been perfect with Mercedes.

The steamroller is not a good scenario for Lewis. Then external factors are more likely to make the difference, rather than driving skill. A close battle is where Lewis can show his worth, and win races he has no right winning.

79

How would Lewis do at McLaren 2014-2016?

Don't you guys see? With such gaps in car quality the competition is flawed.

80

F1 has always been like that. Did McLaren try to be as poor as they were in those years? Did they decide to go with Honda? Did anyone force them to? McLaren were trying their best to win, it's just that their best was nowhere good enough. They had full opportunity to get it right with the regulations in force at the time.

81

Car had 2s on the field in 2014 and 2015.

Let us say that Lewis is better than all drivers on the grid. Let's say he's .3s better than any other driver - WOW, that would make Lewis the best ever for real.

Even with that crazy assumption, it means that the car still afforded Lewis 1.7s over the next non Mercedes car. As far as Mercedes is concerned, a Mercedes driver was bringing it home. Because of the car.

82

KRB, probably best not to mention the number of titles Vettel won in none Newey designed cars, we don't want any tantrums....

83

Vettel won 4 in a row in a less dominant car. That suggests his driving is more responsible for his titles than Hamilton's driving for his (so far) 2 out of 3 titles in THE most dominant car of all time.

84

That's some pretty lazy logic.

It was a less dominant car, yet still dominant. What Vettel had, that Hamilton hasn't, is a teammate who was past his prime, who was befuddled by a key part of the formula (i.e. the new Pirelli tires), and a key concept behind the Red Bull's superiority (i.e. driving with the EBD). Add to that that Webber would cop the weird cases of unreliability, especially in qualifying, and it's clear that Webber's only real chance was 2010.

To be in the best car, alongside a teammate with seemingly permanent hurdles to getting the best out of that same car, is the DREAM scenario for any F1 driver.

Then of course there's 2014, where Ricciardo positively spanked Vettel over the season. Vettel had more unreliability during the season, but when they both ran clean, Ricciardo still beat him on pace. Such an outcome will of course immediately cast big doubts on whether Vettel was rather flattered by his winning cars and sub-standard teammate, in his title years.

85

SirTease. I don't think it suggests that at all. If your car is 0.6 seconds quicker or 0.8 seconds quicker, then you are going to win the race, the margin of victory is irrelevant. Give a top driver a car two tenths faster than the others, and they have no chance, Merc have a bigger advantage than that, and so did Red Bull. It wasn't Seb's fault that his car was better than anyone else's, and he didn't deserve to be criticised for it, as a driver you can only get on the car and do your job.

86

At this stage it would be rather surprising if that wasn't the case, surely?

Lewis is now less than evens with most bookies, how boring of them 🙂 Bottas 4/1, could be some value there if it comes down to who gets the luck like last year.

Having said all this, I am really hoping neither Mercedes driver has a car that can dominate the field!

87

@NickH
The odds on Kimi are interesting. Yes it's a long shot, that's is what the bookies are thinking, but they don't know that you can't rule out The Kimster if he likes that car.
Odds are shortening fast, but I managed to get 50/1 while it was still going!!!!!

88

Phil, they are some nice odds on Kimi! Is there a market on the head to head with Seb? I fancy his chances.

89

I saw he was 50/1 before the 1st test but I had to have some reassurance that Ferrari had at least got something to work with before I placed! Alonso was 15/1 before the tests, probably nearer a ton now.

90

At this stage...

I don't disagree, but it's still nice to see it written down 🙂

As for the odds - less than evens is not good I take it (from a punters point of view). Does that mean the bookies fancy his chances? Have you had a flutter yet? Or are you going to have a punt on Kimi? Might not be a bad bet as Ferrari are looking quite promising in the testing.

91

'Does that mean the bookies fancy his chances?'

Yes it does, although it's far from the odds you would get for a 'sure thing'. David Haye was 0.17/ (supposedly sure thing) to win his boxing match at the weekend... he lost! So there's still some doubt whilst the true pecking order is yet to be confirmed.

I may have had an ew punt on Kimi at 20/1! 🙂

92

Here's a spanner in the works - no pun intended - but how will the Big Mac slicks and Barn Door Rear wings function in high track temperatures?

It's a crumb of comfort for McHonda, but winter testing track temps of around 18C are not truly representational of a normal GP weekend when the average temp is around over 35C most events these days. Last year in Hungary the surface was a toasty 56C - probably hot enough to fry your bacon and eggs. And Malaysia in 2015 was a frankly imhumane 62C..........point is, without stating the obvious, but slicks and aerodynamics are incredibly sensitive to temperature increases, and the upshot is some chassis don't like high track temperatures and some thrive in sweaty muggy conditions. So I ask again, how will Big Mac slicks and Barn Door rear wings cope in hot conditions? Nobody knows yet............

93

I can't wait to see what a stiff cross breeze does to these suckers! Could we see cars tacking on the straights?

94

You might be on to something GB. Big aero emphasis means big aero sensitivity to different conditions. There might be a reason other than subterfuge for Newey's simple looking RB...

95

Ever heard of 'relativity' ...there's your answer.

96

What are you on about Gaz Boy? If the slightly narrower and higher barn door wings of the last 9 years coped fine, why would there be a problem now?

Likewise, if the hi deg tyres of the last 5 years coped fine, why would the more durable tyres this year pose any problems?

97

maybe newey will adopt ferrari's 1970's tactic of being quick on the straights and them hold 'em up in the corners. the red bull looks a bit underdone in the aero.
it certainly lacks a lot of aero parphenalia - which i quite like.

98

"So over time we need to iron out the unintended consequences and get the things looking more pure."

Best news of the day.

99

Will the cars still look 'pure' next season when the cockpit head protection is introduced, I don't think so.

100

I try not to judge, but I don't think that wearing a thong will make them look anything close to "pure", even if it is for protection 😉

101

I really dislike the T-wing.

102

Yeah, I hate them. All of them look horrible.

103

Mercedes has the worst looking one! They duped all of us with the beautiful car they showed us on release day.

104

Are you ready to ruuuuummble!!

105

When you say that the Honda is not at the level it was at last year, this means that they have the new unit turned down for reliability, not that it produces less BHP when "all is well"
Hopefully...

106

Certainly looking on the brighter side there, fluffy..

They've had another dire start to the 2nd test.

107

It's an all new layout. So it's feasible they actually are down on HP from last year...

108

Mclaren Honda.......I'm a true believer that they can turn it around,however it's difficult not to read too much into Eric Boulliers comments and the termination of Giles Simons contract.
I'll always support Mclaren but it's hard to find anything to cheer right now.

109

You know the easiest way to make $100k?

Bet $1 million on Lewis for WDC.

110

But what if Hamilton crashes and gets injured? Then Mr. Wehrlein gets a chance with Mercedes and with great succes he wins he title. You'd get your money back x750. So betting 1000€ for Wehrlein could make you 750k!

111

Hi James,

I get notifications of replies but it takes a while for me to be able to view the comment. Is there a way I can respond faster?

112

Not that I'm aware of. We keep across Mod as much and as often as we can.

113

Could you guys modify your app such that notifications are sent only when you approve the replies? I'd be happy to help!

114

Hello! James has been Moded. Should that be in brackets....

115

Thanks James.

When I get an email notification about a reply, I'm not able to view it till hours later. Hence sometimes I don't respond.

116

james, any chance that the comment window can be enlarged say to twice the size as a minimum?

117

If you want to leave a big reply like that you could write what you want in notepad (or something similar) and then copy-paste into the comment box.

Doable? Yes.
Practical? Let me know 🙂

118

You can also use a browser that gives you resizable textboxes or even apply custom css with tampermonkey.

119

What's the easiest way to make the Million?

120

With the current bookies odds you would make an $800k profit from a $1m stake on Lewis. However, not sure how many bookies accept $1m in single bets!!

121

Huh? It's not that bad yet. He's 4/5 currently, so you'd make $800k.

122

Yeah I didn't really check the odds tbh. I just wanted to point out Lewis WILL win the WDC this year, so easy money for some billionaires who has pocket change.

123

"so easy money for some billionaires who has pocket change"

For a billionaire to bet 100k and win a million is like you or me having a grand, betting ten cents, and winning a dollar - If we already had a grand would we care about winning a dollar?

Of course if there are any billionaires reading this who feel that I'm wrong, feel free to let me know 🙂

124

Hopefully this year Ferrari have a genuine speed to win few races. The run of DR on day 3 seems very good. I expect a closer battle this year between Mercedes and RBR and the question is will Ferrari be there as well?

125

If Ferrari are there, then surely Vettel will sign a contract extension. Then the question will be who joins him ... I think this is Kimi's last year, but I've thought that before, so who really knows?

If McLaren is as bad as they look now, then will Alonso see out the season? He has 40m reasons to, but then again he already has enough millions in the bank.

126

Here's the thing... If Ferrari are there this year, who get's the credit? Because I would imagine a certain James Allison had a part to play in this. James (Allen) pointed out in the comments last week that he probably had a significant role to play in the development of this car.

I think it truly depends on the development going forward. Do Ferrari actually have the talent in-house to continue any success they might find? Or is this car going to be a one-hit wonder that owes its success to a yet another ex-Ferrari genius.

Personally, I hope the performance is real, I hope the development is successful, I hope Seb wins a title, and I hope he stays on an repeats in in 2018. I will say that I am impressed with the test program they have been running this year. Seems almost Mercedes-esque. Maybe they finally have a house in harmony over in Maranello.

TL;DR: I think there is way more to the "will Seb stay at Ferrari" question than just "does it win this year". But we knew that.

127

I just hope Maclaren Honda have another terrible week even worse than week 1.

That is all i wish

128

Fernando will walk if that happens - and rightly so

129

Come on, Ron, you can't fool us. Welcome to the forum!

130

Nice one Scott!
But there would be more mods if it were Ron...

131

The shark fins really don't offend me that much - how obtrusive they look depends on how good the livery design is. Overall I like the look of the cars this year. Much rather they look like this, than the awful step-nose designs we had a few years back.

132

The Renault whining has started - again. Toro Rosso want Mercedes engine development to be stopped, so their rubbish engineers can catch up. How many times have they got away with this in the past? Both Mercedes and Renault are major car manufacturers, so why does Renault need to catch up because they can't be bothered to put in the effort required to make a good racing engine. Instead they prefer to hang back until they can copy the work of other engine makers.

133

Oh come on, Renault ain't that bad. Imagine how Honda feels.

134

Here's hoping for 1m 17 this test. Let the beasts off the leash

135

The other great unknown is when will Mclaren Honda go a full day of testing without an engine change?

Given they are doing another engine change this morning, my abacus calculations suggest they will go through 5465 engines this season.

*Sarcasm hat off* it's still a discgrace for this team who no longer has any exucses left in their excuses hat.

136

The excuse hat is white, on the side, written in red, it says HONDA

FA today said there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the car and everything wrong with the PU from Honda

137
Clarks4WheelDrift

Stoffel is going for Fernando's grid penalties record this year 😉

It is an utter disgrace. Looking at the intricate aero design on the McLaren with the air slots and front wing, it makes you wonder if there is any point or where the chassis team's motivation goes when their Honda engine is slower at the end of the Kemmel straight than the Merc is through Eau Rouge, that is when it isn't detonating itself 😉

138

That would be a no by the looks of this morning's testing..

139

@ james...where are we on the subject of ' tricky suspensions' since the end of testing last week and now? I have also read that Red Bull have requested further clarification on 'oil in fuels' pre melbourne. Obviously something has happened for them to do that? Is it just running interference or is there a basic claim that needs to be followed up? Would appreciate a few notes....

140

Kenny, it's harder to notice the blue smoke when the car is silver, allegedly...

141

@ LKFE...very true, However if they, mercedes, are doing this then it was very very clever and they got away with it last season. I do recall at times though seeing rosbergs car alway puff a little blue smoke when getting underway! That was put down to idling seepage...as if? Hahahaha

143

I urge FiG to find a way to release the in car cameras bcs the midfield batle will be fantastic among Haas, Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso.
Unfortunatelly there are limitations to TV cameras captions.
NASCAR already releases complete YouTube broadcasts one week later the race.
What's the problem to release in-car cameras [front/rear] for every car?
Sometimes the best driver of the day is not the one cruising for victory in a dominant car.

144

Apologies, I take it back:
as you suggested they are doing, NASCAR have managed to put the Atlanta races up on YouTube on the weekend following, an improvement of two-or-three days on the last two seasons, but it's still too late to wait for.

Excuse the double-negative, but, I can't not read Jenna Fryer all week consecutively for 9 months every year just to avoid catching race results in advance of seeing the race replay!

145

More like a week-and-a-half with Nascar, [way too long when it's easy to find any number of "unauthorized" editions within a day-or-few] which is rather poor considering when they began putting up races whole, in the second half of 2014, it was typically on the Tuesday after the race!

...which has nearly-nothing to do with putting up race-long car-cam editions meantime, so, yeah, if it doesn't somehow conflict with prior broadcast contracts, don't see why FOM, the teams, or whoever couldn't put up commentaryless car-cam editions of F1 races within hours, as soon as they dared if they were so inclined... but for how many drivers' car-cams might there truly be such a demand worth meeting anyway?

146
Racing driver 1

Mclarens a flipping joke. If I was one of their drivers I would be looking for the door, even to to go to Sauber. Sauber's prospects look better on a much smaller budget.
I suppose it's not really Mclarens fault, it's that engine provider they have who are stuck in a loop. Pull your thumb out Honda. When the turbo hybrid era started, Renault and Honda where in a similar boat. And for some reason Renault have been able to improve somewhat, whereas Honda can't. Honda need to take some action to get this sorted.

147

I love the article; thank you!
At the time of my reading/writing, the morning of the first day, second test is completed.
I have only the minimum reservation that RB will be there, and/or have a very durable path to getting to competitiveness by the Spanish GP.
All indications suggest that Renault HAS made that step, but are wisely being brutally disciplined in bring the engine in, strictly according to there in-season introduction testing; that engine will be turned down for the first phase of the season, then presumably turned up, at its first increment, at Spain (probably).
In the meantime, it forces RB to be completely on it for their aero, so they can keep it close across the first fly-aways.
With Ferrari pounding out the miles, using a conceptual design that would be difficult to get to in-season, very, very nicely on the tires.
Will Ferrari be able to get on the tires quickly enough in qualifying to challenge over a single lap?
That is the question, for it looks as if track position will be even more important than last year!
But Merc just keeps bringing the very significant aero revisions!

I look at the leading edge of the floor, and a see a second wing.
Development pace was expected to be intense, but this area is like a much more stable second wing element, behind the front wing, a mid-wing, with all of the advantages of structural stability that is impossible for the front wing.
How far along in Merc in this development?!

I have to say that I was really hoping to se McLaren get in on the action this year; but at this stage, it seems so unlikely that they will amount to anything this year; aweful! (to indicate "awefully sad).

148

My money is on Button driving the Tango van by Bahrain 🙂

149

I think you're on to something...and Tango Van makes it sound like a food truck!

150

How much input did James Allison have to the Ferrari design?

151

At the outset of the concept design yes and development up to July.

152

Off topic, James, can you please verify this information found on another F-1 website yesterday morning? Given that they finished eighth in the Constructor’s ranking, it really puts a bad rap on the “distribution” of F-1 team funding. Here, in part, is what was written:

“The Haas team is set for its second year in Formula One, having joined the grid in 2016. Haas had to put down a $20 million bond to enter the sport and his team received no FOM money for its first season. . .”

To cut a team out which spent the money, met the requirements and performed above their weight while scoring the points - it is unjustifiable. This is disturbing ‘new’ information and certainly adds to the heap of what other teams have been publicly concerned about.

153

As harsh as it seems, no entrant earns anything from the first year. These are the few contractual bits that we do know.

I am sure Haas were well aware of this prior to entry.

I agree with you however, it's unpleasant but has been the case for a long time.

154

Thanks, 'D,' appreciate the confirmation - it goes without saying that Haas would have known. Perhaps RB will eventually help address the issue.

155

Mercedes really made an uninspiring choice for Rosberg's replacement...the difference between Hamilton and Rosberg used to be less than a tenth I doubt bottas will be within that margin. Also Its kind of a tough situation for him, he really doesn't have much time to dial in and beat hamilton who will be outright favorite this season. Pretty thankless situation. I wish Merc had signed up Alonso then we all would be gearing up for a blockbuster season now we have a possibility of hamilton getting 15 win a season, its pretty bad for the sport.

156
Clarks4WheelDrift

Agree, just how cool would the upcoming F1 season be if it was Lewis v Fernando head to head. It wouldn't matter whether the Merc was yet again farcically dominant.

Merc could have given us a legendary season instead of a sandbagging single driver whitewash worse than the past dire three years.

To assume it would go the same way as 2007 is to assume wrong. For a start there is no Ron or mistakes that would mean the entire corporation would be against one of the drivers in the 2nd half of the season, both drivers now have equal respect for each other, and most importantly both have matured and learned a lot in the 10 years since 07.

Pity...

157

what a disaster for McLaren, Alonso and F1 if things are going to be as bad as last year. There is something seriously wrong with the sport when things are so complicated that big budget teams like this can't compete. This is auto-racing, not rocket science although they have turned it into rocket science with these insanely complicated engines. I have always said the hybrid may be good public policy but it doesn't do anything for the spectacle of F1.

158

The Austrian Red Bull team look solid, but not spectacular.

159

All I can say is I'm looking forward to Australia, let's race.

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