F1 Winter Break
Sebastian Vettel sandbags his way to fastest time of 2017 F1 testing so far
Scuderia Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  09 Mar 2017   |  6:18 pm GMT  |  91 comments

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time seen so far in 2017 Formula 1 pre-sesason testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but was clearly keeping some time in reserve.

The German driver, who will hand over to his teammate Kimi Raikkonen for the final day of winter testing tomorrow, set a best lap of 1m19.024s, which is 0.286 quicker than the time Valtteri Bottas set yesterday to score the previous best time of testing for Mercedes.

Vettel’s time was set on Pirelli’s ultra-soft tyre shortly before the lunch break, but the four times world champion clearly, and audibly, backed off at the final corner, which suggests he could have gone even quicker. Earlier in the morning, he set a 1m19.314s on the soft compound tyre, while also backing off on the main straight. Vettel’s sandbagging at the final corner was confirmed by acoustic measurements carried out by a rival team.

Sebastian Vettel

Lifting at the final corner on his ultra-soft lap cost Vettel 0.3s in the final sector compared to his best time through that section of the track, which was set during his soft tyre running, so he could have gone at least half a second faster overall.

Ferrari has enjoyed a promising pre-season campaign this year, which earlier this week led Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to declare that the Scuderia was 2017’s favourite for the world championship.

But at a crowded media call during the lunch break attended by JA on F1 today, Vettel rejected that suggestion and insisted that Mercedes was still at the head of the pack.

Sebastian Vettel

He said: “The car is much better than last year because the nature of the formula has changed, and so far things are making sense, but it’s still early days.

“If you look at the amount of laps Mercedes has done, if you look historically how slow they go in the testing, how much they were able to ramp it up for the races, it’s clear they’re very fast if you look at their long-run pace. They’re the ones to beat.

“For us it doesn’t really matter where exactly we are now, we are growing, we need to work hard, and we know that we have to improve.”

In the afternoon running, most of the teams focused on long runs, and it was Vettel who ended the day with the most laps on 156.

Lewis Hamilton

Behind him, Hamilton, who drove for Mercedes in the morning before handing over to Bottas for the afternoon, also set his best time close to the lunch break. The British driver had topped the early running and bolted on his own set of ultra-softs shortly after Vettel.

When asked what he thought of Vettel’s times and antics at the final corner, Hamilton stated that he believes Ferrari was “bluffing” by hiding its true pace.

He said: ”I think Ferrari are bluffing and that they are a lot quicker than they are showing. They’re very close to us. It’s difficult right now to say exactly who is quicker.

“But they are very close, if not faster. Whatever the case, I can’t wait to go out and compete. Just a couple more weeks to go.”

But the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne expiring at Turn 10 compromised Hamilton’s final lap – although he was still able to set the day’s second best time with a 1m19.352s that was 0.328s slower than Vettel – just before the red flags came out to recover the stricken MCL32.

Esteban Ocon set the third fastest time for Force India during a late morning run on the ultra-softs, which was 1.137s slower than Vettel’s best effort. Daniil Kvyat was fourth for Toro Rosso as the Russian driver completed 94 laps despite causing a red flag around 90 minutes after lunch when his STR12 stopped at Turn 5.

Kevin Magnussen

Kevin Magnussen ended up fifth for Haas F1 after shaving 0.3s off his morning’s best time during an afternoon outing on the ultra-softs. Daniel Ricciardo finished in sixth for Red Bull, 1.800s adrift of Vettel on the soft tyres.

Vandoorne set McLaren’s best time of testing so far with a 1m23.348s on the ultra-softs during the morning session, which came before he caused a red flag by stopping at the end of the pit straight a short while before his issue at Turn 10 in front of Hamilton.

The Belgian driver did eventually reappear for the final two hours of the day after McLaren worked to fix an electrical issue, but he only added a further 15 laps to his morning total of 33.

 Stoffel Vandoorne

Bottas was eighth fastest for Mercedes after concentrating on long runs in the afternoon, ahead of Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, who lost time due to an engine change during the middle of the day – which meant Nico Hulkenberg did not drive the RS17 today as planned.

Marcus Ericsson was 11th fastest, and Williams brought up the rear of the field with Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, as the pair shared the day at the wheel at the FW40. Both also concentrated on long runs and racked up 165 laps between them.

Barcelona test two, day three, results:

1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m19.024s, 156 laps (ultra-soft)
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m19.352s +0.328s, 52 laps (ultra-soft)
3 Esteban Ocon Force India 1m20.161s +1.137s, 137 laps (ultra-soft)
4 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1m20.416s +1.392s, 94 laps (super-soft)
5 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 1m20.504s +1.480s, 119 laps (ultra-soft)
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1m20.824s +1.800s, 128 laps (soft)
7 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1m21.348s +2.324s, 48 laps (ultra-soft)
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m22.038s +3.014s, 95 laps (soft)
9 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1m22.347s +3.323s, 44 laps (ultra-soft)
10 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m22.418s +3.394s, 53 laps (soft)
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1m23.330s +4.306s, 88 laps (soft)
12 Felipe Massa Williams 1m24.443s +5.419s, 80 laps (medium)
13 Lance Stroll Williams 1m24.863s +5.839s, 85 laps (soft)

What do you make of Thursday’s testing times and Vettel’s comments? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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Did Ferrari ask for clarification on its own suspension instead of the complaint about the suspension of Mercedes and Red Bull which everyone assumed? Seems their car runs on rails suddenly if I read the trackside reports.


The answer to this impossible question is yes.

Ferrari has something in plain sight that no other team considered. Their cooling is above the suspension. MB & TR went to the trouble of raising the suspension instead. The other teams have done nothing really.

I think Ferrari has something here because you sure can't raise the front tyres. They sure seem to have the best chassis.

Race don't lie and we will know soon.


You've just stated an impossible question


Apart from Vettel's comments regards the pecking order, Brundle had a chat with paddock insiders and they told him Mercedes has the slight edge in terms of performance because right behind them is Ferrari then Red Bull.

After the top three then comes Williams which is slower than the top teams but faster than the midfield

Then the paddock insiders told Brundle that that midfield is pretty strong with lots of teams close together

Of course all this means that Mclaren maybe the backmarker in 2017 because Manor is no longer on the grid.

Overall, the insiders are of the view that 2017 will be mighty close both at the front and the midfield, however, the only question mark or fear they have is whether the cars will be able to follow each other closely.


Brundle talks to "insiders" yes, but what he reports is what he has to report so that Mercedes, Scratch that, Hamilton fans dont get irritated with a random guess by SKY. In two weeks time miracles might happen and Mercedes may figure out what is holding them back, and then the Brundle can take credit for having "said so".

I hope even Redbull join the party to make it an exciting three way battle by australia. Shorter braking distance, more aero wake, im sure that excites junior MAX even more.

For the moment though I'll stick to only hard facts regardless of who sand bagged how much, At the end of the day, Its Ferrari fastest, Mercedes Second, Red Bull Third.


Ferrari did the same thing last year! They ran light fuel in testing and when the season came along, well! We all know what happened!
PS Merc is sandbagging and everybody knows it!


@ Nomad

Most definitely Red Bull will be joining the party but the team don't think right away but rather during the course of the season with development


Yeah, more aero and drivers already warning about overtaking, so will the cars be able to follow each other closely is a massive thing.

That and the tyres look invincible, Lewis doing loads of laps on Ultra Softs?!? Cars being able to complete race distances on super softs!?! All adding up to single stops for everyone at every race, combined with similar tyre deg for everyone at the same time!

Doesn't sound good to me. First teammate gets the undercut, game over.

Are we about to witness a year where DRS becomes a good thing!


@ Clarks4WheelDrift

Hmm... DRS has always been a good thing because Trulli trains were frustrating


No these cars generate plenty of wake. Following close I don't think so.


@ jdr

That will be a shame then


"Mercedes has the slight edge in terms of performance because right behind them is Ferrari then Red Bull."

this is a perfect circular argument


How so? It's just the opinion of those that Brundle talked to in the paddock.


not sure who you are asking. I am just pointing out the logic of the statement:
A is faster because B and C are slower


Then the issue is just with the way goferet wrote it. It wasn't a statement, just relaying what Brundle had heard from others in the paddock.


@ wayne

Oh yes, life and F1 are pretty complex


We seem to be back in business ladies and gents.

3 seconds under 2016 pole time already. (Assume that was set on Ultra softs).

Lets assume they'll get another half a second under if they are really pushing it.

And with another two months of development due before the 2017 race a very conservative estimate has to be at least 4 seconds under.

Also I heard that someone did a 20 lap run on the Ultra Softs and there wasn't very much degregation.

For the first time in quite a few years we might actually be able to see some proper F1 racing.

Ferrari look good too - lets just hope Merc aren't running 2 seconds under their true pace!

Fast cars plus a Vettel Vs Ham battle to boot? That's what I'm taking about!

I mean the 2018 times are really going to be something!


Soft, Medium, Hard to be used again here this year. We'll get apples to apples comparison.


Not really. The tires are not the same as last year ... they're harder throughout the range. I'm surprised they're bringing the Hard to Spain, seeing as hardly anyone used it in testing, and everyone was able to do decent long runs with just the Softs and Mediums.


Indeed. Just because they are qualidied with same word doesn't make them same. But the harder formulation a function of larger contact patch size and thus friction and heat buildup?


1:22.000 Lewis 2016 Spanish Grand Prix pole time was set on SOFT tires. 2016 Spanish Grand Prix tire choices were Hard, Medium, Soft.

I told you, all the gains so far appear to be tires. Wider and softer for these times. And Pirelli is likely to give everyone softer tires, so that they will be setting faster times thanks to those softer tires. They would do so in 2016 as well.

The aero, what it picks up in turns, it loses in drag on straights. FYI - Massa was testing some rubber here in April of 2008 and set 1:18.339 in his V8 KERS-less Ferrari.


Give it a rest Sebee, Vettel was setting low 1:19's on Soft tyres despite coasting out of the last corner towards the finish line. Long run pace is around 5 seconds faster than last year - exactly what we were promised.
Massa's 2008 testing time is barely relevant because the car was illegal.


So Vettel's Soft tire in 2017 was the same size, width and contact patch as the 2016 LH pole Soft tire?

The speed gains are all tires for 2017. Aero gains in turns are offset by loses due to drag down the straight.


If you mean "proper F1 racing" = no overtakes then yes


I like that Vettel is staying so grounded and that he does have PR skills when he wants to use them. Would I like to see Ferrari kick butt? You bet but I am not confident it will happen until I see it on the track consistently.


So thats why Kimi was collecting sand yesterday.


They used Kimi to collect the sand for today


The true sandbagging will be evident in Melbourne when Mercedes flips the switch.


If Merc really are sandbagging then we're going to be in for some serious times.


There is potential for some good times if Pirelli give the teams the soft tires. I bet you super soft will be available everywhere, and ultra soft for at least 1/2 the races. After all, if most GPs will be 1 stop, than why not?


They all lift before timing and scoring. I thought Ferrari might be fast when I first saw their car.


'Sandbagging' = 'Fake News'?
'made a mistake' = 'clearly backed-off'
In journalistic parlance?


Must be the Trumpification of F1. Still desperate to crack America 😉


Really? And you know he made a mistake how? All the credible sources like Autosport reported no mistake but a definite lift on the straight. And then you come along. Who's the fake here?


Hamilton vs Vettel - 2017 could have been mesmerizing...
Don't mind if Daniel and Max steal the show from time to time))


I'd not write off the Finns if I were you


The finns are basically going to be fin(n)ished by the end of the season 😉


Finns ain't what they used to be...


The shark Fins? 😀


I would


I'd be willing to put some money on Kimi beating Seb this year.


well said Alex. never write off a Finn!


So if Seb hadn't backed off in the final corner he would have been well into the 1m18 range? These cars are crazy quick!
Is there anything to these fake side pod stories about the Ferrari?


Early days yet, but where are all the loud mouths that were predicting Ferrari to fall apart post Alison?? Listening to you lot, I was expecting a train wreck "with Marchionne gutting the team, leaving it the hands of those hapless Italian engineers, blah-blah-bah"... Some of the geniuses with CFD eyes also said with utmost certainty that the car was a dog when it was unveiled.... Hmmmmmm....

You know who you are, and you've been awfully quiet these last weeks...... 😉


I hope Ferrari do well and it is looking promising. I still believe Ferrari made a monumental error letting James Allison go - we must remember the design of this car began over a year ago and would have been heavily influenced by him hence it seeming to be rather good. But with the rapid rate of development foreseen this year, I believe Ferrari will slowly go backwards without him - or another person of his calibre which I don't think they have - but I will happily be wrong on this!


true funny comment!


Many people predicted Ferrari would fall apart after losing Allison because many people who are employed in F1 circles recognize that Allison is good, and felt it was incredibly unfortunate for Ferrari to lose him.

And for all we know, he in fact did break their cycle of not focusing on the future. Did he teach them the way before leaving? Did they figure it out on their own? Will they continue without him?

You are right with your first statement; still early days.


No one is questioning the Allisons work and that it was a tremendous loss to Ferrari that he left.

However there are positive signs that Ferrari are not the basket case that many pundits were expecting. We'll only have the definitive answer in December, but at least Ferrari fans can approach the season with slightly less trepidation.


Early days indeed. However, what about when the racing comes down to strategy calls? Ferrari didn't exactly shine there last year.


On the plus side, they seem to have put together a much more effective test program this year, so maybe that points to a better outlook on the strategy front...


No doubt. I didn't say that Ferrari are going to be winning races. In my opinion Ferrari's main weaknesses last year were the strategy calls and the slower rate of in-season development than its rivals. Those questions are not going to be answered in testing. It may only be mid-season before we have a real gauge on those issues.

I'm just pointing out that the predictions of a Ferrari implosion, as a consequence of the changes Marchionne made, may have been a little wide of the mark...


I agree, Ferrari need to more aggressive and pro active with their pit stops, they have been too worried about what everyone else is doing and matching/negating, get on the front foot.


Virtually all the experts said that too. They're no better than football pundits.


Not so fast, let's wait and see... still don't believe Ferrari is potentially the top dog.


Indeed. My comment was tongue-in-cheek. Whilst the Ferrari is probably slightly behind the Merc, it certainly isn't the dog that many were predicting.


Lauda has mentioned Bottas is already within 2 tenths of Hamilton in a qualifying run, that is pretty impressive if you ask me. Just wait until he gets comfortable with the car.


Why is it alright to expect Bottas to "catch up" with Hamilton? Shouldnt he be expected to be at par since its a level playing field - the cars are a new generation of aero plus on Huge new tyres, so same for Ham and Bot, Yes the engine is still the previous generation but both of them used Merc engines last year. So i guess it all comes down to his communication skills improving with time with his New Engineer. Hmm I answered my own question :/


Ha ha ha,and you think Hamilton shows his real pace during testing or practice. I would imagine bottas has similar speed as Rosberg,but will he be as tenaciously technically good as Rosberg? In F1 today, technical ability also equals pace. If lLewis had not stepped it up in the technical area when he arrived at mercedes,he would have found it difficult to be keeping Rosberg behind as he regularly did.Simply put,intelligence also equals pace.So how intelligent, diligent, and tenacious is Bottas.We await to see.


Its a new car, new regs. Maybe Lewis is yet to comfortable with the car? Maybe Bottas, if he is so good, is already comfortable with the car?


Let's see, it is still a guy that could hardly blow away an older, post accident Massa!


Seb is right, Mercedes have shown to be experts of sandbagging all year in 2016 and 2015. I wont be suprised if Mercedes will qualify exactly half a second ahead of the Ferraris, purely because their sandbag department is able to know exactly how much is needed to beat the opposition, and still have Wolff and Lauda wail:""Oh! Its so close! They have closed the ga for sure now!" That said, and expecting 19 mercedes wins again in 2017 to finally chase away the last remaining F1 fans, I sure hope Ferrari did make it and is a capable challenger.

Far more disastrous is Hondas failure. 3 years and counting. Any prospect of new manufacturers coming to F1 must now be forgotten. This V6 turbo era is truly horendous.


Honda, Honda Honda, they make really good cars for the people, but its really effecting my mind now - thier on track performance- to a point where I do not want to buy a honda for my new car this year. Even though thier road cars are awesome and one of thier models is on top of my shortlist.

I was hoping they would be battling at the top this year, but after watching testing, its royally messed up. We are F1 fans after all, and even if you make good road cars, I would like to watch the brand I buy, not go boom race after race every alternate week.


that merc is a rocketship...totally agree with you on wolff and lauda keep repeating the company speak...they've been toying with the competition past three years...the rules have kind of frozen their advantage..the token system was a stupid idea


"their Sandbag Department"

Hilarious, that had me laughing out loud, but wouldn't it be funny (and I wouldn't be too surprised) if this dept really existed at Merc


Merc to do a 1.17 something tomorrow?


lets see a 1.18 first. small steps, small steps. Marc


For what purpose? Maybe a good time on the softs ... Ferrari has gone really well on the softs this pre-season.


Not gonna happen, that will kill the new champ joy. But the second may be there.

Fulveo Ballabeo

It's as if all the drivers, team managers, etc. read from the same tired playbook...

"The favorite has got to be {insert any name here but mine}"


Yeah, sandbag on track and pretend it's too close to call...again.

They should give a single championship point to the fastest driver on the last day of the test with everyone having to run. That'd sort out the tired playbook...


Previously Mercedes sandbagged by simply dialling down the total horsepower, which results in it being difficult to detect, especially the total time effect. This gave them some early season power train issues last year. Issues that plainly didn't show up in the thousands of hours of dyno running they undertake. Nothing truly simulates real racing on real tracks in close proximaty to other cars with drivers that are really pushing the limits.

In comparison Ferrari and RedBull sandbag their lap times by selectively holding back in braking and cornering at preselected places around the circuit. This is easier to detect if they hold back in different sectors by simply picking their fastest times from each sector and adding them up. Backing off in the last corner is common as the dash and telemetry can show a predicted lap time, which in Vettel's case was obviously faster than Ferrari wanted to show.

Top speed deficiencies show up the Mercedes method and if I recall correctly other Mercedes engined teams, particularly Williams last year, were noticeably faster tham Mercedes themselves. I've not noticed the same this year which may mean Mercedes are not limiting their engine power as much as previously or they're all doing it.

Pre season tests are all about working through the full testing program whilst not revealing too much of the car's true performance. Which seems a little strange given that all teams must surely be working as hard as they possibly can to make their cars faster, this is F1 after all. To be honest if I had a car capable of smashing the opposition then I'd start the demoralisation process in the pre season testing. Wipe out any hope that they might be carrying straight up,


I think two driver comments sum up the situation:
Valtteri Bottas, "very difficult to say".
Sebastian Vettel, "... we need to work hard, and we know that we have to improve.”


Ferrari are looking good, but we haven't seen Merc open it up yet imo. Melbourne can't come quick enough!🏎🏎🏁


Yesterday I said Vettel was sandbagging, but after I read that Kimi crashed bcs of a tire cut I changed my mind.
Pirelli informed Ferrari that the suspension arms {brake ducts?} were cutting the - inside - tire wall.
So maybe Vettel had to slow down at the chicane to avoid tire flex and, as a consequence, the arm rubbing the tire wall.
Just saying.


I'm trying not to get too excited about the times in the testing - we all know what happened last year, don't we? If Merc continues to have such domination it will be a walk in the park Lewis - I don't really see Bottas challenging Lewis atleast during the first half & then he will be under such pressure because, people like Alonso & Seb are still not signed for 2018!

however, if it does turn out to be a close season, we will be in for a treat - that will make things easy for Bottas as well because Lewis will not be having time to play games with him 🙂 then, people like Max, Ricci will be eyeing the seat opening up in Ferrari - why do I feel its going to be Ricci vs Seb season 2 in 2018? I think its time to calm down.......


Is it finally time for Ferrari fans like myself to hope for a title challenge?! Please let it be so! After so many years of false hope, I'm going to reserve judgement till the flyaways are completed but my word those Ferraris look beautifully pinned to the track and some serious grunt on the straights! Bring on Melbourne! Finally Kimi and Seb may have a car worthy of their talent. It's time for the Prancing Horse to return to the top where it belongs! Forza Ferrari!


Has the RB complaint about Mercedes allegedly using oil fumes to boost their engine died the death or are the FIA still looking into it?

I'm not looking forward to the first GP being ruined by a series of accusations of rule bending. The FIA need to clear the oil and front suspension questions as soon as possible.


Red Bull haven't shown anything at all in testing.. they are either sandbagging by degrees more than anyone, or the car is not that great and they are well off the pace. My guess is somewhere in between.


It's fun to speculate but when the lights go out the [Mod] stops and it's really only then that we'll see who has been selling us the 'alternate facts'. What might deny us real racing is that if the cars are harder to pass than ever before then the starts could be the decider. The new rules re start procedures is where it could all come unstuck for some.


Hamilton demonstrated last year that as long as you have the pace to resist a DRS attack on the straights you can run most races at any pace you want from the front. Given this and the general belief that following close is going to be problematic this year, could Ferrari have actually made a decent strategy call for once and consentrated their efforts on building a qualifying car?
That strategy should see them actually win some races even if the Merc has better race pace.


I reckon the Mercs have another second over the field so what HAM is saying about Ferrari being the favourites is a lie.



Same old boring tune. Blah blah blah oh the hype... and then one team will run away with it. Apparently Renault engine must be lagging behind also, if Ferrari and Mercedes are so far ahead when Red Bull arguably had the best chassis last year and with Newey. Honda are just a joke.. so we've got two manufacturers still left in the dust and F1 does nothing to level the playing field. My prediction is Mercedes will run away with it... comfortably.


I think top three team is sandbagging what amaze is that Ferrari Boss gave a interview saying We wants to be unbeatable team like schumacher day is it too much pressure or is it good motivation for team.Also is it Seb trying to proof because last year he got some blame not driving good and their is lot of talk about their side pot some are saying its not regal . are they regal.


After a not so good day on Wednesday, it was nice to see Ferrari run many laps yesterday. We can say that they are fairly fast, but still need Mercedes to unleashed they drivers to get a better sense of where both teams stand with regards to each other.
Hope James on F1 will do a piece on the race simulations done by various teams, for us lesser knowledgeable fox to get a better image of where things stand before Melbourne.
Ocon again impressed and Stroll was able to put in some serious running even if he finished at the bottom of the lap time table.
Pity the last red flag came when it did, as maybe Lewis would have shown a bit more. McLaren is as sad a story as one would not want to witness. Lets hope they improve greatly over the next few months.
Don't know what to make of Renault and Red Bull so far. Lets hope for more answers today. Marc


Encouraging signs for Ferrari but let's see if they've bridged the gap to Mercedes in Melbourne for the first GP & then China once in race trim to obtain a clearer idea of where they are at really. I really hope they can challenge for race wins & championships.

Am wondering why don't McLaren just build their own F1 engines seeing they already build their own road cars instead of partnering up with someone like Honda who is making them look ridiculous year on year? Surely, they can set up an their own F1 engine department to build their own & bring on board the people necessary for such a project. If they planned & started this project years ago, by now they'd be more competitive. This partnership is clearly not working so best to scrap it asap & start afresh with a plan to build their own engines. Honda's quality assurance on their engines seem to be non-existent. Terrible quality.


Why sandbag when an acoustic engineer can tell us they hid 0.3?

Whatever the score is, I pray we have a close fight, as a F1 fan and a Lewis fan.


Who misses the V10 era when we are seeing lap times in the 1,18's with these PUs during testing? This season is going to be awesome. Melbourne, here I come!


Clearly, Ferrari will be faster than Mercedes this season, unless Mercedes will be faster than Scuderia


Yes. And Kimi will take the title this year unless someone else will.


Räikkönen just clocked 1.18,634 with supersofts. I wonder if there is some sand left.. in his shoes or pants maybe.


Clearly there is no sand at all. Some ice or snow however is possible

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