Who are the top trumps and top duds after the pre-season testing in Spain? Here’s a closer look.
The Formula One pre-season tests are over and the teams are packing their bags and checking their passports for visas to Australia for the first race of the 2018 season. However, before we head to the land down under, let’s dissect what we realized from the two (or should I say, one and half?) weeks of pre-season test is that took place at not-so-sunny Circuit de Catalyuna-Barcelona.
1. Things are going to be quite close at the sharp end of the field
Though it’s difficult to say which teams was the fastest during pre-season tests given the fact that not much is known about fuel loads and engine modes as well as about who’s sandbagging **cough-Mercedes-cough** and who’s not; you can still have a rough estimation of which teams are closely matched. And the current scenario suggests that it’s going to be a tough battle between Mercedes, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari. In fact, some pundits even suggest that Red Bull Racing is better than Ferrari and perhaps, even Mercedes. In either case, it might not to be a walk in the park for Mercedes the way they’ve done since the start of the V6 era.
2. It’s not looking too good for McLaren but it’s not looking too bad either
McLaren might not have had a trouble-free run during the tests but if you look closely, things are better in the McLaren-Renault camp than they ever were in the McLaren-Honda marriage. In fact, some reports suggest that already the two giants are working closer than McLaren and Honda ever did during their three year association. Alonso also posted the third fastest time during the second week of pre-season test. Don’t be surprised if the Spaniard scores a few podium during the course of the season lest his Renault engine emulates a Honda circa 2017.
3. But it’s looking even better for Toro Rosso
Toro Rosso and Honda have hit it off like a house on fire. The Faenza-based team’s flawless run in Spain made the McLaren-Honda’s engine issues of last three years look like baseless rumors in a tabloid magazine.
4. Renault has a spring in the stride
Renault has everything going for them – a kick-ass looking car, a greatly responsive engine and the second best non-champion driver pairing on the grid after Red Bull Racing. I’d be surprised if the pair of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg doesn’t notch up a podium or four. About time!
5. Force India has reasons to worry
I’ll be surprised if the team manages to hold on to their P4 place in the championship by the time we’re done with Abu Dhabi. In fact, even a top five finish looks difficult. By Sergio Perez’s own admission the team is no longer the fastest in the mid-field and if the tests are anything to go by, Force India has some catching up to do. With McLaren and Renault (along with the big three) expected to finish higher up than the Indian team, Bob Fernley needs to pull one out of the hat this time.