Day three of pre-season testing largely followed the pattern set on day two, as numerous trends are beginning to emerge.
Mercedes were once again hounded by the speed shown by Ferrari, who continue to show promise. Red Bull was best of the rest on the admittedly academic time-sheet but faced a day partially truncated by reliability questions. Daniel Ricciardo is seemingly unfazed. Lance Stroll continued to learn just how difficult F1 in 2017 is.
Here are FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED on day three of pre-season testing…
Not a Stroll in the park
Lance Stroll has endured a baptism of fire so far. A spin yesterday and subsequent front wing damage meant that his first day of running at an official test was heavily truncated. Stroll could have done with a smooth session today in order to cement some confidence as his debut race approaches.
Today was unquestionably an improvement on yesterday in the fact that the Canadian clocked 98 laps for Williams. However, two spins served to blot his copybook and with the latter of the excursions ending with his FW40 firmly planted in the unforgiving barriers, Stroll would do well to avoid social media tonight.
In reality, it’s hardly surprising that he has had a tough first two days. Lewis Hamilton has been rather quick to defend the rookie, highlighting that this is “the toughest year to come in to Formula 1. It’s not an easy car to drive at all. It’s so much faster through the corners. Precision is even more important than in the past – last year’s car is easy compared to this year’s car.”
It would be easy for Stroll to cruise around the circuit in order to avoid incidents and the subsequent negative headlines. At least he is testing the limits of his and the car’s abilities before qualifying at Melbourne, where a clumsy mistake in Q1 would receive far more coverage and prove far more costly.
McLaren-Honda CAN do reliability
If we described McLaren’s start to 2017 pre-season testing as a “stuttering” one, we would be being hugely generous. The Woking squad have been severely hampered by numerous powerunit ailments thus far, but today at least provided some relief.
Fernando Alonso managed to rack up a comparatively impressive 72 laps, demonstrating the type of reliability not seen from the MCL32 since McLaren’s successful filming day on Sunday.
Given that his fastest time of a 1:22.598 came on the ultrasoft tyre, it is evident that the team have work to do where speed is concerned. However, setup work can only come once reliability is established. After all, it is irrelevant how fast your car is if you are unable to complete a race distance without a breakdown.
Red Bull don’t need as many laps as rivals?
Where does Red Bull sit in the 2017 pecking order? With so much expectation heading into the season, it is curious to see the team consistently languishing behind Mercedes and Ferrari on the timesheet and keeping themselves busy by having to work around an unreliable RB13.
Today, Daniel Ricciardo’s running was limited by an investigation into an exhaust issue. 70 laps proved to be the maximum on offer and despite the likes of Ferrari and Vettel managing a herculean 139, Ricciardo seems pleased with the day’s work.
Perhaps Red Bull’s winter programme simply demands less mileage from their new car, hence their technical issues provide less of a headache than we would assume. Ricciardo, at least, seems unperturbed by what appears to have been a tricky start to testing.
However, when you consider the predicament Red Bull found themselves in back in the winter of 2014, this year has been a walk in the park thus far.
Renault need to rethink rear wing design
After the team were forced to run what was largely a tweaked 2015 specification car in 2016, Renault have been afforded resources to get creative ahead of 2017. The RS17 is a product of that creativity and has arrived at the circuit with some interesting elements.
The FIA have taken particular interest in the rear wing design, deeming a central support pillar to be illegal today. Following protests from rivals, the governing body has decided that the pillar, which attaches directly to the DRS actuator pod, contravenes the technical regulations and as such, Renault will be forced to rethink the design.
The first and most probably not the last piece of technical ingenuity to be outlawed by the stewards.
Vettel loves the new cars
Ferrari were once again headline makers for the third day running. Sebastian Vettel picked up where his teammate Kimi Raikkonen had left off on day two, racking up substantial mileage and posting times which look decidedly threatening to those in silver.
Vettel’s 1:19.952 becomes even more impressive when it’s noted that this time was completed on the soft compound tyres. Sure, Vettel’s headline time was posted during a four-lap run, so it is fair to assume that the Scuderia were running light on fuel, but it’s still an impressive feat. Optimism is building among the Ferrari faithful.
Meanwhile, Vettel has unmistakably added his name to the list of drivers who love the new regulations today. “Braking is better, cornering is better, you’ve got more grip,” the German stated. “Then in low-speed corners when arguably the downforce effect is less big, you have more grip from the tyres.
“It works pretty much like an aspirin, it fixes pretty much everything. It’s difficult to compare [to 2016], it’s a different animal, different beast.”