The tale of the tape, as they say, is really down to Autosport’s aggregation of the complete winter season and as sums show, Mercedes is still on top even though Ferrari set the fastest lap.
Pos Driver Car Time Gap Tyres 1. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m18.634s SS 2. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m19.024s +0.390s US 3. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m19.310s +0.676s SS 4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m19.352s +0.718s US 5. Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m19.420s +0.786s US 6. Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m19.438s +0.804s SS 7. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso-Renault 1m19.837s +1.203s US 8. Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m19.885s +1.251s US 9. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m19.900s +1.266s US 10. Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m20.116s +1.482s US 11. Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m20.161s +1.527s US 12. Jolyon Palmer Renault 1m20.205s +1.571s US 13. Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m20.335s +1.701s S 14. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault 1m20.416s +1.782s SS 15. Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m20.504s +1.870s US 16. Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m21.110s +2.476s US 17. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda 1m21.348s +2.714s US 18. Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1m21.389s +2.755s US 19. Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m21.670s +3.036s US 20. Pascal Wehrlein Sauber-Ferrari 1m22.347s +3.713s US 21. Antonio Giovinazzi Sauber-Ferrari 1m22.401s +3.767s US 22. Alfonso Celis Jr Force India-Mercedes 1m23.567s +4.933s US
There is nothing wrong with searching for lap times and sector times during testing and while fans are quick to say that you can’t tell anything from these, I think you can and I know team engineers can because they know the range of programs other teams run and can make guesses as to the strength of each team’s car by watching it. It’s not definitive but it’s a ballpark assumption.
Even though you can’t find definitive proof of a team’s real pace as sandbagging comes into play, you can make one very strong and definite case for mileage and reliability and that’s half the battle in Formula 1. In this case, Mercedes is the clear leader.
Pos Driver Miles 1. Valtteri Bottas 1816 2. Sebastian Vettel 1709 3. Lewis Hamilton 1354 4. Marcus Ericsson 1287 5. Felipe Massa 1197 6. Lance Stroll 1117 7. Kevin Magnussen 1068 8. Kimi Raikkonen 1056 9. Esteban Ocon 1056 10. Sergio Perez 1010 11. Max Verstappen 1004 12. Romain Grosjean 1001 13. Daniel Ricciardo 975 14. Nico Hulkenberg 908 15. Carlos Sainz Jr 888 16. Jolyon Palmer 818 17. Daniil Kvyat 801 18. Stoffel Vandoorne 680 19. Pascal Wehrlein 556 20. Fernando Alonso 549 21. Antonio Giovinazzi 437 22. Alfonso Celis Jr 206 Total testing mileage by team: 1. Mercedes 3170 2. Ferrari 2765 3. Williams 2314 4. Sauber 2279 5. Force India 2270 6. Haas 2068 7. Red Bull 1978 8. Renault 1727 9. Toro Rosso 1690 10. McLaren 1229 Total testing mileage by engine: 1. Mercedes 7755 2. Ferrari 7113 3. Renault 5395 4. Honda 1229
Certainly Valtteri Bottas has become a real trooper in setting the most mileage of any driver and he’s done so in very smart fashion. Looking poised and in control for most sessions, Bottas has already endeared himself to the team by a solid testing performance for sure. That’s not to say Lewis Hamilton hasn’t, quite the opposite, but Lewis is a veteran at the team and the eyes of scrutiny were not on him quite like they were Bottas.
Is it all doom and gloom for everyone else on the grid? Not so fast. Ferrari pounded out serious mileage on par with Mercedes and also set the fastest lap and that tells us a couple of things. First, Ferrari seem to be reliable and the odds of them finishing races is good. Second, they also seem to have competitive pace depending on how much Mercedes were sandbagging. In all, Ferrari look reliably competitive and that’s good news for the Italians.
Two teams that bear mentioning here are Williams F1 and Sauber who also put in serious mileage on their Mercedes and Ferrari power units respectively. That’s a big bonus for these smaller teams to have such reliability and decent pace.
The biggest losers in the mileage and reliability equation were, obviously, McLaren and that’s a damning two weeks of testing for the folks in Woking. The hope here is that the newer power unit that will be fitted for Australia will cure all the ills they faced during testing.
Also concerning were Renault and both Red Bull teams and while I think Toro Rosso will be fine due to a decent chassis, I believe the main team of Red Bull is also holding its pace very close to the vest. The more concerning issue is the Renault power unit and it reliability. The works team as well as Red Bull stable didn’t complete the same level of mileage as Mercedes and Ferrari but perhaps that’s by design and not by force majeure.
A cursory look would suggest that out of the box Mercedes, Ferrari and Williams look competitive but I think that sells Red Bull short and unless they are hiding their power unit issues or performance deficit well, I think they should be there or thereabouts. Another question mark lingers over Renault and with Nico Hulkenberg saying points finishes will be difficult, that’s not giving me much hope.
Hat Tip: Autosport