IF YOU were planning to bet against Mercedes-AMG scoring a fifth-straight Formula 1 drivers’ and constructors’ championship in 2018 you might want to reconsider in light of the first week of testing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain.
Defending champion Lewis Hamilton sailed to the top of the timesheets in the afternoon of the final day, with a 1:19.333 lap.
Hamilton’s time was half a second quicker than anyone else, and nine-tenths of a second quicker than third-fastest Sebastian Vettel’s best time.
Ominously for his rivals, Hamilton’s time was achieved with the medium compound tyre fitted; Stoffel Vandoorne, who was second-quickest took the hypersoft tyre option, while Vettel rode on soft tyres for his fastest time.
McLaren will be looking at Scuderia Toro Rosso with a degree of frustration. The two teams swapped power-units during the off-season, with McLaren scoring Renault units, and Toro Rosso being lumped with previously notoriously unreliable and underpowered Honda engines.
However, Toro Rosso and Honda have seemingly gotten along famously during the first test, putting in more laps across the four-days than McLaren was ever able to achieve during pre-season testing with the Japanese power units.
The Italian outfit’s rookie driver Pierre Gasly was able to put in 147 laps of the Barcelona circuit on the final day of testing alone.
Many teams were forced to run a truncated testing schedule, as sub-zero temperatures saw the track uncharacteristically covered in snow for the beginning of day three. While this resulted in some spectacular photography, it also meant just one timed lap was completed all day.
Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo started the pre-season strong, topping the first day, however the Aussie was scheduled to drive on day three, and didn’t complete a timed lap.
Several drivers found themselves stuck in gravel traps across the four day, including Max Verstappen who had a difficult final day of testing battling a fuel leak.
The strangest incident occurred on the first day, with Fernando Alonso spinning off the track when the right rear rubber decided to part ways with the rim at the final corner.
Ferrari again seems to be the most likely to challenge Mercedes in the 2018 F1 championship fight, with both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel consistently in the fastest runners on track.
However, the Mercedes team seems to have nailed its latest power-unit, which is all-new, where every other squad are running evolutions of their 2017 engines. It’s rumoured the Mercedes unit now produces in excess of 745kW in race trim.
The Formula 1 paddock will have the weekend to reset before starting the second pre-season test on Tuesday.