Formula One winter testing is complete. Ferrari was fastest of all with McLaren in second place as the teams now get ready for the first race of the season in Melbourne, Australia on March 26. Nowhere near the top of the charts was the McLaren Honda team.
Entering its third year of competition in the modern era, the Honda powertrain has been both slow and fragile. Honda says 90% of the engine is new but that doesn’t mean it is durable. When asked if the he was able to drive flat out through turn three at the Circuito de Catalunya, Fernando scoffed, “We are able to drive all the corners flat out.”
Alonso also had interesting things to say about the 2017 cars. The sport has adopted new rules for the upcoming season that greatly increase both mechanical grip, thanks to wider, more durable tires, and aerodynamic grip due to larger wings.
The front wings for 2017 now look as big as the cow catchers that used to proceed the steam locomotives of a bygone era. During testing, Kimi Raikkonen was able to set a lap that was nearly 2 seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap at last year’s Spanish grand prix.
Alonso told the press last week that he is delighted that the drivers will no longer have to drive “like small children” thanks to the new rules. The extra grip and lower tire degradation have transformed the feel of the cars.
“The way you attack the corners, the way you feel the grip, has been a good surprise,” he said. “To be able to drive the way you want and not like a small child so the tyres don’t overheat – that’s the best way to feel a Formula 1 car. So it’s been fun to drive freely again. Now we just need to be as quick as the others on the straight.”
Nico Hulkenberg, who switched from Force India to Renault during the off season, agrees. “If you go faster it’s always more spectacular,” said the German. “If you go flat through Turn 3, it’s a hell of a ride.”
The question in the pit lane now is who was sandbagging during winter testing and who was not. The oldest expression in racing is, “When the flag drops, the bullshit stops.” On March 26, we will know whether we are in for yet another year of Mercedes 1-2 finishes or whether another team like Ferrari or Red Bull can mount a credible challenge to the Silver Arrows of Hamilton and Bottas.
Actually, for most of us, the race will be on Saturday, March 25, since it’s always tomorrow in Australia. Check your program listings for time and station in your area.
Source and photo credit: Motorsport.com