F1: Who stands where

2017-03-15 08:22

THE good news is that from the eight days of testing it appears as if the 2017 season should have, at least, Ferrari and Mercedes duking it out for victories.

This doesn’t discount the chances of Red Bull, but the Austrian team have played their cards too close to the vest to make a definitive call on their pace. What’s more, this team is expected to bring a noticeably different aerodynamic configuration to the Australian Grand Prix, which should bring them into contention.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest overall time in the eight days with a 1:18: 634, some 4.1 seconds quicker than last year’s fastest time in testing. While this flashy lap confirmed the influence of the regulation change, it wasn’t the most interesting bit of information from Spain.

It’s in the long runs, when compared to Mercedes, where the Ferrari truly shines. While it must again be qualified with the precaution that there is no way to know what configuration the cars were running in.

However, it’s logical to accept that at the start of a race simulation all teams are obliged to run a maximum fuel load so as to accurately simulate the start of a race.

While keeping this in mind, a glance at the long run lap times suggests that Ferrari is roughly three tenths of a second ahead of Mercedes with the Red Bull as the third quickest car. The Renault engine still seems down on power in comparison to Mercedes and Ferrari.

While Williams seems set as the leader of the mid-field, the woes continued for McLaren in the final days of testing. While they were expected to take a step forward and regularly challenge for podiums in 2017, it appears as if the opposite has happened and they may be further behind than last year.

The optimists believe McLaren will make a comeback this season or at least catch up. But the reality is that the level of gains that have been made by the top three teams, means that there is no chance of McLaren catching up.

So dire is the situation that strong rumours of a divorce from the Japanese manufacturer are already making the rounds. But it’s not quite that simple for McLaren, given their lack of alternative income.

At the 2014 launch the new McLaren debuted without a title sponsor. Then team boss Ron Dennis proclaimed that Formula 1, as a whole, was moving away from title sponsors. It’s this arrogance, which has boxed McLaren into a corner.

Even if they wanted to dump Honda and never again speak of the nightmarish last few years, they can’t, as their sole source of significant income is Honda. If they did have a proper title sponsor they could cut their losses this year, get out from underneath Honda, and run a badged Mercedes engine in 2018. Whatever happens at the embattled team – it’s going to be a long and difficult season.

In only two weeks, the 2017 season will kick off but it will, sadly, do so without one of its most famous champions.

Late last week the 1964 world champion, John Surtees, passed away at the age of 83. Surtees remains the only person to have won the world championship on both two and four wheels.

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