Has Williams made a major step forward?There will be no mistaking a Force India this yearRenault could be confused for a McLaren-except it will be ahead Lovely looking car-lets hope Sauber find some speedTESTING TIMES FOR SOME


  Well the second week of testing at Catalunya seemed to confirm the opinions of most as to where the teams ranked in preparation for this years championship opener in Melbourne. I say seemed as no-one really knows if some teams, say Mercedes and Red Bull, were showing their full potential except some of those within the teams concerned. But us mere mortals on the outside can only go with what is put in front of us and it appears that the Ferrari is as quick as it is ugly and will be battling the Mercedes on a regular basis this season.


  This might just give us one last hurrah from Kimi as the Ferrari appears to supply him with everything he delights in, plenty of front end grip on corner entry and buckets of traction on the way out. He was clearly revelling in this while on his way to the best testing time of the winter with a 1’18.634, the only guy to break the 79 second barrier. This fares rather nicely with his own existing lap record (for this configuration) of 1’21.670 set in 2008 and Hamilton’s pole time of 1’22.000 from last year. Not quite the five seconds the powers that be were after but we are not at qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix yet and there will be many more developments to come, even from the front runners. And Vettel wasn’t toooo far behind. So the Ferrari, which is about as easy on the eye as a steroidal warthog with boils looks to be the biz. What of the others.


  Mercedes would appear to not yet have unleashed its full potential. Lewis claims not to have found the sweet spot so far and was shaded by new-comer Bottas, but just four one-hundredths covered the pair who lurked around three tenths off Vettel’s pace. A little more worryingly for the Silver Slings, they don’t seem to have the pace on race tyres that some of their rivals have displayed. But who knows just what games they may be playing, I guess we might find out in Melbourne next week. Similar thoughts may be offered about the Red Rags who will probably show better in Melbourne than in this latest outing. Some irritating Renault “ishoos” blighted their second week and they were again fractionally back on the Mercs but just what a certain Mr Newey has in tucked away at the back of his very big brain, only he knows.


  Making a nice jump forward seems to have been the Williams. The un-retiring Felipe was fastest on day one, second on day two just a tenth off Bottas and Stroll didn’t go hurling it at the trees this time so this time they managed to get through their programme without too many glitches, showing some good pace and reliability. Hopefully they can keep up with the top teams development through the year and don’t slide slowly backwards as has been the record of recent seasons. The arrival of Paddy Lowe, who arrives from Mercedes as chief technical officer and starts later this week should help in that regard.


  Renault also appear to have made gains through the mid-field and are well in the mix with the likes of Force India (who have a pretty new pink livery – no mistaking them for a McLaren now) and Toro Rosso who both showed marked improvement from the first test last week. Both the Renault and the Toro Rosso boys shared the engine gremlins of Red Bull over the last few days but Sainz and Hulkenberg ended an encouraging seventh and eighth respectively with the Force Indias of Perez and Ocon just a couple of tenths behind. Propping up the mid-field at this juncture are the Haas lads who are STILL struggling with braking problems and a change away from the Brembo gear may not be too far away.


  Sadly again well off the pace were the McLarens, whose Honda engines had neither power or reliability. Not a single race distance simulation done in either test and already they have eaten what would be one cars entire season allocation of engines. Combined they completed less laps than eleven other individual drivers. And they were slow laps. King Fernando’s best was close to three whole seconds back from Raikkonen. There is a whole lot of work to do back at the Honda factory and it will not be great to see such talent as Alonso and Vandoorne squabbling away at the back of the field. With the Saubers. Beautiful looking car. Lovely paint scheme. No pace. Decent reliability. It may well be that the Saubers start at the very back but there is a very real probability that they will finish ahead of the McLarens in Melbourne. Just because they finish. Lets hope they can also find some performance bits to take them back into the mid-field where we all know they should at least be…..


  For full testing results go to; http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php/the-database/formula-1-races/2010-2019/2017-formula-1


Sam Snape




  As a post-script there is a whisper that McLaren have had a chat to Mercedes about a supply of the engines that were due to go to Manor. Mercedes would not agree to a deal while McLaren have an existing engine contract (much as they wouldn’t with Red Bull a couple of years ago) but if the Honda situation doesn’t improve……….never say never. Could there be a McLaren-Mercedes before season’s end?