What did we learn from both F1 tests?

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

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Paul KieferJr

This is where I am in figuring out the 2017 order:

1. Mercedes
2. Ferrari
3. Red Bull
4. Williams
5. Force India
6. Haas
7. Toro Rosso
8. Sauber
9. Renault
10. McLaren

Max Johnson

You underestimated Toro Rosso again. They are faster than the Haas in the test and have a chassis that seems as good as Mercedes, just need a good power unit and improve reliability.

Paul KieferJr

Those last two points are why Haas is ahead of TR.


Hi Paul,
Why do you think Renault will do so poorly, their testing would suggest they’re in the mid field mix not slugging it out with Sauber and McLaren.

Salvu Borg

The Renault power unit were held back by reliability problems during testing, (TURBO and MGU-K SHAFT) Renault have said that they have seen those possible problems on the dyno before they went testing.

Salvu Borg

MGU-K shaft problems is something that hit Mercedes in 2014.

Paul KieferJr

That’s exactly the problem. That’s a game-killer for Renault.

At the same time, Sauber showed some big improvement in their reliability. They may not be quite as fast as mid-field, but it’s a step in the right direction. This is in terms of championship points.


Thanks Paul and Salvu, Interesting observations and perspective.
I guess we’ll have to see how the season goes, but I’d have thought that with Renault’s resources, and the end of the token system, those would be fixable issues.
I rather hope that Renault (and their p.u’s) make a big step forward this season, the parent company decided to get serious about F1 when they could easily have pulled out, so it would be great to see that commitment rewarded (it could be somewhere for Fernando to go if McHonda keep failing).

Zachary Noepe

I think Renault are in better shape than you and others are giving them credit for. I think the issues are within norms for testing and will be addressed. It has power and the diff between lacking reliability and lacking power are somewhat akin to the diff between being drunk and being stupid – only one can be fixed.


Good data and analysis thanks Todd, It certainly looks like Ferrari are going to be competitive with Mercedes this season, and the car must ‘work’ for Raikkonen as he’s been putting in times better than Vettel over both test weeks. I guess these lap times represent ‘fliers’, maybe not full qualifying pace, but low fuel and clear track. Is there any information on the pace the cars were able maintain on their race simulations? That might give more of a clue to relative performance. I’d also be interested to know how many p.u’s each team used, if Ferrari’s speed and… Read more »

Salvu Borg

“I guess these lap times represent (fliers) may be not full qualifying pace”. Such as when the following is pushed out, fuel loads, engine mode and not being out to get a fast lap time. Which gets me back to the “soothing” term (sand begging) when used as an injection to boost fanboys moral. I have seen in-car footage as clear as daylight of Botta’s attempt at getting his fastest lap, it clearly showed him selecting engine mode (START 2) BEFORE HE START HIS FLYING LAP, start 2 on Mercedes steering wheel engine mode selector switch means (QUALIFING MODE/MAXIMIUM POSSIBLE… Read more »


Thanks Salvu,
So, from what you’ve seen, you think Mercedes are running full qualifying mode to get their times. Is that that same for Ferrari too? but on harder tyres (so an extra 0.6sec to come).
And if Ferrari have done that distance and pace on one p.u, that’s a fantastic leap from last season.
Perhaps my views on the effective of Sergio Marcionne’s ‘perform or you’re fired’ management technique are wrong.

Salvu Borg

Your view on the effective of Sergio Marcionne’s perform or you’re fired management technique are perfectly spot-on. One hundred percent sure that Mercedes were using/running full qualifying mode (start 2) when gunning for their fast laps, have seen it with my own eyes. Yes according to the information I have FERRARI done the eight day distance on one power unit. What Autosports had conveniently left out is the following, of which is the best pointer as to the state of the cars at the past eight days of testing, Fastest laps per tyre compound: Vettel day 3 medium 1-21.609. Kimi… Read more »

Salvu Borg

The Autosports quoted numbers are unashamedly selective to keep moral high among their Luluoneeyedfanboys. this time round those at Autosports were determined to get the number one spot back from SKY as the number one Lulu/Mercedes fan club. from before testing started, they at Autosports declared that they are IN LOVE with Mercedes and Lulu. I was following testing on all popular broadcasters, and I don’t remember listening to such salivating at the mouth since the JA time on BBC, anytime one or the two of “our Brit’s” were on track, pure prejudice for anything to do with FERRARI couldn’t… Read more »

Mag The Knife

Im curious about HAAS, how good have their testing weeks worked out in your opinion?

Negative Camber

I think they did very well. Decent mileage on the Ferrari power unit and the only lingering issue are the brakes which Romain Grosjean isn’t happy about. He said that a switch of suppliers is the only solution but it remains to be seen as to if the team will do that. From a chassis standpoint, I think the Dallara will be down on aero but a key will be how receptive it is to changes and updates and how the team can develop it throughout the year. I suspect they will be scoring points and have a similar season… Read more »

Salvu Borg

as did FERRARI, Haas also managed to do all eight days of testing on one engine.

Mag The Knife

Sounds interesting, where do you rank them in the constructors Championship?

And how about the battle between Grosjean and Magnussen, who’ll come out on top?