Winter F1 testing 2018: gallery & observations

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After snow and freezing temperatures impacted the first week of 2018 winter F1 testing in Barcelona, the second week delivered much better weather and more track time for the teams. Here’s our images and observations from our trip to Barcelona last week.

All images © F1Destinations.com.

The sun was out and temperatures hovered around 15-20 degrees Celsius all week. Spectator numbers also seemed to be higher this year, though I don’t think many more than 1000-2000 fans went through the turnstiles on any given day. The biggest visual change to this year’s F1 cars is the addition of the controversial halo safety device, which definitely makes it more difficult to see which driver is behind the wheel when you are watching from the grandstands. Nevertheless, I think the teams have done a good job of integrating the halo into their overall design and have the feeling we will be talking about it less as the year progresses, especially if we have some close races and a genuine battle for the championship.

The big revelation from the spectators point of view was getting access to the inside of the circuit, especially the roof of the pit building. This access has always been available to circuit members (it’s worth joining up if you plan to visit the track more than once in a year) but was offered as an ‘add on’ this year. For an additional €30 per day (in addition to €20 for general admission) you were granted access to the roof of the pits building, inner grandstand and able to join the daily pitlane walk, as well as given a 10-minute ride on the circuit’s go kart track. The overhead views from the pit roof were a nice bonus, though my heart did skip a beat when I narrowly avoided dropping my sunglasses into Kimi Raikkonen’s cockpit when going for an overhead photo during one of his pitstops! I also took a guided tour of the circuit on Wednesday (€50, including general admission access), which took about 90 minutes and included visits to the podium, media conference room and control center, plus a bus tour of the circuit and a quick stroll through the paddock.

MERCEDES

The new Mercedes was fast and consistent all week, especially on long runs. It also looked the business with super skinny  rear packaging. The current champions completed the most number of laps of any team (over 1000 in total over 8 days) and didn’t feel the need to set any times on the fastest hypersoft tires.

FERRARI

The consensus is that Ferrari is a close second in the pecking order, having come away with the second most laps completed (more than 900) and the two fastest lap times overall, both set on the fastest hypersoft tires in the second week of testing: a 1:17:182 set by Sebastian Vettel on Thursday and a 1:17:221 set by Kimi Raikkonen on Friday. It was hard to miss the big clouds of smoke that emerged from the Ferrari garage before every run, so it will be interesting to see how this particular story plays out.

RED BULL

Most pundits put Red Bull in the mix for wins this year with Mercedes and Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo posted the fourth fastest time of the tests on hypersoft tires, but almost one second down on Sebastian Vettel’s fastest time. The new car is fast in a straight line, reliable and should be in the mix in Melbourne.

FORCE INDIA

Force India will have a very difficult time maintaining their status as ‘best of the rest’ this year, with stiff competition expected from Renault and McLaren. Ocon and Perez didn’t set the world on fire during this year’s testing, and the car often looked unstable and skittish on track. Definitely my least favorite livery of 2018!

RENAULT

Renault has a lot to prove in 2018, but the signs are positive after a largely reliable test. Carlos Sainz posted the fifth best overall time and the team racked up over 800 laps over 8 days, only losing laps on the final day with a gearbox problem.

WILLIAMS

By all accounts, the new Williams is a handful and the lap times seem to prove this.  The Williams set the slowest lap time every day in the second week of testing. On a bright note, it was great to see Robert Kubica back behind the wheel. He should be a big asset to the team this year as support to rookie drivers Sirotkin and Stroll.

TORRO ROSSO

Torro Rosso seems to have adapted very well to Honda power. The team experienced a largely trouble-free test, clocking up the third highest number of laps of any team (over 800) and whilst they did use three Honda engines over 8 days, the third engine was used without significant issues for the whole of the second week of testing.

HAAS

Is Haas ready to spring some surprises this year? The consensus in the paddock is that the American team has made some solid progress over the winter. Kevin Magnussen set the sixth fastest overall time of testing using the supersoft tire

MCLAREN

The other big story of testing this year was McLaren’s reliability problems. The new papaya-colored car certainly looks the business, but stopped on track six times during the course of testing and completed the fewest laps of any team. Fernando Alonso gave his local fans some reason to be optimistic on the final afternoon of testing though when we set the third-fastest time overall.

SAUBER

Sauber have produced one of the riskiest designs for 2018, but did nothing to show during testing that they will climb the pecking anytime soon. Charles Leclerc is a rising star, but spent a lot of time during testing in the gravel. The signs are positive for Sauber this year with the latest spec Ferrari engine and a new relationship with Alfa Romeo, but they still need more time.

Who impressed you at 2018 winter testing? Leave a comment!

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About the Author ()

Andrew Balfour is the Founder and Editor of F1Destinations.com. He originally hails from Adelaide, where he went to his first F1 race way back in 1987. He's been resident in Europe for almost 15 years and travels regularly to F1 races around the world.

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