Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017

Lap time watch: 2017 pre-season testing day four

2017 F1 season

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Has Formula One got five seconds faster under the new rules? Here’s the full data from the first test of 2017.

Have they hit the ‘five seconds faster’ target?

The new regulations have been created to make F1 cars five seconds faster compared to the pole position time at the 2015 Spanish Grand Prix. This was the most recent race at the track which hosts pre-season F1 testing at the time the regulations were finalised.

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How do their lap times compare to 2015?

Mercedes set the pole position time at the 2015 Spanish Grand Prix. The graph below shows how much of an improvement each team has made compared to their own performance in that race weekend.

For reference the lap times for 2015 pre-season testing have also been included.

How do their lap times compare to last year?

Lap times fell last year after Pirelli introduced softer compounds at some races. For this reason, plus the usual car development, teams will not have improved by as much compared to 12 months ago.

Mileage watch

Here’s how much distance each team has covered so far in 2017 pre-season testing:

Red Bull1368.57km
Force India1294.09km
Toro Rosso851.865km

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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14 comments on “Lap time watch: 2017 pre-season testing day four”

  1. ExcitedAbout17
    2nd March 2017, 17:28

    Interestingly most teams improved more from 15->16 without rule changes, than from 16->17.

    I think there’s more to come next week.

  2. Ru Chern (@)
    2nd March 2017, 17:36

    Interesting to see that only Mercedes and Red Bull have covered a total mileage of more than 2000km.

    1. Ru Chern (@)
      2nd March 2017, 17:36

      Correction: Mercedes and Ferrari*

      Time to sleep. Posting this at some 2am in the wee hours.

  3. I’m a little confused. were testing times faster than qualifying times in 2015? Did they use softer compounds? Would you be able to provide the actual times with the tyres used?

    1. @cavman99, yes, the cars set faster times in pre-season testing than in qualifying, and in fact it is a trend that has been going on since the early 2000’s.

      It is partially explained by the fact that, in more recent years, teams have been able to use softer compounds in testing than they can during the race weekend.

      However, part of it is also down to the weather conditions in the winter tending to be more favourable, so lap times have often been close to or even faster in pre-season testing in the past even without tyres being taken into consideration. It also has to be said that, in the early to mid 2000’s, there were also times when teams would test their cars in an illegal configuration in order to set much faster lap times to try and fool potential sponsors that the cars were more competitive than was the case.

      1. if the tyres can work in the cooler weather (and the track temps at this test were not that low) then in theory lower temperatures are quicker – denser air is better for the engines (less of a factor now we have turbos) and certainly results in more downforce (more drag too, but the overall effect is faster lap times).

  4. It is very hard to draw any meaningful conclusions based on the data but should not stop us from trying. First of all, let’s enter a few caveats: Four teams; Red Bull, Toro Rosso, McLaren (all technical) and Williams (crashes) were hampered by difficulties which means they are behind in their programs. Another is that the 2015 Spanish GP saw a really poor qualifying performance from Force India, they were 17th and 18th with only Marussia behind them and almost 4 seconds off the pole time. Also, RBR were 2 seconds off as well and behind TR. This skewers their results and show progress (second graph) for those two teams that is very much inflated. The final caveat is, of course, a combination of unknown fuel loads, track conditions, tires used and how hard the teams went after a quick time.

    1st Graph vs 2015 Pole Time: This is an absolute comparison as it has one, fixed point of reference. From it, it is clear that Mercedes and Ferrari, unsurprisingly as they are the teams with the greatest resources, have made the greatest strides (caveat – Red Bull as above). Other than that, the progress made by Renault and Sauber is noteworthy.

    The 2nd and 3rd graphs are relative with the reference point for each team being its own performances. Even if Ferrari shows the greatest improvement it’s well within the margin for sandbagging by Mercedes. But what should be taken notice of is the progress made by Renault and Sauber. Even should it turn out that they were *showboating* and the others were *sandbagging* or hampered by problems, these two teams have made genuine progress towards the midfield. On the other side, Force India and Toro Rosso (earlier caveat notwithstanding) have failed to impress *so far*.

    Can’t wait for the second test where no doubt all this will be turned upside-down! ;-)

    1. Redbulls progress is not exagerated, they were bad in 2015, don’t get what you mean that their speed increase is exageratted.

      1. @kpcart – In 2015, Red Bull were hampered by the poor Renault engine (both lack of overall power and a mule-kick power delivery curve) and qualified, IIRC, 9th and 11th, two seconds behind pole-sitter Nico Rosberg. The car itself was at that stage no more than 1/2 a second off the pace of Mercedes. With the Renault engine of today being much more competitive and closer to both Merc and Ferrari in performance, the chassis could in theory be worse today in relation to (Merc/Ferrari) and still show “progress” as it’s mostly the engine that’s overcome a massive disadvantage.

        The other thing to keep in mind with respect to Red Bull is that they lost a big chunk of time due to mechanical issues and thus were far behind their scheduled tests. This translates as not having reached or having had to abandon the part of their testing programme where they would have set times comparable to the best ones set by Mercedes and Ferrari (who finished some 1,200 and 800 km ahead respectively).

  5. At least i am pleasantly surprised by the gains Renault and Sauber made during winter. Nice to see some competition growing in the back.

  6. I think the midfield battle should be more intense than ever this year. Although pre season testing isn’t always conclusive, there are a few things that are definitely setting the tone –
    1) Renault have made stride forwards from last year – Renault are definitely not as shambolic as they were last year. They could have a better engine, they have a better driver line up and their times are more competitive than last year’s pre season tests. Last year was a consolidation year for them, but this year they should genuinely make some strides forward.
    2) Toro Rosso with a 2017 engine – Toro Rosso’s biggest handicap last year was the Ferrari year old PU. This is year I’d expect them to be much more competitive with a 2017 spec Renault PU. Their design philosophy was the closest to Mercedes, and surprisingly they have a lot of tricks up their sleeve in the aero/chassis department. Although they have struggled during pre season, I’d expect them to do well as the year continues.
    3) Williams – Probably in the same place they were last year, but with a poor driver line up, they should be mixing it up with some of the non Merc powered cars pretty often in midfield.
    4) Haas – Haas have impressed significantly with their reliability and pace on long stints. I’m sure we can expect solid and consistent performances from them with a year of experience under their belt. Their driver line up is stronger this year than the previous year as well.
    5) Force India – I think it’s obvious that Force India will be fighting for their top midfield spot as usual. They have an exciting driver line up in Perez and Ocon as well. So I look forward to what they can bring.

    I think the back marker battle this year should be pretty intense as well. Sauber will be handicapped with the year old Ferrari PU, and unfortunately, that will make it hard for them to get in to the midfield… But I expect a solid battle with Mclaren at the start of the season, but my guess is that Mclaren should reach the midfield pack somewhere mid season and leave Sauber in the dust.

  7. I don’t know why 2017 cars still not fast enough like 2004 cars….like the best lap in 2004 or 2005 was around 1:14 ….. Still these cars are no match from yesteryears

    1. @Manvindar – The circuit was redesigned ahead of the 2007 season and a chicane added in place of two sweepers as well as the final corner being reshaped to lower the speeds onto the front straight.

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