Ferrari moved the benchmark drastically on day seven of testing for the 2018 F1 season. Bearing Pirelli’s new hyper-soft tyres, Sebastian Vettel’s scorched around the Circuit de Catalunya in 1’17.182 – over 2.3 seconds faster than they’d gone before.
At the end of last week’s running Pirelli said lap times might reach the 1’17s. Indeed they have, and if one of the front-running teams feels so inclined tomorrow we might see a 1’16. Note that Kevin Magnussen, in his Haas got within 1.1s off Vettel today using tyres that were two stages harder.
How much quicker are they than last year?
There’s another reason why Haas’s lap time looks good for Ferrari. Unlike Sauber, they used a 2017-specification Ferrari power unit last year, yet the year-on-year gains they have made are comparable to Sauber’s. Haas’s figures therefore suggest Ferrari’s engine is producing plenty of grunt along with copious amounts of smoke.
Mercedes’ customers, however, don’t seem to be making as great strides. Force India have their hopes pinned on a big upgrade coming in time for the first race.
Williams, however, is the only team left which hasn’t lapped quicker at this test than it did 12 months ago. Robert Kubica has set the team’s fastest time so far, 0.6 seconds faster than either of their race drivers.
Despite last week’s disruptions, some teams have already exceeded their 2017 testing mileage total, chiefly those who had a tough time last year. These include Red Bull, Toro Rosso and McLaren.
Power units must last seven race distances this year – 2,135 kilometres – plus further running in practice and qualifying. So a team seeking to prove an engine will have to do considerably more than that. Of course teams don’t necessarily reveal when they’re changed a power unit.
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2018 pre-season testing so far
2017 pre-season testing total
2018 F1 season
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