The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team could have been forgiven for wanting to borrow a car from one of our World RX athletes last week, as rain and snow lashed down during their arrival in Barcelona.
F1’s trademark home of pre-season testing – the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – is customarily crisp and bright at this time of year, however the freezing conditions threatened to curtail the first official test of the 2018 season.
Nevertheless Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas managed to bank 306 laps over three days of fragmented and wintry running; ultimately topping the final day’s timesheets, with Lewis setting an impressive 1:19.333 lap on medium compound tyres.
“I don’t normally like testing, but honestly I’m just happy that I could get in the car and get some running in,” explained Lewis. “It’s been the first time that I’ve really been out to learn a lot more about the new car and its characteristics.
“I got to see what she’s like and stretch her legs a little bit. Driving a new car is like trying to crack a new code: you have to figure out which different techniques you need to get the most out of it. But the W09 feels like last year’s big sister.”
During the official Silverstone launch event on February 22nd, the four time World Champion had previously hinted that the new F1 W09 EQ Power+ was better than its predecessor in every aspect, and if this ominous initial turn of pace is anything to go by, then a potential fifth championship double isn’t out of the question.
Team mate Valtteri Bottas, echoed Lewis positive feelings about the Silver Arrows new machine too, having spearheaded the Barcelona test programme on the first two days.
“It was very cold on track; I don’t think I’ve ever driven in such cold conditions before in Formula One,” said Valtteri. “Testing is always difficult in these temperatures, the tyres are just not made for these conditions. The first week of testing was a tricky start for all the teams, but I think we managed to make the most out of it.
“Everyone in Brackley and Brixworth has done an amazing job, everything on the car worked so well since day one and the engine is running very smoothly as well. I’m looking forward to next week; hopefully we will come back to normal Barcelona conditions. I’m excited to keep learning about the W09 and maybe next week we will find out how quick it really is.”
Having already lost one whole day of running to bad weather, the second and final test week – starting on Tuesday 6th – can’t come soon enough for the Silver Arrows. While nobody can quite predict lap times or the weather just yet, one thing is for sure; the race to the grid for the season opener in Melbourne, Australia on March 25th is truly on…
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Day 4 1m19.333s
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Day 2 1m19.673s
3 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault Day 4 1m19.854s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Day 2 1m19.976s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault Day 1 1m20.179s
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari Day 4 1m20.317s
7 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault Day 2 1m20.326s
8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Day 1 1m20.506s
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Day 1 1m20.547s
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault Day 4 1m20.929s