Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017

Ferrari fastest but Vettel keeps pace in reserve

2017 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel set the quickest time of pre-season testing on the penultimate day of action but Ferrari were deliberately masking their true pace.

Despite producing the fastest time of testing so far on a 1’19.024 on ultra soft tyres, Vettel deliberately backed off out of the final corner on multiple laps to conceal Ferrari’s full potential.

Lewis Hamilton was second quickest for Mercedes as he and team mate Valtteri Bottas crossed the 4,000km mark for pre-season testing. There were more problems for McLaren, as Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to stop on the circuit twice.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
Testing day seven in pictures
With the sun out and track temperatures in a comfortable range, many of the teams looked to push their cars harder than they had done prior in the pre-season.

Esteban Ocon pushed Force India’s VJM10 to by far its quickest lap so far and into the 1’20s for the first time, the Frenchman accruing over 100 laps in the course of the day.

Kevin Magnussen also went quicker in the Haas than the team had been before, posting a 1’20.504 that would prove to be fifth fastest for the day and amassing over 100 laps.

At Williams, Lance Stroll’s morning session was unspectacular in terms of lap time, but with the rookie covering 85 laps in just the first session without any dramas, the team will likely be more than satisfied.

But there were yet more troubles for McLaren-Honda, when Stoffel Vandoorne was forced to pull off the circuit twice in the space of an hour leading into the lunch break.

The issues were a further frustration for McLaren following Fernando Alonso’s criticism of the team’s engine supplier yesterday. However, McLaren were able to get Vandoorne back out in the afternoon and the rookie produced the team’s fastest time yet with a 1’21.348.

With the lunch break in sight, things began to heat up on the track. Ferrari sent Sebastian Vettel on a series of fast lap runs, first on soft tyres, then super softs, with the four-time champion almost exactly matching Mercedes’s ultimate pace from yesterday despite clearly and audibly cruising to the line out of the final corner.

Just before the break, Vettel bolted on a set of ultra soft tyres and lowered a new quickest overall lap of the test with a 1’19.024 but, once again, was demonstrably sand-bagging in the final sector.

Lance Stroll, Williams, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
Lap time watch: 2017 pre-season testing day seven
Lewis Hamilton improved his personal best to a 1’19.352, almost matching the best time set by his team mate and adding another 52 laps to his total. Hamilton then handed the W08 over to Valtteri Bottas after the lunch break, who covered over 80 additional laps for the team.

The afternoon session was focused on long-run performance rather than outright pace with very little in the way of improvements in the times.

Felipe Massa covered another race distance in the Williams after taking over from Lance Stroll. Daniel Ricciardo covered over 110 laps in the Red Bull RB13, but did not improve on Max Verstappen’s best time for the team from yesterday.

Daniil Kvyat produced the fourth best time of the day for Toro Rosso, but stopped on track early in the afternoon, bringing out the red flags on his 89th tour of the circuit.

Jolyon Palmer’s misfortune also continued into the penultimate day. The Renault driver pulling off circuit at Turn Ten with an apparent problem after 53 laps.

Today has wrapped up testing for Vettel, Ricciardo, Ocon, Vandoorne, Kvyat and Magnussen, who won’t be back behind the wheel of their cars in anger until First Practice at the Australian Grand Prix.

Pos.Car numberDriverTeamModelBest timeGapLaps
15Sebastian VettelFerrariSF70H1’19.024156
244Lewis HamiltonMercedesW081’19.3520.32852
331Esteban OconForce IndiaVJM101’20.1611.137137
426Daniil KvyatToro RossoSTR121’20.4161.39294
520Kevin MagnussenHaasVF-171’20.5041.480119
63Daniel RicciardoRed BullRB131’20.8241.800128
72Stoffel VandoorneMcLarenMCL321’21.3482.32448
877Valtteri BottasMercedesW081’21.8192.79595
994Pascal WehrleinSauberC361’22.3473.32344
1030Jolyon PalmerRenaultRS171’22.4183.39453
119Marcus EricssonSauberC361’23.3304.30688
1219Felipe MassaWilliamsFW401’24.4435.41980
1318Lance StrollWilliamsFW401’24.8635.83985

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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  • 56 comments on “Ferrari fastest but Vettel keeps pace in reserve”

    1. That is one fast car Ferrari have got there. I think it might be another cycle for Ferrari. In 2017, nobody expected them to do well with Allison leaving and the team being seemingly in disarray, but they have delivered. This is also what they did back in 2015 when nobody expected them to do well. Ferrari, I’ve noticed, have usually done badly whenever people expect them to be challenging (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 just to name a few). Might just be the first real Mercedes beater since the Red Bull RB9.

      1. I kind of agree, but at the same time I won’t have my hopes too high as they looked good last year but where nowhere by the end of the season, but I do hope Mercedes have a proper fight on there hands this year.

        1. @arobbo Again, last year it was already evident they weren’t as good as Mercedes from the first pre-season test as their car was less stable in the corners and they used faster compounds to set good times. That is different this year.

        2. To me it looked like Ferrari ditched last years car pretty early in order to start work on this car. Early on, last year, they threw a bunch of podiums away with absolutely insane calls from the pit lane. The car wasn’t that terrible out of the box, they just made awful, awful decisions and abandoned it very early. At least that’s the way it seemed to me.

      2. Ferrari usually fails to develop their car much during the season. Let’s hope they have enough in the bag at the start of the year to win a championship for once.

    2. Impressive that Bottas is already faster than Hamilton even though he was using the super soft and is new to the team. If he can’t beat Bottas who barely beat Massa then he should quit and let someone else take his place. I bet his fans will have an excuse already that these new regulations doesn’t suit him.

      1. mark jackson
        9th March 2017, 17:08

        +1000

      2. MG421982 (@)
        9th March 2017, 17:20

        Sorry, but I think this impression is more subjective than these tests! Nothing is impossible, but I hardly believe BOT will cause HAM the “trouble” he caused to ALO in 2007, for example.

      3. tesla (@thedogjustpukedonme)
        9th March 2017, 17:27

        We’re talking about testing times, right? Testing. You know, where the primary goal is to gather data, not beat your team mate.

        1. +1. None so blind than those that do not want to see

      4. Am I seeing some other times?

      5. I’ll wait until they’re both in a car turning wheels in anger before judging either to be faster. You can’t compare their times during testing as you’ve no idea how the car is setup or what testing program they are running.

        Hamilton has never not been the faster driver against his teammates in all three of the rule eras he’s driven in. There won’t be any excuses needed if Bottas turns out faster, he’ll just deserve the credit.

        But I’d hold off making that bet until you see them actually competing.

      6. Jeremy Smith
        9th March 2017, 19:10

        Bottas is fast isn’t he 😊

      7. You are clearly one of those wearing tinfoil hats in the anti Lewis camp. I saw your rather ridiculous assumption on the testing page earlier. It’s astonishing that you have come up to those conclusions already after testing. I remember Rosberg being faster than Hamilton through testing over the years since 2013 and only managed to beat Hamilton once in their 4 years together together as team mates. I look forward to the end of the year and I will be very keen to pull you up on this. I am going to bookmark this for reference :)

      8. Lauda said Bottas is .200 behind, and they have all the data. “Bottas needs to find .200 to be on Ham’s pace” I think were his words

        1. Pretty good for what it’s worth…Nico often needed to find a tenth.

        2. Shaun Robinson (@)
          10th March 2017, 11:53

          Do you have a link to that statement/article you could pass on please?

      9. Hrm. 2016 Barcelona Winter Testing… Aggregate times… Rosberg 8th fastest, Hamilton 12th fastest.

        Top three fastest drivers: VET, HUL, RAI.

        Championship: ROS, HAM, RIC

        Yeah– that’s definitely conclusive. :)

      10. Clearly you have data no one in the Mercedes squad does. Lauda said that Bottas only trailed Hamilton by 0.2s in qualifying pace and he trailed Hamilton on race pace by a slightly larger margin. How you summarised that to beating Hamilton is beyond me.

        1. obviously it’s an impossible game to compare drivers who have never driven together but if we assume hamilton and alonso are roughly the same level, and that alonso destroyed massa, and that bottas narrowly beat massa, then you would expect bottas to be some way off hamilton, at his best. obviously driver’s progress through their careers so hamilton should be a fair bit better than he was in 2007.

          lot’s of assumptions, i know.

      11. I might also start writing ridiculous stuff like this just to get loads of people answering my comments. I bet you’re laughing your head off reading all this!

    3. I also saw that Vettel did a long run on mediums and was lapping in the high 1.23’s, while Ricciardo did a long run on the softs and was in the high 1.24’s

      So… the Ferrari is quicker on the mediums than RBR are on the softs….ouch. RBR is not looking good so far.

      1. @jeffreyj That doesn’t mean anything unless you know which stint it was.

      2. You never know what they’re testing. For example, Vettel took the supersofts for a long-ish stint, lapping in the 1:24-1:25 range. He was clearly not going for fast laps, probably testing tyre degradation or something like that.

      3. This is just my speculation, but maybe RBR did the calculation, and maybe a couple extra moths on CFD and in the tunnel are more valuable than having a complete car in the first races. Maybe their program was to just to nail the basic shape and packaging in time for the first races and testing, and to fully understand the flow structures and what can be done, while the team back at the factory keep working on the secondary areo concepts aided by the new data from testing. It’s not easy to completely change an aero concept once you go down a certain road, so they are holding back at the moment, in terms of the paraphernalia that can be seen on the car. Not for some sandbagging reason, but because they did the calculation of time/resource cost vs. performance benefit in the WCC overall. And maybe they are even looking more in the long term, to have a very, very strong base understanding of these new regulations to dominate this era.

        What I am saying is, that I don’t feel worried for them at all. And won’t be worried even if they are still the 3rd-5th, 6th quickest car in Melbourne. And I will not be surprised when they suddenly do a massive jump up the grid a few races in.

        1. I am not sure if this will work. This used to be a style in the early 2000s where some teams (even the big-budget Ferrari) would run a B-version of the last year’s car for the flyaways and then a brand new car for Spanish GP. But that was changed and new cars started coming in right out of the box.

          I think Red Bull may introduce a new aero package (with lot of winglets, not clean like this one) in Melbourne for sure. But not because that package is still undergoing development now. It would be because the package is so good that they don’t want to release it.

    4. MG421982 (@)
      9th March 2017, 17:17

      Fingers crossed…

    5. We have to stop with the conclusions people. These times, stints, etc don’t mean anything. The only objective conclusion is the fact that McLHonda are struggling, apart from that we are guessing.

      Unles you are believers of the nokia 3310 theory

      1. Sven (@svennheiser)
        9th March 2017, 18:18

        Ferrari will win constructors and Alonso will be world champion in 2017.

        Oh and 911 was an inside job.

        1. racerdude7730
          9th March 2017, 19:18

          your saying Ferrari was behind 911? lol

          1. I think that was porsche (worst pun ever)

            1. racerdude7730
              9th March 2017, 21:24

              ill except it lol

            2. And I’ll accept it!

      2. Care to explain that Nokia 3310 theory? Genuinely curious.

        1. @calbo the Ferrari dominance started in the year 2000 which matches the launch of the nokia 3310. In 2017 the nokia 3310 will be relaunched

          1. What a theory! :D

    6. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      9th March 2017, 18:19

      Let’s just hope for a 2 or 3 team fight for the World Championships. I don’t care much if Ham wins the WDC again, or Vettel, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Kimi… even maybe Bottas. As long as they have to really go tooth and nail all year round, as in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012 (which definitely make for the best championships recently).

      1. Agreed. I was beyond gutted Alonso lost in 2012, but I still appreciate it as a great year.

    7. I think the midfield will be tight this year here is my overall prediction in terms of constructor championship.
      1 Mercedes (I just think they’re unbeatable still)
      2 Ferrari.
      3 Redbull
      4 Torro Rosso (4th due to up to date engine, if they had an up to date engine last year they would have been better)
      5 Force India (A superior driver line up to Williams pips this for them).
      6 Williams.
      7 Haas
      8 Renault
      9 McLaren
      10 Sauber

      1. I agree about the Midfield battle being interesting. I would think Toro Rosso would be the strongest only if Renault have made the gains… maybe they start the year in the lower midfield but make progress enough to reach the #5 spot. I wish I could predict the midfield this year, but it’s almost like taking a shot in the dark. I only hope Renault finishes higher up the order.

        At the back of the grid, it should be a stellar battle between Mclaren and Sauber as well. Sauber has the better engine, but Mclaren have the better drivers.

    8. Andrew Purkis
      9th March 2017, 20:13

      Id say Ferrari will be with Merc in race pace

      so its down to Ferrari having a qualy mode to match Merc

      1. Ferraris qualymode is called Sebastian Vettel.

        1. Oh. Then how come Kimi beat him in quali last year? :P

          1. at his best kimi is a tremendous one-lap driver.

    9. I wonder if Vettel set this time almost running out of fuel ?

      1. U think because he lifted in the final sector of each lap he was out of gas?

        1. Haha no , I saw an article about yesterday where Vettel stalled on the track cause he ran out of fuel. I was thinking Vettel set the fastest lap before this happened. But from your comment I understand that he had been doing that for every lap so I guess the answer is no.

      2. This. You nailed it. Lol

    10. All I can think of is that the car might be ‘worse’ than the Mercedes on long runs but if it qualifies ahead anyway that might just give them the wins they need to challenge them in the long run.

    11. Michael Brown (@)
      9th March 2017, 23:08

      The official F1 site combined the fastest sectors of testing to give an ideal lap time of 1:18.666.
      Sector 1 – Vettel – 22.835
      Sector 2 – Vettel – 29.255
      Sector 3 – Hamilton – 26.576

      1. Would be 1.18.4 if vettel didn’t lose 7 tenths in last sector on purpose.

    12. Ferrari are fastest then, ah no Mercedes, Red bull are sandbagging. Give me a break. Listening to the drivers during testing is pointless

    13. Mercedes are still favorites, even though they are inferior to Ferraris front end grip. Even if Ferrari do win the championship its really Mercedes because James Allison designed that car before he was axed. Aha.

      1. JA left Ferrari back in June.

        Before that he had family time due to the tragic loss of his wife and was not in Italy.

        Reports from his time there suggest he only worked 3.5 days a week.

        I can’t wait for him to start at Mercedes as he’s proven an overrated designer who actually hasn’t designed anything other than occasional race winners.

    14. Whilst it’s testing and no real conclusions can be drawn, my observations (for what they’re worth):

      Mclaren/Honda’s very public issues have been fantastic for Renault because it’s masked the fact that their PU seems to also be having reliability issues AND I suspect is a fair bit down on power in comparison to their rivals.

      I suspect none of the “big” teams have really shown their speed – the fact that williams is so close to me speaks volumes. Come Melbourne I expect the 1 – 2 second gap to reappear. I’m just not sure whether or not it will be just Mercedes out there or whether this year there may be another team or teams there. My guess is just one (Ferrari) initially.

      The “rookies” (or near rookies) – all seem to be doing pretty well. Even Stroll seems to have learned from last week, but Ocon has been quietly impressive. Vandoorne also given the dog he has to drive.

      Bottas is quick – a lot quicker than a lot of people thought.

      Massa – there’s almost a spring in the old fellas step – watch out for him in the first few races.

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