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Two grandee teams face a race against time as F1 winter testing reaches halfway

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Two grandee teams face a race against time as F1 winter testing reaches halfway
Mar 2, 2017, 8:39 PM

McLaren and Williams will head into the second Formula 1 pre-season test of 2017 on the back foot after both endured four frustrating days in Barce...

McLaren and Williams will head into the second Formula 1 pre-season test of 2017 on the back foot after both endured four frustrating days in Barcelona this week.

The first test of 2017 was rather reminiscent of 2015 for McLaren, with major power unit reliability issues, while Williams lost vital track time to a series of incidents for rookie Lance Stroll, including damage on Day 3 which meant that it was not possible to run on Day 4.

Two years ago McLaren managed just six laps on the first day of running as its rekindled relationship with Honda got off to a rocky start in Jerez, and this week the team completed a total of 208 tours of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya across four days due to another round of engine problems. By comparison, Mercedes managed 170 on the third day alone.

Honda has completely reworked the architecture and layout of its V6 turbo power unit for this year in a bid to make up the deficit to the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault designs. But on the first day of this week’s test, Fernando Alonso’s running was frustrated by an oil tank issue and the following day a full engine failure cut short Stoffel Vandoorne’s first day in the MCL32.

Fernando Alonso

The Japanese manufacturer was able to create a temporary solution that fixed the oil tank problem and that allowed Alonso to complete 72 laps on the third day of running, but the broken engine had to be sent back to Honda’s facility in Sakura to find the cause of the fault.

Speaking at the end of the third day of running, Honda’s F1 engine boss Yusuke Hasegawa explained that McLaren had intended to run its Australian Grand Prix engine specification at the second test, which gets underway on 7 March, but that will depend on Honda discovering what caused the engine that cut Vandoorne’s day on Tuesday to fail.

He said: “It depends on what was the problem of [Tuesday’s] one was, but we are supposed to introduce the same spec engine for Melbourne next week. Because we don't know the cause of the problem we can't tell [if we will make progress] but I believe we can of course solve the issue before Melbourne."

Stoffel Vandoorne

The final day of the first test was dedicated to wet weather running (see below), which further restricted McLaren’s chances of gathering meaningful data about its new car, although it did get a chance to sample the new Pirelli wet and intermediate tyres. But, unlike Williams, at least it ran.

Williams’ first test got off to a good start when Felipe Massa ended the first day in third place, just 0.311s behind Lewis Hamilton’s leading time for Merecedes. The Brazilian driver used the soft compound tyres to set his best lap at a similar time of the day to Hamilton, and Williams was the only team other than Mercedes and Ferrari to break the 100-lap barrier.

Felipe Massa

On Tuesday, Massa handed the FW40 over to his new teammate Lance Stroll, who was making his first official F1 test debut. But the 18-year-old only completed 12 laps before he spun off at the exit of Barcelona’s high-speed Turn 9 and damaged the car’s front wing. This forced Williams to abandon its running as it did not have any replacement parts available.

However, it was able to ship over some new parts for day three and Stroll set about completing 98 laps. He did have an off just before the lunch break, but things were looking much better for the Canadian driver until he crashed at the exit of Turn 5 with just under two hours of the session remaining, which forced Williams to cut short its running for the second day in succession.

The team inspected the car and discovered damage to the chassis, which forced it to sit out the wet weather running on safety grounds. Williams has therefore completed 213 laps so far in winter testing, 345 behind Mercedes and 255 fewer than Ferrari.

Lance Stroll

Writing on Twitter, the team explained that, "a second chassis will be prepared at [the] track as originally planned, with the team aiming to be back on track for the second test next week."

Day Four test - Wet Test - report

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen topped the times on the final day of the first test with a lap of 1m20.872s set on the soft compound tyres.

As the Barcelona was artificially watered overnight and during the lunch break, there were few parts of the day when the teams could gather meaningful performance information, so many opted to wait until the circuit had dried out.

Max Verstappen finished with the second best time, a 1m21.769s that he set on the soft tyres, and Jolyon Palmer ended up third for Renault with a best time of 1m21.778s, which he also set on the soft tyres.

Max Verstappen

Mercedes finished down in ninth place, its lowest position of the whole test, after missing much of the morning investigating an electrical fault and then calling an early halt to its day after spotting a potential problem in its data. Valtteri Bottas did complete 68 laps, mainly during the early afternoon, and he finished with a best time of 1m23.443s, which was set on the soft tyre.

But the teams, except Williams, were able to collect useful data on the new Pirelli wet weather tyres when they did venture out. Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean was happier with the new full wets compared to the ones used in 2016 but feels that the intermediate tyres need more work.

He said: "It is quite interesting, the wet. There is a lot of progress made from last year. We haven't had too much overheating with the rear and the temperature is staying in. The warm-up was OK-ish.

"The intermediates are really good for one lap and then they get destroyed a bit too early, so some work is to be done.”

What did you make of the first F1 test of 2017? Should McLaren and Williams be concerned about their lack of running? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JA on F1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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