Winter test analysis – team by team

By on

Eight days, 64 hours of testing were completed over the course of the last two weeks. Performance and reliability showed big variety between the different teams at the dawn of the thoroughly revamped aerodynamic regulation.


The team with dominating performance over the last three seasons hit the ground in Barcelona with ominous signs. They completed incredibly high milage over the first days and completed race simulation already in the first week of testing without any problems. The new car, the W08 raised the eyebrows of many after its unveiling thanks to its incredible complexity of aerodynamic part and detail.

The team’s engine chief Andy Cowell said that his team managed to find inroads with the already dominating Mercedes power unit over the winter. The Anglo-German squad decided to split every single testing day between its triple world champion Lewis Hamilton and its newcomer Valtteri Bottas. It worked out well in the first week, but the second week was less from optimal in Mercedes standards. The team introduced new development parts for the second week and some of them did not want to produce the performance increase calculated in CFD and wind tunnel.

Chief designer Aldo Costa revealed that components flew off the edge of the underfloor of the W08 which hampered the team’s development work. Nevertheless, the team completed the most km from all the teams with 1096 laps (5010 km), however, that was less than last year when they achieved 6024 km on 1294 laps. The team did not show its true pace as Lewis Hamilton mimicked Sebastian Vettel and backed off on his fastest laps. The W08 showed incredible balance on fresh tyres, its traction appears to be a strength but the team has to work on the balance of the car in race conditions.

Mileage completed: 5010 km, 1096 laps
The team’s form in short: wonderful traction, setup issues during the second week, phenomenal aerodynamic complexity around the bargeboards area


Ferrari endured a torrid season in 2016 with the departure of the highly rated technical director James Allison. The team started that year in good fashion performance-wise, but had reliability issues which hampered them and ultimately failed to keep up with Red Bull and Mercedes in the development war. The Italians’ new car, the SF70H hit the ground in Barcelona by leaving a very convincing impression. The team made a huge step forward with its power unit. Though, they had a few niggling issues with reliability: an electronic problem during Kimi Räikkönen’s race run and a hydraulic leak. Ferrari is said to run lighter than its rivals Mercedes and Red Bull, but they did not show their ultimate pace either as Sebastian Vettel was also audibly lifting on the main straight on his ultimate test day. On that occasion Vettel set lap times around 1:19.3 four times which was the most impressive about Ferrari’s form. The team refused to confirm its strong form, and described the car’s speed as “not slow”. The SF70H during winter testing was a strong competitor, particularly in high speed corners like turn 2-3 and 9. Onboard footages revealed that Ferrari still need to find the optimal aerodynamic balance with the car and suffers from understeer both in corner entry and exit.

Mileage completed: 4450 km, 956 laps
The team’s form in short: affection to the medium tyres, some understeer, radical aerodynamic philosophy

Red Bull Racing

Red Bull surprised with a very neat and tidy design. Everyone expected the technical group around Adrian Newey to come up with sensational solution capitalizing on the aerodynamic revamp for 2017. However, the Milton Keynes-based team’s new challenger has a quite simple design in the area between the front tyres and the coke bottle section of the car compared to the highly sophisticated solutions of Mercedes and Ferrari.

The team was restricted of running because of power unit issues, caused by Renault's all new power unit. With reportedly up to 95% new components, the expected reliability issues did not seem to be too much of a worry.

Daniel Ricciardo confessed that his team cannot set the times of Mercedes and Ferrari and the ever-optimistic Helmut Marko also conceded that the team has to make quick inroads over its long run performance. According to both drivers, the problem with the car is that it is not consequent: one day it is perfectly balanced, the other day it is just out of balance. However, Red Bull cannot be written off as the team plans a filming day before Melbourne. It can have only one goal with that: testing the latest, hidden aerodynamic solutions…

Mileage completed: 3184 km, 684 laps
The team’s form in short: reliability issues with the power unit, setup issues, neat design.


Williams established itself as the leading team in the midfield group behind the leading trio of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. The Grove-based team lost its star driver Valtteri Bottas to Mercedes, the driver it nurtured since his GP3 title. The team got a financial boost with the arrival of F3 champion Lance Stroll, but the Canadian brought a shocking start to the traditional squad with his early crashes. The team had to abandon the running in the first week of testing, but things came together in the second act of winter preparation and the team was able to put the puzzles into the right places.

The FW40 showed very promising one-lap-pace on every softer compound. Over the eight, or in case of Williams, seven days of running, only one power unit was used which showed promising signs regarding the integration of the Mercedes engine.

The squad’s new technical director Paddy Lowe was absent from testing, but he is expected to join the team in Australia. The team’s chief engineer Rob Smedley revealed the team deliberately chose the path of a simple aerodynamic platform as that is easier to understand and to develop. The Williams FW40 is currently thought to be the fourth fastest car on longer runs, an estimated 1,2-1,5 second adrift of leading Mercedes.

Mileage completed: 3724 km, 800 laps
The team’s form in short: simple aerodynamics philosophy, high mileage completed, promising reliability

Toro Rosso

The Faenza-based team raised some eyebrows when it launched its car. As was the case with its previous cars, the STR12 showed some interesting aerodynamic solution such the simple, narrow, Mercedes-like nosecone and the again Mercedes-like front suspension setting of the spectacularly raised upper wishbone which is connected to the wheel via a horn.

The team’s technical director, James Key was a bit disappointed to see another team have the same ideas. Toro Rosso had a rather difficult winter testing, likely due to being the only team to have made a switch of engine supplier compared to 2016. Unfortunately for them, their new Renault power unit failed numerous times, more specifically the ERS systems. Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost sounded confident when he said that the problems are only niggling issues which can be solved before the first race.

Mileage completed: 2718 km, 584 laps
The team’s form in short: simple aerodynamics philosophy, high mileage completed, promising

Force India

Force India’s car is the aesthetically most debated machine on the grid. In both pre-season tests, neither driver managed to break under 1:20 during the eight days of winter testing. Both drivers, Sergio Perez and newcomer Esteban Ocon set 1:20.1 on their fastest lap. The Silverstone-based team had woes with the exhaust pipes of its car, but it could cure the problem for the end of the winter running. The VJM10 is reported to have around 10 kg overweight, but team boss Robert Fernley is confident that his engineers will bring the weight of the car down to the minimum weight level. The team worked hard on understanding the new Pirelli tyres and the team said it gained a reasonable amount of data about the behaviour of the wider tyres.

Mileage completed: 3654 km, 785 laps
The team’s form in short: overweight issues, exhaust pipe problems, excessive tyre testing


Renault was happy to introduce its 2017 challenger which it named as the first proper car of its new era in F1 as works team. The 2016 contender was a rushed solution, or rather a modified version of the 2015 Lotus to fit a Renault power unit. The RS17 features a series of interesting aerodynamic parts which show serration in a bid to propel the air coming off the front towards the rear section in the best way.

Just like with the other Renault powered teams, the all-new power unit caused some headaches and reduced running. The team said the problem was already recognized testing the new power unit on the dyno, but it could not be fixed in such a short time. During the two weeks of testing, the team had to complete multiple engine changes. The French team’s driver Nico Hülkenberg and Jolyon Palmer could not hide their disappointment over the lack of running. The Briton described his second week of running as “rubbish”. The team tested a new rear wing on the closing stages of the winter testing which was a success, according to team statements.

Mileage completed: 2779 km, 597 laps
The team’s form in short: reliability issues, good speed on fresh tyres, optimistic senior figures, less hopeful drivers.


Many expect Haas to suffer more in its second year in F1. The team could test, develop as much as they wanted before 2016 as it had not entered the series by that time. However, the team had to adhere to the regulation while developing its second F1 car. The second-generation Haas-Ferrari proved to be pretty reliable over the course of the winter testing, however the last days mustered up various issues: a spin of Romain Grosjean due to a continued struggle with the Brembo brakes, water leakage and sensor warnings.

Team principal Günther Steiner was nonethelss confident and said his team could have set a high 1:19 easily.

Mileage completed: 3328 km, 715 laps
The team’s form in short: good reliability, brake issues, higher fuel loads running


Despite the team's optimism, especially given their current secure financial position, Sauber looks set to face a difficult season, with performance seemingly near the bottom end of the field. Team principal Monisha Kaltenborn was adamant that the team had not shown its ace cards yet, but their decision to complete the 2017 season with last year's Ferrari power unit will also see them miss out on power upgrades throughout the season.

The car, dressed in a special livery celebrating the 25th year of presence of Sauber in the pinnacle of motorsport, features very neat and clear design, with the airbox being a very unique design feature on the Sauber C36. Marcus Ericsson revealed that Sauber still has to work hard on finding the right balance as it never really came together during the tests.

Mileage completed: 3663 km, 787 laps
The team’s form in short: promising reliability, heavy running during the tests, balance issues

McLaren Honda

McLaren's third year with Honda started off with massive disappointment. On the back of an improved 2016 campaign, this year's winter testing was once again extremely difficult, with reliability far from what could be expected.

The Japanese engine manufacturer opted to completely redesign its power unit, moving away from a turbo located inside the V between both cylinder banks. As a result of the troubles, both McLaren and Honda admitted the situation put considerable stress on the relationship between the partners. Fernando Alonso also went on record halfway through the second test by saying the team's only problem was the power unit, saying "there is no power, and no reliability".

McLaren has already written the first part of the season off. Eric Boullier admitted he would be happy to see his cars cross the finish line in Melbourne. But even if that happens, Honda has to begin a desperate fight for power because the McLarens are 20 km/h down on the top speed compared to Mercedes. Driveability is a major issue while power unit vibrations caused electrical components within the chassis to fail as well. Even with de-tuned Honda units, McLaren had to use six power units over the eight days of testing, two more than permitted during the whole 2017 campaign.

Mileage completed: 1978 km, 425 laps
The team’s form in short: the least running, woeful traction, power unit issues caused by high vibration, balance woes