What we learned from the first test (part two)

By on
F1 Test, Barcelona, Circuit de Catalunyaes

Teams turned up in Barcelona a week ago to prepare themselves for the first of the two test sessions before the field gathers together in Melbourne, Australia for the opening round of the 2018 Formula One Championship.


America Haas F1 Team was the first squad to release photos of their new challenger for the 2018 championship season.

The car is largely a carry-over of its predecessor in terms of design. The team set the aim of designing a platform for 2018 which can cure the unpredictability of the 2018 Haas car. The main focus with the evolution was the aerodynamic tuning and to sort out the handling issues of the previous season.

The colour scheme attempts to minimise the visual impact of the controversial 'halo' head-protection device, the biggest technical change this year. Aside from the head protection system, among other obvious changes from last year is the absence of a large vertical fin on the engine cover and the so-called 'T-wing' attached to the rear tip - both are the consequences of the dimensional restrictions in those areas of the car.

When asked about the progress, Team Principal Günther Steiner said that the team still needs to find out how the new car work on the real track.

“The first few days were compromised by the weather, but today we got 96 laps in. We made some progress and we understand the car a little bit better. Next week we need to start from where we are now, get better, and then work toward being ready for Australia.”


Renault ended the 2017 Formula One Championship in the sixth position. Following a refreshed factory, mass recruitment and development, the team aims higher up in the Constructors’ Championship.

“Our headline target is to show continued progression through results. We want to be able to showcase our progression in every regard; power unit, chassis, operations, drivers,” team bocc Cyril Abiteboul said.

The R18 car has a new colour scheme, with heavy use of black alongside Renault's corporate colour of yellow. This new machine is the first one to be developed by the team’s new technical staff, of which more than 100 have been recruited since the start of the programme.

In its launch specification it appears a relatively conventional design, but notably elegant of form. Like all new F1 cars this year, it features the 'halo' head-protection device, painted black to try to better integrate its controversial aesthetics into the car. The car ran 273 laps in the hands of Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz throughout the first test week.

Abiteboul said that both his drivers were delighted with the first impression of the new car.

Obviously, it’s very early days in our understanding of the car, but both Nico and Carlos have given positive feedback. Our teams back at Enstone and Viry-Châtillon have worked tremendously hard on this car and their attention to detail has been illustrated by our positive lap tally when conditions allowed. Next week we are targeting a significantly higher lap tally.”

Force India

Force India unveiled its new challenger in the morning of the first test day in Barcelona. The team intends to maintain its impressive fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship which it earned in 2017.

The new car is pretty much a carry-over, an evolution of its predecessor. The aerodynamic platform and philosophy is also the same. The teams stayed with the heavily serrated bargeboards and Mercedes-style sidepods concept. The rear back of the car has a nice undercut to give space to the airflow. The rear wing is supported by one single pillar while the team also maintained its blown wheel nut concept.

Force India only managed to complete a total of 166 laps. The times of the Silverstone-based teams were not promising either in the first test session. However, chief engineer Tom McCullough said that the focus of his crew has mainly gone into the checking of the basic function of the car and the team will only start discovering the performance of the new VJM11 next week.

“The damp track this morning forced us to delay most of our running until the track conditions started to improve. When the circuit was suitable for dry tyres, we fitted a rake to the car and resumed the aero programme, adding to the data we gathered on Tuesday.”

“We worked through various parameter changes and all the usual tasks for the first week with a new car. It’s not been the easiest of weeks, largely due to the weather, but we are gradually ticking off the jobs on the schedule. Next week’s programme will focus more on tyre evaluation and performance running.”

Alfa Romeo Sauber

On the 26th February, Sauber have unveiled their first car since teaming up with Alfa Romeo, with the team aiming for a much-improved 2018 season in the C37.

Distant back-runners in 2017, the Swiss outfit have renewed hope for the campaign ahead after agreeing a long-term and wide-ranging technical partnership with Alfa Romeo, who return to the sport following a 33-year absence. Marcus Ericsson stayed at the team for another year while reigning F2 champion and Ferrari protégé Charles Leclerc joined the fray.

The C37 was built based on a new car philosophy, focusing on the aerodynamic concept that is different to that of the outgoing Sauber C36-Ferrari. The C37 is equipped with new and improved aerodynamic parts, in addition to regulation changes for 2018, such as the removal of the shark fin and T-wings. The new challenger features a Ferrari-style high, sculpted, sophisticated sidepod concept.

The new car completed a total of 283 laps which was the fourth highest number on the teams’ rank. The lap times were not encouraging, but the car ran pretty smoothly thanks to a promising reliability. Charles Leclerc has a few off-track moves, but neither of them were serious. However, the behavior of the car was worrying. The rear end of the car was very nervous, especially in the first complex of three turn which requires a very stable car due to the quick changes of direction.

Team principal Frederic Vasseur was delighted with the data acquired in Barcelona despite to the poor weather conditions.

“Overall, it has been quite a productive first week of winter testing for us, taking into consideration that we have been facing tricky weather conditions. We have gathered some useful data, which will allow us to establish the strengths and weaknesses of our new car, and prepare our programme for the second week of testing.

Formula One is back in action next week, with the second test taking place in Barcelona from 6 - 9 March. The weather predictions are much better for the second week of testing with temperatures climbing above the 16 Celsius degree. As Pirelli supply the teams with more than 100 sets of tyre, plenty of action can be expected after the paddock was left playing catch-up by the poor weather.