Five Things To Keep An Eye On During Final F1 Preseason Test In Barcelona

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The first Formula One preseason test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was the first chance for both teams and drivers to come to grips with the new 2017 cars and tires. For some, the week didn’t exactly go according to plan.

During the first test, much of our attention was focused on learning whether the new regulations will lead to the performance improvements rule makers promised. While we learned the new cars seemingly are as fast as experts predicted, another big takeaway from the first four days of testing is various teams, such as Scuderia Toro Rosso, Williams Martini Racing, McLaren-Honda and even pace-setter Mercedes-AMG Petronas, suffered hiccups in their programs.

As a result, this week should provide a more accurate representation of the pecking order for this season. Here are five things to watch for during the second F1 preseason test that will run from March 7 to 10:

How will Pascal Wehrlein do in his first test for Sauber F1 Team?
The Mercedes junior driver was forced to sit out the first week of testing, as he still wasn’t 100 percent healthy following his rollover crash at Race of Champions Miami. Between he and Marcus Ericsson, Wehrlein arguably is the more-talented driver. His Swedish teammate is entering his third season with Sauber, though, while Wehrlein is still adjusting to working with the team. The first four days would have been valuable in getting him up to speed with Sauber’s procedures, as well as the new car, but it will be interesting to see if Wehrlein is able to match his teammates’ pace even having missed them.

Just how close is Ferrari to Mercedes?
At the end of week one, Mercedes appeared to still be the team to beat. That said, Ferrari wasn’t far behind, with each team setting the fastest lap on two of the four days. Teams’ performances during the first test aren’t always entirely representative of their true potential, so the next four days could give us a better idea as to how much of an advantage the “Silver Arrows” hold over the “Prancing Horse.”

What upgrades will Red Bull Racing bring?
Even though the RB13 features an innovative nose duct that aids the flow of air toward the rear of the car, Red Bull’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey said it’s in its very early stages of development. Apart from the new nose design, Newey has kept the RB13 relatively simple so the team can continue to add upgrades as it gathers more data on how the car behaves. We’re curious to see if Red Bull brings its first set of upgrades to the second test, or if it waits until the first race in Australia.

How good is the STR12?
Scuderia Toro Rosso was plagued by reliability issues throughout the first four days, limiting Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat to a combined 183 laps, less than half as many as Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. Toro Rosso has a history of building chassis that allow it to punch above its weight, and many people throughout the paddock have praised the team this year for the STR12’s well-thought-out design. However, we’ll only know how good the car really is if Toro Rosso can complete a full test program.

Is McLaren-Honda in over its head?
Reliability was also McLaren’s Achilles heel during the first test. Although it was able to complete more laps than it had during 2016 testing, that bar was set pretty low. The rough start doesn’t necessarily mean McLaren is in for another disappointing year, but the fact that Honda’s engine expert Gilles Simon left the program Monday — according to the BBC — makes that eventuality seem much more likely.

Thumbnail photo via Red Bull Content Pool

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