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F1 preseason testing is all about optimism

Lewis Hamilton takes to the track in Mercedes's 2009 challenger, the W09. (Steve Etherington/Mercedes AMG Petronas)
Roar Guru
26th February, 2018
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Formula One’s off-season purgatory is finally over, and with preseason testing starting only last night, fans can remain optimistic that this will be the year their team and that their driver will hit the jackpot.

History demonstrates that few are rewarded. A select group has experienced the ultimate success, particularly in the past decade, with dreams shattered for the majority within the first few days of testing. The next fortnight at Barcelona will unearth which are in for a long season.

Success is relative, and sentiment is the greatest factor for some. There isn’t a defined roof on expectations, which can vary among supporters, so the ultimate outcomes are subjective.

Until proven otherwise, Mercedes should be expected to remain the class of the field, and at this stage it’s difficult for fans not to marvel at the team’s sustained grip on the sport in a game of continuous evolution.

The W09 chassis is true to this, with few fundamental alterations to the striking long wheelbase of its predecessor. Its temperament, however, is the biggest unknown – will it also follow the W08’s ‘diva characteristics?

Lewis Hamilton drives the Mercedes W09 at a private filming day.

(Steve Etherington/Mercedes AMG Petronas)

Ferrari has refined what represented arguably the best chassis on the grid in 2017 and, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, has clearly served as inspiration for many of its competitors.

The SF71H has adopted a minimalist approach to cooling, notably around the sidepods, and if the unreliability that derailed its title bid last season has been addressed, aerodynamic efficiency could propel the team to class-of-the-field status.

Red Bull upheld its clandestine tactics with another camouflage interim livery masking many of the RB14’s features before testing started last night.

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Under the reduced input of the still influential Adrian Newey, whose designs don’t spare room for as much as a five-cent piece, the new car has taken strong cues from Ferrari’s 2017 philosophy. Working on momentum and consistency from the outset will be crucial to taking the fight to Mercedes and Ferrari.

Outside the notional ‘big three’, McLaren’s fate remains the most intriguing. Now unencumbered by Honda, it is a much humbler organisation for the chastening three years.

Collaborating with Renault won’t propel the Woking outfit to titles, though they’re working from a low base, so consistent points hauls while contending with fellow customer Red Bull Racing would equate to success.

Fernando Alonso of McLaren-Honda at a Formula One press conference.

(GEPA pictures/Christian Walgram).

The MCL33 appears to represent a simple evolution of last year’s car, which was highly regarded, Honda notwithstanding, and the papaya orange livery has already won hearts.

Force India has been the ongoing subject of talk of a potential takeover bid, but on track it has continued to punch above its weight. Having improved on competitiveness across the entire season, the team will again be targeting fourth in the constructors standings.

Renault will also fancy its chances of the fourth-place prize with a formidable driver line-up allied with a desire not to be embarrassed by its customers.

A rejuvenated Sauber, bolstered by a partnership with Alfa Romeo and heightened support from Ferrari, suggests brighter times lie ahead. The stunning red-on-white livery coats an overhauled chassis featuring a longer wheelbase. Keep an eye on this one.

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We’ll know in coming days if Williams regrets taking Sergey Sirotkin over Robert Kubica, if Toro Rosso will be left to lament Honda and if Haas’s brakes appease ROmain Grosjean.

Until then optimism remains the name of the game.

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