Winter is over and Melbourne is just around the corner. The excitement is building as everyone must now show their hand as they battle for the first points of the season. We will finally get a true picture of how the teams compare and what kind of season we are in for. Everyone is praying for a three way fight at the top and hopefully this is reflected in some close racing and multiple race leaders at Albert Park in one weeks time.
Now let’s have a look at where each team stands going to into the first race of the season. For other useful pages go to:
As always the Silver Arrows start the season as deserved favourites. They have dominated the hybrid era and their testing performance was deservedly described as ominous. Mercedes didn’t take any hypersoft tyres to Barcelona and never pushed the car to its limits but put in some very impressive race simulations. I expect Hamilton to be on pole in Melbourne with a possible 1-2 with Bottas but the question is whether the Ferrari and Red Bull can match the Mercedes for race pace.
The Maranello outfit recorded the quickest times of testing but were still overshadowed by the race pace displayed by Mercedes and Red Bull. Vettel has come out in defence of the car saying he has a lot of confidence in the package and the team. He doubts there is a big gap at the top and I tend to agree with him. The laps recorded by Vettel and Raikkonen were impressive and I think they will both be up their fighting in Melbourne.
With the most impressive driver line up on the grid, a car to match would add a lot of excitement to the season ahead. Ricciardo recorded the fastest time on day 1 and day 6 while Verstappen went relatively unnoticed throughout testing. Red Bull seemed to use similar tactics to Mercedes and held back at the end of testing to focus on race simulations. With Ricciardo’s contract expiring at the end of the season they will need to be fighting for race wins sooner rather than later if they want him to sign on the dotted line.
A very up and down testing means we are still unsure what McLaren are going to do this season. It should be an improvement on last year when they scored mere 30 points but reliability hindered their testing once again. There was some light at the end of the tunnel as the team completed more mileage than last year and on the last day put in some impressive lap times. With Alonso behind the wheel they will always be a threat but the car is some way off the big three. I see them in a battle at the top of the midfield.
Renault keep showing continuous improvement from season to season. It looks like they are very close to McLaren on performance and ahead on reliability in what is shaping up to be a great battle between the two at the start of their new relationship. A talented driver line up in Hulkenberg and Sainz means Renault could be on for a big season. I can see them nicking a podium or two throughout the season but breaking the top 3 is a step too far.
An impressive testing for the American outfit has got the team eager to get going in Melbourne. A quiet first week in Barcelona was followed by an explosive second where Magnussen finished 6th on the timesheets on the supersoft tyre. Haas were very inconsistent last season and the car’s performance varied from track to track. If the car has a bit more balance, Haas could become the surprise package of 2018.
After a really good season in 2017, Force India seem to have gone backwards. They showed very little pace in testing but a lot of updates are expected before qualifying on Saturday. Perez and Ocon will need to make sure they stay out of each others way after the pair endured a volatile relationship last year. They clashed on the track on a number of occasions and Force India will need to maximise points at every race to have a chance of reclaiming 4th in the constructors championship.
The new partnership with Honda has got off to a promising start. The team completed the 3rd most laps during the winter test which would have been unthinkable when watching McLaren last season. Hartley has been very positive about the overall package and the team have revised their expectations as they now hope to be battling for points from the the first race. The Honda engine is still likely to be behind its peers when it comes to power but it looks like they now have a reliable engine which they can develop over the season.
Williams were another team to disappoint during the winter test. The famous outfit seem to be falling down the grid and face an uphill task to keep up with McLaren, Renault and possibly Haas. With Martini announcing the end to their relationship with Williams at the end of the season the team will need some good results to attract a new title sponsor. Stroll and Sirotkin are young and inexperienced drivers but a podium in Baku last season would have done Stroll the world of good.
Sauber are set to be the backmarkers again but will close the gap now their using an up to date Ferrari engine. The increase in power seems to have caused some instability, the car ended up in the gravel a few times during testing and it doesn’t seem the easiest car to control. Ericsson needs to have big season after failing to score a point last year and he will be up against the highly thought of Charles Leclerc who has joined the team from the Ferrari youth programme.