Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017

Lap time watch: 2017 pre-season testing day one

2017 F1 season

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The first test day of 2017 is half-done and we have our first indication of how much quicker the new generation of F1 cars are.

The new, wider cars have been introduced with a goal of reducing lap times by five seconds. A key reference for this is the pole position time at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2015: 1’24.681 set by Nico Rosberg.

The chart below shows Mercedes are already 1.5 seconds quicker that time. However keep in mind they may have been able to use softer compound tyres than those which will be used for this year’s Spanish Grand Prix. For a potentially more accurate comparison between the cars’ 2017 and 2015 performance, their best times from testing that year have also been included.

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This chart also shows how quick each team is relative to its quickest pace at the Circuit de Catalunya in the race weekend and testing in 2015. So far Force India have made the most progress compared to their best qualifying time at the 2015 Spanish Grand Prix, lapping 4.3 seconds quicker.

But there’s a long way still to go in testing. And the real measure of whether F1 has hit its five second target won’t come until the Spanish Grand Prix itself.

Have they hit the ‘five seconds faster’ target?

How do their lap times compare to last year?

Here’s the same data for 12 months ago:

2017 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 24 comments on “Lap time watch: 2017 pre-season testing day one”

    1. Why 2015 and not 2016?

      1. the new rules started to be formulated in 2015, the goal was to improve lap time while having the 2015 car’s performance as benchmark

        1. I see. Isn’t that a bit trivial, though, considering the significant improvement in 2016? After all, Mercedes already gained more than 2.5 seconds in Barcelona within the old regulations. They might’ve gained 5 seconds in the long run even without changing the rules …
          My impression has always been that they wanted to achieve a massive improvement of the lap times that were possible with the old low aero rules without a fixed reference.

          1. the whole concept is trivial in my opinion. the only valid reasons for speeding up the cars are to make it physically harder on the drivers (this could have been achieved by all sorts of other means, such as banning power steering or tyre warmers) and to differentiate F1 from the lower formulae.

            however, it seems churlish to make judgements on a season that hasn’t yet begun in earnest, so i’ll curtail my rant here.

          2. if we take the decision of implementing the new rules solely based on the lap time alone it is (even though there is much more potential under the new rules, and this lap times are a short term result, one can only imagine what will they do once they converge to the limit of performance)

            but F1 needed a change up front, and even though that might not happen, deep down that was the fundamental reason to do this shake up

            it appeared that the cars were also too forgiving and did not demand enough of the drivers (some F1 rookies said during the past 3 years that the difference wasn’t that big from junior formulas), and giving back some of that ruthlessness to F1 might be appealing from a marketing standpoint, as it proves again to be the pinnacle of motosport

    2. Since test conditions are different than race conditions isn’t it better to compare to the test times of 2015 (or 2016)?

    3. mclaren is not in the table?

      1. They didn’t set a time yet on 2017.

      2. @khanistanf1
        McLaren failed to set a lap time in the morning session, so impossible to compare.

    4. McLaren has completed just 1 (one) lap, with no time set. Maybe later today?

    5. Not looking good for Red Bull either, they’ve only managed 8 laps so far, compare to 62 and 77 from Ferrari and Mercedes…

      1. I hope the power unit isn’t the reason for the delays or the lack of pace.

      2. Seems The Red Bull chassis is not impressing people either. But hey, who knows. Ferrari and Merc are looking real good.

    6. Mercedes well over a 100 laps, Hamilton comforably setting the fasted time so far. On softs HAM is already quicker than his pole lap last year….

      Merc looking extremely reliable again and very quick.

      1. vettel .1 second beind in Ferrari on mediums

        1. Yep very impressive session from Ferrari.

        2. Ferrari showing their hand already, it seems?

          1. Why are they showing there hands? They didn’t set a time on the quicker tyres

    7. This track is basically going to be a like a flat oval with an infield section with the new cars, like Phoenix. I’m interested to see if Silverstone is going to be flat or flattish from Luffield to Stowe.

      1. @dmw:
        Erm, no, and no. The cornering speeds are going to be impressive, but I think you’re exaggerating the gains by a factor of 2 or 3.

    8. I have commented this on another article, you can’t just compare race weekends to test days and “the best time from all 8 test days” to the time after 1 day of testing. You should compare Apples with Apples, which is a 2016 vs. 2017 comparison of the lap time after the first day of testing in both years. This leads to the following results today:
      Mercedes: 3.644 seconds faster
      Ferrari: 3,061 seconds faster
      Williams: 4,015 seconds faster
      Haas: 5,505 seconds faster
      Red Bull: 3,118 seconds faster
      Force India: 2,589 seconds faster
      Toro Rosso: 2,686 seconds faster
      Renault: 4,573 seconds faster
      McLaren: 1,883 seconds faster
      Sauber: 0,714 seconds faster

      Don’t forget that during the 2016 test days the fastest time went down by 2,2 seconds. That’s the difference you’re neglecting in this article. And this goes for each year, albeit in slightly different numbers of course. I expect the fastest time after day 8 in 2017 to be about 2,5 to 3 seconds faster compared to today.

      1. good job, I was expecting this from the article

      2. Found this more useful.. thanks.

    9. 1:21.791 is quite slow lap time considering the potential of these cars. I know they possibly didn’t use their full potential to achieve the best possible time yet, but regardless, I was expecting the fastest time to be a 1m19.something or 1m20.something on the first day already.

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