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F1 testing roundup: Ferrari and Mercedes battle it out at the top

By Owen Fishwick | Updated: 2017-03-13 13:49

F1 testing roundup: Ferrari and Mercedes battle it out at the top

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in action during the Formula One testing session  at Spain's Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on March 10, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

Scuderia Ferrari looks set to challenge Mercedes at the 2017 Formula One season opener in Australia in two weeks' time, after Kimi Raikkonen topped the timesheets with a lap of 1m18.634s during pre-season testing.

The Finn set the time on super-soft tires, 0.7s faster than anyone else during the last day of testing at Spain's Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. It followed a strong eight-day preparation for the Italian marque, covering 2,765 miles, just shy of Mercedes's 3,170.

Although it is always difficult to draw firm conclusions from testing as we don't know what fuel loads and what engine modes the cars are running, the times still look promising for a Ferrari challenge at the top. Especially with regards to suggestions four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who set the fastest time the day before, had been lifting off on the straights.

After Thursday's test, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said that Ferrari were "bluffing" with regard to their speed. The following day Raikkonen replied that he could go even faster if he wanted, and that their 2017 preparations had gone better than in previous years.

As with all teams, the Silver Arrows brought a series of updates to the track, some of which they are still trying to make the most of. It is also thought that the world champions have been running heavier fuel loads during testing, masking their true pace. Despite that, the German team still lodged the third and fourth quickest times.

After toppling Ferrari as main challenger to the Mercedes in 2016, Red Bull had a test to forget, struggling for both reliability in their Renault engine and unable to match the pace of the Ferraris and Mercedes on long runs.

Like Mercedes, Red Bull too has a habit of not showing their full hand in testing, and according to driver Daniel Riccardo, the Austrian team can expect more power and aero in a fortnight's time in Australia.

All Renault runners, including the factory team, Red Bull, and Toro Rosso experienced problems with the MGU-K Energy Recovery Systems.

The mid field looks to be a five-way battle this season with Williams, Toro Rosso, Renault, Force India, and Haas all setting their fastest times within one second of each other.

Mclaren continued to struggle with speed and reliability finishing testing quicker than only Sauber. After the final test day Mclaren driver Alonso was bottom of the timesheets by more than a second, and a massive 4.1 seconds slower than pacesetter Raikkonen.

Mclaren had consistently struggled throughout the test with a lack of reliability from their Honda power unit, and go into Australia not having completed a single race simulation. Two-time world champion Alonso gave his verdict on the engine as having "no power and no reliability".

The 2017 F1 season starts in Australia on March 26.

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