Next stop, Australia! F1 teams head down under for season opener

NEW BOYS: Valtteri Bottas (below) and Esteban Ocon (above) have both impressed as they get to grips with their new machinery
NEW BOYS: Valtteri Bottas (below) and Esteban Ocon (above) have both impressed as they get to grips with their new machinery

With the short pre-season test schedule now complete, F1 teams and drivers are now preparing to head down under to the Albert Park track in Melbourne where the 2017 season sweeps into action.

The Circuit de Catalunya, home to the Spanish Grand Prix, witnessed another four days of track action this week as every competing car has been lapping the Barcelona track to allow teams to complete any last minute updates before jetting off to Australia for the first race of the 2017 season.

The Brackley-based Mercedes AMG Petronas team have been setting fast times, with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas as the wheel of the team’s new Hybrid-powered V6 car.

Bottas said: “I have been very happy with how the testing has gone. It was the chance to spend another very important week with my new team and I can now really say I am looking forward to the first race of the season.”

Lewis Hamilton held similar views, adding: “The team have done an amazing job with the new car. This is the fastest F1 car I have ever driven and I think we are going to have an amazing year in F1.”

Esteban Ocon spent the early part of the week pounding out laps for the Silverstone-based Sahara Force India team. The young Frenchman is highly-rated, and was able to demonstrate a strong turn of speed.

He said: “I am trying to get used to everything ahead of the season start. The team have done a great job, and we know we will be developing the car over the coming weeks and months, but straight out of the box it has been good.”

Sergio Perez joined Ocon behind the wheel of the team’s Mercedes-powered VJM10 car.

Both Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. were pleased with their Toro Rosso car.

The part Bicester-based squad, running Renault powerplants for 2017 after spending a season with a supply of Ferrari engines, also seemed happy with their early year pace.

Kvyat said: “The car is doing everything is should do and we can’t ask for anything more than that. I think we will be in quite a good place when we reach Australia, but as always you don’t truly know what everyone is doing until we are all on the track at the same time under competitive conditions.”

After a year in the doldrums, Ferrari looked to be back on the pace during the Catalunya test.

Former Buckingham University student, Marc Gene, an official test and reserve driver for the team, said: “The new Ferrari looks really good. I was proud to be at its launch and now I have seen it in action I can tell that it is a massive step forward to 2016. I am happy to be part of Ferrari again this year and for sure, we want to win races. I can’t wait for the season to start.”