With the conclusion of Formula 1’s final test in Barcelona this week, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were both reluctant to comment about the performance of Ferrari’s new SF71-H in comparison to rivals.
On paper, Ferrari enjoyed success in the final four day test. They topped the timesheet on three of the four days whilst proving they were reliable by completing over 600 laps.
Over the course of the test, they actually completed 631 laps in total; 57 more than that of Red Bull, but 103 less than arch rivals Mercedes, this year’s defending Drivers and Constructors Champions.
Despite this performance suggesting that Ferrari should be near the top end of the field in 2018, comments from both Ferrari drivers have failed to give any insight to their personal belief in the relative pace of the SF71-H.
“We are still working on some things for the first race and it’s not really possible to make any predictions based on the performance of the other teams,” Vettel commented following his final day in the car on Thursday.
Despite topping Thursday’s session, Vettel told Formula1.com at the end of the day, “It’s the wrong conclusion to look at the timesheet.”
Even when pushed by reporters about Ferrari’s strong long run pace, the German delivered little insight about 2018’s potential running order when he stated, “this is the wrong time to say anything.”
Kimi Raikkonen echoed these thoughts when the second test concluded on Friday. “No one can say where we really are,” he told media after topping the final day. “We’ll have a better idea in a couple of weeks in Melbourne.”
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton echoed the words of Vettel and Raikkonen, too. “It’s still difficult to know exactly where we are in comparison to Red Bull and Ferrari,” he stated at the end of the final test.
He then added, “we won’t fully know that until we get to the first race [Melbourne].”
Mercedes Technical Director James Allison also admitted that Mercedes have been trying to work out their “competitive position” ahead of Melbourne. However, as Allison put it, “we don’t know what the other teams are going to do between now and Melbourne.”
The only front running team that was open about their performance was Red Bull. As the final test came to a close, Daniel Ricciardo commented, “I think we are close enough to be in the hunt.”
“We had some strong pace in testing at times, but then you see what others are doing and then you’re not sure anymore, but I think we’re looking OK,” he told media after completing 92 laps during the final day of testing.
Most revealing of all, Ricciardo commented, “we’re definitely feeling better about ourselves than we did 12 months ago.” This time last year, Red Bull were hampered by major reliability issues whilst clearly remaining as the third quickest car.
Most pundits agreed following pre-season testing that Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull would form the front of 2018’s grid. Ted Kravtiz of Sky Sports claimed that Mercedes would be the quickest, with Red Bull and then Ferrari behind.
Teams like Red Bull can speculate all they like, and teams like Mercedes and Ferrari can stay as tight-lipped as they want.
Either way, the running order for the 2018 Formula 1 season will be mostly revealed when the Australian Grand Prix gets underway on March 25th from Albert Park, Melbourne. And, it’ll be a lot harder for Ferrari and Mercedes to hide from the truth.