Reasons to be cheerful
At least Alonso found it within himself to acknowledge the wider thrills that re-set F1 2.0-17 will offer, for despite McLaren Honda’s travails, elsewhere there are reasons aplenty to be cheerful about what lies ahead.
The always-thrilling tingle of anticipation that accompanies that rst sight of new F1 prototypes being ragged hard was giddily fullled, as it dawned that newgen F1 is fast. Fast against the stopwatch, yes – Valtteri Bottas’s 1:19.705 beat the fastest ever pole time for the Circuit de Catalunya in this conguration, Mark Webber’s 1:19.995 of 2010 – but also fast to the eye and visceral in a way that hasn’t been seen for several seasons.
Watching on the Monday afternoon of the rst test, between Turns 6 and 7, I inched and jumped back from the guardrail as Seb Vettel’s Ferrari SF70H hammered down from the exit of T5, through T6, at around 270km/h, before hard braking – with a trigger-fast four-gear sequential drop – into T7. F1 hasn’t delivered that kind of punch for years; maybe not since 3-litre V10s were outlawed at the end of 2005. It’s breathless stuff.
That was just from the outside. Those in the hot seats returned from the fray with giant grins. They admitted to being battered by the 25 percent increase in downforce delivered by 2017 cars and G-loadings that have made slow corners quick and quick corners at, but were speed-drunk and wide-eyed. “I’m like a kid on a roller coaster,” gushed Hamilton as he raved about the cornering grip and braking capacity of his W08. Meanwhile, Seb Vettel said high downforce and fat tyres had “xed everything”. And Max Verstappen allayed fears that extra cornering speed and reduced braking distances had diminished overtaking. “I think it’s the same as last year,” he said. “I’ve done some overtaking, so it’s okay. It works.”
FOR DECADES, BERNIE ECCLESTONE’S F1 OPERATED UNDER A CLOUD OF FEAR. WARY OF REPRISALS, FEW WOULD SPEAK OUT ABOUT F1’S SHORTCOMINGS
Downforce is up by 25 per cent and despite the battering drivers take from increased G-forces, they’re wildly enthusiastic about higher speeds
Formula 1 is suddenly more accessible, with teams now allowed to post their own F1 footage