Mercedes and Ferrari gave a hint of the speed the 2017 Formula One cars are capable of on day three of the first winter test, which is underway at the Circuit de Catalunya on Wednesday (1 March).
The two teams lowered the bench mark from the first two days during the session and their fastest laps were the quickest seen at the Spanish circuit in eight years with Valtteri Bottas' 1.19:705 on ultra soft tyres being the fastest of the day. In comparison, Lewis Hamilton's pole position lap at the Circuit de Catalunya last season was a 1.22:000.
Mercedes in the hands of Hamilton and the Finn have looked impressive both in terms of speed and reliability. They have garnered the maximum mileage of all teams and set the fastest time on the third day of the test thus far. Ferrari are not too far away and are quietly going about their business. They look to have the pace to match the reigning champions — at least for now — and set their best time of the weekend; Sebastian Vettel's 1.19:952 on the soft tyres, which is two compounds harder compared to Bottas' when he set his time, which was just 0.237 quicker.
The three-time world champion has been praising the car and admits he loves the fact that he is one of only two people who will get to drive, what according to Hamilton is the best looking car on the grid. He also reiterated that Mercedes were not looking at pace but only gathering mileage with the second test likely to see the true pace of all the cars.
"It's been a great test so far, it's been no problem at all. My winter training has worked pretty well so I'm super happy about that," Hamilton said, as quoted on Sky Sports.
"Next week [at the second Barcelona test] we will have a much better opportunity to work at dialling in the car. Right now it's about mileage and that's all we've been focused on," the Briton explained.
"I'm loving driving the car. It's such an amazing feeling to walk in and see that car and be only one of only two people who will get to drive it. It's quite incredible."
Vettel was also pretty pleased with Ferrari's progress after three days and in his first press briefing after the test began, the German warned of more work to be done before the car is ready to go racing.
"I've had two days in the car and I won't get that much more, another two days, but it's impossible [to say where we are]. We're not really trying to look at other people," Vettel said, as quoted on Sky Sports.
"Obviously you see the times, but we are focusing on ourselves. By the looks of it the car is working and there are not any major issues, which is important. It was reliable already at Fiorano [at the car's shakedown] but in terms of performance it's very early to tell. There is still a lot of work to do."