2018 Formula 1 Season: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya Test 1 – Preview

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya plays host to the first test of the year
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

The pre-season action truly got underway when the launch season got underway earlier this month, but for Formula 1 fans, knowing the 2018 machines are finally getting track action is a great indication that the new season is just around the corner.

The same ten teams will return in 2018, although several have gone through a winter makeover, with both the Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo names joining the grid alongside Red Bull Racing and Sauber F1 Team respectively.

Lewis Hamilton returns to defend his championship, and if 2017 is anything to go by, the battle between the Briton and Sebastian Vettel to become only the third driver to win five World Championships could be intense.

What should I look out for during the test?

Although testing is not always the best indication of what kind of action the year will provide, particularly the opening test of the winter, it is always positive for any team to have a reliable four days.

The much-maligned shark fins and T-wings have disappeared, while the Halo head protection system, now mandatory to all, will make its true track debut after numerous tests across the past two seasons.

Pirelli Motorsport has introduced two more compounds to its range, the hypersoft and the superhard, although the latter is unlikely to be seen at any point during the year, being as it is a precaution just in case the 2018 cars require much harder compounds than expected. Both are likely to be available to teams in Spain, but only expect the hypersoft to be used on short runs, particularly if one of the midfield teams looks for a glory run.

Though looking at the weather forecast, maybe snow tyres will be in order!

Who will be driving at the F1 tests in Barcelona?

Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas helped the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team secure a fourth consecutive title double in 2017, and it will be intriguing to see whether any team has made significant gains to be able to put themselves in a position to deny the German outfit a fifth, or indeed if the W09 Hybrid enables them to be in an even stronger position.

Both drivers are likely to share the driving duties, with reserve drivers Pascal Wehrlein and George Russell likely to be given opportunities during the in-season tests.

Scuderia Ferrari took five wins in 2017 with Vettel, and he and Kimi Räikkönen will be hoping their SF71H will offer a step forward in performance that will help them take the fight to Mercedes. Much like Mercedes, the race drivers will likely be given the testing duties, with Daniil Kvyat and Antonio Giovinazzi watching from the sidelines.

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing are another team looking for a championship challenge, with the latest Adrian Newey-designed machine again to be raced and tested by Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. The team are in their final year of their contract with Renault Sport, and will be looking to start the year on the front foot with their RB14.

Red Bull will unveil their 2018 livery in Barcelona
Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Behind the leading three teams, the midfield battle in 2017 was both exciting and often enticing, and it will be interesting to see if any of the remaining teams has what it takes to gain any kind of advantage over the rest.

Unlike in 2017, there cannot be any assumption that any of the remaining seven teams will be left at the back, particularly as the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team now has a more substantial partnership with Ferrari, and the talent of Charles Leclerc on board, alongside Marcus Ericsson.

The McLaren F1 Team has switched power suppliers, leaving behind Honda and linking up with Renault Sport for the very first time in their history, and have the talented Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne at the wheel, with Lando Norris likely to miss out for now.

Red Bull Toro Rosso has gone the other way, and are now aligned with Honda rather than Renault, but field an interesting line-up of former GP2 Series champion Pierre Gasly and two-time FIA World Endurance Championship winner Brendon Hartley.

The Sahara Force India F1 Team will share their driving duties between their race drivers, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, and test drivers Nikita Mazepin and Nicholas Latifi during the test, while Williams Martini Racing will give two afternoon sessions to Robert Kubica, who has joined the Grove-based outfit as reserve driver this season, while race drivers Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin share the rest of the duties.

The works Renault Sport Formula One Team will field Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. again in 2018, and are likely to use both of them throughout the test rather than reserve driver Jack Aitken or development racer Artem Markelov, while the Haas F1 Team has already announced race drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will share the driving responsibilities.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 TeamMarcus EricssonCharles LeclercMarcus EricssonCharles Leclerc
Aston Martin Red Bull RacingDaniel RicciardoMax VerstappenDaniel RicciardoMax Verstappen
Haas F1 TeamRomain GrosjeanKevin MagnussenRomain GrosjeanKevin Magnussen
McLaren F1 TeamFernando AlonsoStoffel VandoorneFernando AlonsoStoffel Vandoorne
Mercedes AMG Petronas MotorsportAM: Valtteri BottasAM: Lewis HamiltonAM: Lewis HamiltonAM: Valtteri Bottas
PM: Lewis HamiltonPM: Valtteri BottasPM: Valtteri BottasPM: Lewis Hamilton
Red Bull Toro Rosso HondaBrendon HartleyPierre GaslyBrendon HartleyPierre Gasly
Renault Sport Formula One TeamAM: Nico HulkenbergAM: Carlos Sainz Jr.AM: Nico HulkenbergAM: Carlos Sainz Jr.
PM: Carlos Sainz Jr.PM: Nico HulkenbergPM: Carlos Sainz Jr.PM: Nico H?lkenberg
Sahara Force India F1 TeamNikita MazepinEsteban OconSergio PerezNicholas Latifi
Scuderia FerrariKimi RaikkonenSebastian VettelKimi RaikkonenSebastian Vettel
Williams Martini RacingAM: Lance StrollAM: Sergey SirotkinAM: Lance StrollAM: Sergey Sirotkin
PM: Sergey SirotkinPM: Robert KubicaPM: Robert KubicaPM: Lance Stroll

What is the schedule for the the Barcelona F1 testing?

Monday 26 February – Thursday 1 March

Monday will see the launch of the two remaining 2018 machines, with the Sahara Force India F1 Team and Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda unveiling their new cars in the pit lane from 8am.

The track will be open for action on all four days between 9am and 6pm, with an hour for lunch between 1pm and 2pm.

Die hard fans will attend the test
Grandstands will be open to the public – Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

How can I keep up to date with all of the action?

The test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is open to the public. The Box Offices and Gates 1 and 3 will open every day from 8:30am, while Grandstands F, G, H and I, as well as the Main Grandstand on the start/finish straight, will be open throughout the test.

The Checkered Flag will be covering each day, with daily reports and comments and thoughts from all ten teams on the grid, while post-test there will be an analysis of just what transpired.

Where is the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya?

The circuit is thirty-two kilometres away from the city of Barcelona and only eighteen kilometres away from the Barcelona coastline.