All ten teams have completed their launch schedules for the 2018 F1 season, with Toro Rosso and Red Bull the final two launched on Monday this week at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain.

As you read this it will be the third day of the first session of pre-season testing.

I am sure we will still have no idea who is really setting the pace. A show of domination by any team other than Mercedes has, for the last few seasons, proved to have been an optimistic demonstration.

Last season saw a very improved Ferrari and indeed it was a close battle for the first half of the year with Sebastian Vettel heading the points table, but then Lewis Hamilton progressively cut into the lead to finally take both the constructers and drivers-titles by a wide margin.

We have heard of the concern from Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff regarding the new Maranello challenger.

Wolff believes this season will be a much tougher one for the Stuttgart team, but it is not the first time we have heard that. During this test session all eyes will be focused on the performance of the Renault and Honda powered teams.

McLaren is the one that many will be hoping finds its way back to the front of the grid after an absolutely disastrous three seasons with the Japanese manufacturer.

A new era begins for the Woking team with Renault supplying the motive power. By all accounts everyone is happy, although Fernando Alonso apparently is wary of the outcome.

Renault themselves wish to at least halve the gap to the front of the field. According to team chief Cyril Abiteboul, the French organization needs more pace with reliability to close that gap.

I t will not just be Renault hoping for that. Despite the nomenclature of TAG Heuer on the entry list a Renault engine by any other name is still a Renault engine. Red Bull’s Christian Horner is chasing for the title whereas team advisor Helmut Marko does not believe that is within reach of the Milton Keynes outfit.

Toro Rosso is another one to watch as they have made the brave move to that Honda engine and must be hoping that it all comes together for 2018.

Surely a company with the development capability of Honda will ultimately find the sweet spot for performance and the all important factor of reliability? This is an area that was sadly missing since 2015, and multiple non finishes for McLaren Honda must be a spectre looming in the minds of all at Toro Rosso.

Marko will be watching the Italian team’s progress carefully as the rumours are strong that Red Bull could be moving to Honda power in 2019.

Lewis Hamilton is now drifting into Schumacher territory



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