Gearing up for F1 action at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit

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With less than 20 days to ge before the F1 cars fire up in anger at Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit, Formula 1 teams are frantically working on their 2018 challengers with the hope of wrestling the title from the cluthes of team Mercedes.

Winter testing brought about an unusual winter storm that blanked most of Europe, but teams still pounded in serious number of laps to analyze and determine what areas they could still improve on before the cars head down under.

The fastest lap time set during the first week was, no surprise here, by reigning champ Lewis Hamilton in the W09. After running 69 laps, he clocked in 1:19.333 at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Stoffel Vandoorne ran 110 laps in the MCL33, and was surprisingly just 0.5 off Hamilton’s time, recording his personal best time of 1:19.854.

Majority of Vandoorne’s on-track duties were made in wet conditions, but as the track dried out, the Belgian bolted on a set of the Pirelli hyper-soft tires to solidify his time.

Four-time champ Sebastian Vettel was 0.908 seconds from Lewis’ time, putting the Ferrari third on the time sheets.

In fourth was the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. The Danish driver took the VF-18 out for 92 laps with nary a problem.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the Red Bull RB14, which encountered mechanical failure in the early stages and was forced to drive back to the pits for repairs.

After Max Verstappen took to the track once again, he spun and got beached in the gravel traps. Dissappoinment was all over the face of the young Dutch.

Coming in at a respectable fifth place was Fernando Alonso in the MCL33. The two-time champ clocked in 1:20.929 using super softs in 51 laps.

Talk in the paddock is that the new suspension setup of the MCL33 was the primary reason for the rise in standings of the team from Woking.

Making the news, aside from testing times, was the question that has hounded the teams, drivers and even the fans: How is it driving with the Halo in place?

The Halo is the driver protection system placed on the monocoque to prevent driver head trauma in cases of accidents.

At first drivers were unsure how it would affect visibility, but after running a few laps, majority said they hardly noticed it. “You definitely notice it, you definitely loose some visibility, you’ve lost a certain percentage. But you get used to it as I started driving, (but) your mind learns to work around it,” said Lewis Hamilton.

On the flip side, Kevin Magnussen ranted “It’s very annoying. Ugly. Difficult to get into the car, difficult to get out of the car. Difficult to get the steering wheel on and off. Just awkward and annoying.”

But the best quote would probably have to come from Haas boss Guenther Steiner who drove home his point. “I got to the point of ‘Do I like it personally? No. Is it there? Yes.’ So get on with it. Sometimes in life, there’s no point wasting time anymore. It’s there to stay, and it stays.”

The 2018 Formula 1 season begins on March 23 to 25 at Albert Park, Melbourne.



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