| |

F1: the rumour mill is spinning even though the season hasn't started

Bryan Edwards

Oh, no we didn't.

Oh, yes they did.

The pantomime that is Formula One is underway, even though the season is not.

Red Bull think they know how Mercedes are so quick. The team that claims their drink gives you wings, says Mercedes is putting oil in the fuel. Mercedes say that's nonsense, that they don't do it, wouldn't do it and its' not allowed.

Well, for sure, it's not allowed, at least during race weekends but technically, there's no reason why they can't try it out in testing. But to do it at race weekends would be extraordinarily difficult: although the teams mix their own fuel, Mercedes being produced by Malaysian national oil company Petronas, the specification is tightly controlled. And fuel must be made available for testing, both from the distribution cans and, randomly, from cars at the end of the race. That's why drivers who finish with less than a specified amount of fuel are penalised.

So Red Bull are almost certainly wide of the mark with that allegation.

Over at Ferrari, the team has done something no team has done for years: it's produced a car with only engineers of its home nationality. That's going to be interesting, says former team boss Luca di Montezemolo who claims that there isn't enough talent in a single country to produce a front running car. This, he says, is likely to lead to Vettel, whose arrival at Ferrari has not been even a moderate success, to leave. Raikkonen, Montezemolo says, isn't able to lead Ferrari to championship success. In short, he's written off the car, and the drivers. One suspects he's been waiting for the chance to make such comments since being fired for poor results: and while team organisation has improved immeasurably, the results have not come. But, F1 being the place where the outspoken are often promptly spiked, Raikkonen promptly put in the fastest time for day two of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Hamilton says the new cars will "sort the men from the boys" but also warns that the actual racing might not be much good in 2017. He did 95 laps in testing: almost 50% more than a full race distance, and said it wasn't especially tiring, confounding the critics who said the new cars would be more physical than last year. After a more-than-full-race simulation, Hamilton said that the changes that were supposed to help cars get closer to the one in front haven't worked: more downforce means more turbulence, said Mercedes designers. That, Hamilton says, makes the cars unpredictable, especially if there are sudden crosswinds.

Last season, Force India, which used to be Spyker adopted a black and silver livery that was similar to that of McLaren. For 2017, McLaren have adopted an orange livery, which looks similar to the old Spyker colour. As for performance: Honda were hip deep in apologies as their 2017 engine, which they had been working on for most of 2016, didn't work. Out of one car they took to the test, they've had a 200% failure. Day one: oil tank failed. Day two: engine failed entirely. Apparently, they have a second generation engine, the "Melbourne Spec" on its way for next week's test. And some sticky tape and brown paper, perhaps?

And finally: this week, all hope was lost that an after-the-last-minute deal would save Manor and the team officially withdrew from the F1 Championship for 2017. It was the last of the three hopefuls that joined in 2010. There was Team Lotus (renamed Caterham), Team US F1 (which failed to make it to the grid), Virgin Racing (later Marussia and then Manor) and Campos (which had a crisis before the season and became HRT. The scale of the uncertainty is shown by the information available to The Daily Telegraph in June 2009, most of which was what didn't happen by the start of the season. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/spo...