If you took a brief overlook of testing then you’d be forgiven for thinking that you we’re looking at a report from 2017, and not 2018. Mercedes were impressive, Ferrari looked quick and McLaren kept breaking down. Away from the headlines though, there were a few intriguing stories from the few weeks at the Circuit de Catalunya, where it had snow, then beautiful sunshine.

The Halo Dominated The Early Talk

One of the biggest talking points wasn’t what was under the cars, but on top of them with the implementation of the halo device. The general consensus is that they’re an ugly feature, but it’s something F1 fans are just going to have to put up with until something nicer is designed. This time last year we were talking about shark fins and T wings, thankfully they didn’t last, but head protection for the driver will.

Ferrari Halo Barcelona Testing

Haas were impressive

On the track one of the most encouraging signs was from the Haas team, who posted some great lap times and surprised many with their speed. Some are calling them the ‘white Ferrari’ as they seem to have extracted a high level of performance out of the engine. Not only did they post fast times, they were consistent. It would be great to see them challenging for the podium this season. Their aim is probably for that 4th spot in the constructors table, and on this viewing, you wouldn’t put it past them.

One fascinating battle in this year’s season might not just be at the front, as it will be an interesting battle to see who can finish higher in the constructors table, Torro Rosso or McLaren? Engine politics are sometimes intriguing, sometimes tedious, but they always give a talking point. Torro Rosso switched from Renault to Honda, and McLaren switched from Honda to Renault. We don’t know more about who made the best decision until they are both out on track, but McLaren may have been envious of the consistent performance that Torro Rosso had. Those Honda engine reliability issues seem to have gone, in testing at least.

Fastest Laps Can Be Deceiving

While Sebastian Vettel posted the fastest lap ever seen on the circuit, it was on the hypersoft tyres that Mercedes decided not to run on that day. Mercedes are notorious for not playing their full hand in testing, and it’s expected that they will be quicker and more consistent than the Italian outfit by the time we get to Melbourne. Mercedes posted the 7th fastest time of any team throughout winter testing. There is a feeling though that behind the tires, fuel loads and race settings, that they are still the quickest team.

If people were looking for a crack in the dominance that Mercedes have had over the sport in recent years, there wasn’t one. While the pace may not have been incredible, it never is with them in testing. What they couldn’t hide, however, was the cars reliability. It was relentless around the track which included Lewis Hamilton completing 97 laps on the final day of testing.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Barcelona, Tests, Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes Still the Team to Beat

Red Bull still look like they might be half a step behind Mercedes and Ferrari as their performance didn’t really make people stand up an notice. Sauber and Williams look as though they are in for unspectacular years once again. They put in decent times without giving the teams at the top much to worry about. Renault and Force India, along with Haas, are most likely the only teams who can compete with the top three for podium places on a regular basis. McLaren will be hoping that they can be in the mix with those teams too, but it remains to be seen.

On the face of it, not much seems to have changed, but it’s never been more difficult to judge where a team is, however, and it leaves many scratching their heads trying to work it out. As always, we will find out at Albert Park when teams battle it out in Australia. Let’s hope for even more competitive season that last year.