Formula One returns to action next week with a test session ahead of a highly anticipated season featuring wider and faster cars to make the series more exciting.
The revamped cars will be on the track in Barcelona on Monday when teams and drivers will get their first real look at what 2017 is going to be like.
“Next week is when we really get to unleash it,” Lewis Hamilton said after Mercedes unveiled its car on Friday.
A second four-day test session will take place in Barcelona from March 7-10.
The first race is the Australian GP on March 26.
The season arrives with regulation changes that significantly altered car design and performance in an attempt to attract more fans and increase track attendance and television audiences.
New aerodynamic and tire rules have given the 2017 cars a meaner look, making them wider and boosting downforce and grip. That translates into faster speeds and, hopefully, more overtaking maneuvers on the track. The rear wings are lower and many of the cars will use a “shark fin” wing on top of the engine.
“The car is wider, tires are bigger, we have a lot more downforce,” Hamilton said. “It’s like taking a small propeller plane and comparing it to a Boeing 737. It’s got so much more performance on it.”
The bigger and quicker cars are also likely to be harder to drive, putting more emphasis on the drivers’ skills and physical conditioning.
Teams are expecting lap times to be three to five seconds faster compared to last year.
“Let’s wait and see,” McLaren veteran Fernando Alonso said. “I think there is some hope that with these regulations we will improve the show. Next week we will have some answers in Barcelona. But definitely it’s a good change for Formula One, something that we probably needed, to have fast and good looking cars.”
The new season will begin without defending champion Nico Rosberg, who retired after winning his first title. Former champion Jenson Button also left, and the Manor team ended, leaving the grid with 20 cars.
Bernie Ecclestone is gone after nearly four decades as F1’s boss. In charge now is US sports and entertainment firm Liberty Media, which took over to try to win back dissatisfied fans and make the series thrilling again.