Barcelona:Circuit De Catalunya Day 1.
The first day of any test is full of anticipation of what is going to happen and today was no exception. Were Ferrari going to continue with there Jerez table topping pace? Where Mercedes going to dominate the lap totals? Can Mclaren and Honda add some reliability to the MP4-30? and has Ikea got enough in stock in their depot to build a Sauber for the week?
The test ended with Pastor Maldonado on top in the Lotus E23. Lotus had a troubled morning with two break downs at turn 5 which almost begged the question of a possible curse on the team. This was quickly dispelled however and at the end of the day on the soft tyre the E23 had pace.
The day started with the news that after only 11 laps Lewis Hamilton could not continue due to a bout of man flu.
This then prompted the question of why Nico Rosberg was not suited up but reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein was called up. Especially when he was already working up the pit lane in the Force India garage!
It was said by the team that they didn’t want to ‘overuse’ Nico but later in the day it was revealed that he had a trapped nerve in his neck. Whatever the reason it was clear that Mercedes don’t want to get into a ‘he had more testing time than me’ scenario.
Sergio Perez took over the duties at Force india and Wehrlein had the honour of on paper, being in two places at once.
Ferrari did continue form where they left off in Jerez and began topping the time sheet from almost the first run of the day. With the news that there Australia aero package is to arrive in the second test it is again, a good sign that the Ferrari has some genuine pace. Has Vettel made the right move at the right time and has Alonso left at the wrong time? Have Ferrari built a car that is fast straight out of the box and one that can bring the fight to Mercedes?
Fernando was not driving the Mclaren today instead Jenson Button was at the wheel and he made a positive start putting the Mclaren at the sharp end of the time sheet and on two occasions posting the fastest time. Although there are still gremlins the car is starting to look fast and the Honda engines unique sound is getting more and more angry as the power is cranked up. Their day was cut short by a power unit problem that promoted an engine change. The cause of the problem was a seal that has to be re-designed and will not be ready until Saturday. Alonso has been brought forward to drive tomorrow but it is not known if the part that failed before will fail again.
The other main event of the day was the very unusual event of two cars colliding in a test. This privilege went to Philipe Nasr and Suzy Wolf. They caused a 20 minute red flag as they came together and ended up in the gravel with Nasr losing his rear wing. As the dust settled it appeared that it was Nasr who was at fault.
Red bull had a quite day and only managed a few laps in the morning but came out in the afternoon and did some more running. We have yet to see the best of the RB11 but things are looking good.
As we head into the second day it will be interesting to see what the fastest time of the test will be as the times today already beat those posted in last years qualifying and what are Mercedes going to do if Lewis is ill and Nico does have a bad neck and cannot test. Does their programme cater for Wehrlein and will they ultimately be losing some valuable testing time? We wait and see………….
Barcelona:Circuit De Catalunya Day 2.
Today we reach day 2 of the test and the half way mark for all of the winter testing. It was another sunny day in Barcelona and all the teams were out running their cars.
Mercedes started the day with Nico at the wheel but after 66 laps he got out and swapped over sighting the neck problem he has picked up with Lewis who was feeling better after yesterdays ‘fever’.
Lewis managed 89 laps and revealed that he had done a race simulation. In fact he said they have been doing them since the first test! Does this point to the fact that the silver arrows squad is in cruise mode, well ahead of the game? It will be very interesting to see when they start to crank it up a bit.
Before Lewis got into the car Nico was well ahead in completed lap times so was the swap more of a even-stevens tactic?
Ferrari had another solid day and the new team principle Maurizio Arrivabene gave a press conference where he played things pretty cool and said that they are not interested in being winter champions and were not looking to start shouting about winning races and championships.
One clue to there form could be the his admission that Kimi is smiling in the garage and some team members have even asked him if he is feeling okay?
He did also confirm that they will be supplying 2014 engines to the now out of administration Manor F1 team.
Mclaren had a good day and ran all day putting 59 laps on the board suparsing the expectation that the same seal that failed yesterday would fail again. Fernando commented that he had a ‘beautiful day’ in the car and is very confident that the winning way is not far off.
Honda chief Yasuhisa Arai said that the final engine design has been completed even though there is another week to go before the engine homologation.
Eric Boullier said that the team had done more than they expected to do and in doing so may be able to bring some of the planned upgrades to the next test. He even hinted that they may do a race simulation before they leave for Australia.
Red Bull started to look promising as they finally had a solid day and not only finished top of the times with Ricciardo but completed the most laps of the day with 143 chalked up. Within those laps was a full race simulation.
Other things to note were that Williams also had a good day with Massa finishing up in third place and GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer took command of the Lotus and had a solid day completing 77 laps. The team tweeted that he had done a good job but it remains to be seen if the lotus has pace.
There is rain forecast for tomorrow so it could be a day of keeping dry but one thing is for sure, there will be something to report…..i hope!
Barcelona Day Two Timesheet
1. Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:24.574, 143 laps;
2. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:24.584, 90 laps;
3. Massa, Williams, 1:24.672, 88 laps;
4. Perez, Force India, 1:24.702, 121 laps;
5. Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:24.923, 89 laps;
6. Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:25.556, 66 laps;
7. Alonso, McLaren, 1:25.961, 59 laps;
8. Palmer, Lotus, 1:26.280, 77 laps;
9. Ericsson, Sauber, 1:27.334, 113 laps;
10. Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:28.945, 100 laps.
Barcelona:Circuit De Catalunya Day 3.
The rain in spain comes mostly on the third day of testing and although there was not a real downpour there was some showers that played a little bit of havoc with some of the teams running plans.
Mclaren had more than a shower to scupper their day as the greatly anticipated re-designed seal did not live up to expectation and this resulted in Jenson not getting the full day he wanted in the car completing 24 laps in total. He was sidelined for a while over the lunch period when the car stopped suddenly on track and then when he re-appeared the engine was turned down and the team concentrated on aero set up.
Speaking afterward Button commented on the fact that he has yet to drive the car in anger. So still a lot of work to do for the Anglo Japanese squad.
Maldonado once again finished on top of the time sheet when he did a run on the super soft tyre and Max Verstappen second again on the super soft. Pastor is sounding positive about the form of the Lotus E23 saying that it was more of a complete package. The Mercedes power unit must be a big step up in that package.
Lewis Hamilton was back in the seat for Mercedes and did another 100 laps. He managed third on the time sheet but this was done on the soft tyre which is beginning to point to the real pace of the silver arrow. Lewis was still feeling unwell and will be looking forward to a break and a change to recover for the final test next week.
Ferrari had another solid day except from when Vettel put the car in the gravel during an outlap causing a red flag. Vettel sounds upbeat about the car and their season prospects but whatever happens it is clear that the team and the car have made some big steps forward.
The up and down testing season of RedBull continued as the Renault power unit gave them some trouble but Kyvat managed some good lap times matching that of race winner Ricciardo. However the issue of whether Ferrari have overtaken them in the performance stakes is becoming more and more likely. Renault are still playing catch up. how long before they pull out or RedBull move engine supplier?
Williams had a troubled day also as the rain stopped a lot of their plans. Massa ran in the morning and did some long runs but after lunch poor Bottas was confined to pit stop practice after pit stop practice. Like Mercedes the true pace of this car has yet to be seen but it can assumed that they are still the best of the rest.
Tomorrow is the last day and after that there is only 4 more days before Melbourne. Some teams seem to be cruising there way to Australia while others are having to put some effort in and some are probably behind schedule.
When will we see what Mercedes and Williams really have up their sleeves and can Mclaren put the whole package together and be at the sharp end?
As this test draws to a close things just get more interesting.
Barcelona Day Three Timesheet
1. Maldonado, Lotus, 1:24.348, 104 laps;
2. Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:24.739, 129 laps;
3. Hamilton, Mercedes. 1:26.076, 101 laps;
4. Ericsson, Sauber, 1:26.340, 53 laps;
5. Vettel, Ferrari, 1:26.407, 105 laps;
6. Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:26.589, 112 laps;
7. Massa, Williams, 1:26.912, 55 laps;
8. Wehrlein, Force India, 1:27.333, 81 laps;
9. Bottas, Williams, 1:27.556, 49 laps;
10. Button, McLaren, 1:29.151, 24 laps
Barcelona:Circuit De Catalunya Day 4.
Todays test was once again all about Mclaren and unfortunately, not for the first time this winter test period for the wrong reasons.
Fernando was in the car and was looking to have a good day with 29 laps under his belt but then the MP4-30 went of the track at turn 3 and hit the inside wall.
Fernando was air lifted to hospital by the circuit helicopter and after numerous tests including an CT and MRI scan was given the all clear bar a minor concussion. He is staying in the hospital overnight as a precaution and is expected to drive in the next and final test starting on thursday.
It is not know what happened to the car but it has been reported by a number of drivers that there were high winds around the circuit and so that could have played a part?
Roman Grosjean topped the time sheet with an run on the super soft tyre. It was his first time in the E23 and he has already set the fastest time of all to date. Signs again that the Lotus is a big step in improvements from last years car.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was one of the people to mention the windy conditions and he commented on the day being a tough one. The car had a small gearbox issue that was sorted without any mechanical intervention and overall he is very confident about the form of the W06 and considering the fact t hey have yet to test either the soft or super soft tyre suggests that they are still the team to beat.
Carlos Sainz Jr was another victim of the wind as he too left the circuit at turn 3 which bought an early end to Toro Rosso’s test. Sainz Jr was doing a long run on the hard tyre at the time of the crash so the grip levels may not have been great. Despite this he said afterward that he had gained a lot of confidence in the car and was happy with the progress towards his debut in Australia.
Bottas managed to get 129 laps in the Williams despite their first break down. The team are keeping very cool about their form and i am sure that we will see more from them in the next test.
RedBull were third in the standings but are still pushing Renault for some upgrades to the power unit. A Renault spokesman said that they worked purely on reliability in the off season and the drivability issues that are holding the RedBull back are going to be sorted for the opening race.
They have teamed up with Mario Illien of Ilmor engineering to try and inject a boost of knowledge into the Renault power unit. for those of you who have short memories Ilmor were the people who where behind the Mercedes engines in the Mclaren years of the nineties.
So there are only four more days of running to go before the cars are rolled out on the other side of the world and raced in anger. I think that by the end of those four days we will have a clearer picture of a few things. One is who is going to be at the sharp end and who is going to struggle and another is can the Mclaren Honda be a competitive race car and have Ferrari really overtaken RedBull?
The next test should be the time that the teams test for race set up and we can review all the teams long run pace and their consistency over those long runs. We should see a number of upgrades too so lets look forward to Thursday. Until then……….
Barcelona Day Three Timesheet
1. Grosjean, Lotus, 1:24.067, 111 laps;
2. Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:24.321, 131 laps;
3. Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:24.941, 104 laps;
4. Nasr, Sauber, 1:24.956, 73 laps;
5. Bottas, Williams, 1:25.345, 129 laps;
6. Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:25.604, 88 laps;
7. Vettel, Ferrari, 1:26.312, 76 laps;
8. Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:26.591 36 laps;
9. Alonso, McLaren, 1:27.956, 20 laps.
© Ben & Sandra Hebbourn 2015