Winter testing has officially come to a close. After 8 days of rigorous testing, the teams leave Barcelona with a good idea of where they stand in the pecking order. Ferrari displayed their speedy intent with Kimi Raikkonen setting the fastest overall lap on the ultrasofts. It still is too early to call the shots on Ferrari based on these timings as we all know that winter testing results are extremely misleading. With that out of the way, let’s have a look at how the teams performed, their new developments and where we think they stand after the second test in Barcelona.
Ferrari travel to Australia in good spirits for the first grand prix of 2016 and they can be pleased with their progress. The Scuderia have finished the pre-season having set the fastest overall time in the second test with Kimi Raikkonen timing a 1:22.765 on the new ultrasoft tyres. They have shown massive signs of improvement with a lot of significant aero and power unit developments. The 2016 car features front pushrod suspensions for the first time after 4 years and is rumoured to be a positive change for both the drivers. The driving styles of both Raikkonen and Vettel are more in tune with this arrangement and it’ll be interesting to see how much of a difference this change can make.
Ferrari were also the on everybody’s sights as they implemented their halo system on the third day of testing. The new halo arrangement is rumoured to be a part of FIA’s implementations for 2017.
All in all, the Scuderia have got a serious challenge on their hands and it’ll be really interesting to see how the championship battle pans out.
Ferrari may have blitzed their way to set a few fastest laps but the second test has shown us that Mercedes are still the team to beat in 2016. The world champions flaunted their unreal levels of reliability clocking more than 700 laps (equivalent to 10 race distances) in the first test. Mercedes started the second test with qualifying simulations and it soon became evident that they have indeed kicked it up a notch, with Nico Rosberg setting the fastest time of the day on soft tyres.
Bearing in mind that Mercedes haven’t tested at all with the supersoft and ultrasoft tyres, it just seems like they don’t want to display their true fastest pace as of now. The team were mainly focusing on race simulations for the remainder of the test.
On the 4th day of testing, the unthinkable took place. Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes came to a halt with a gearbox problem, which was fixed immediately.
Williams F1, Force India, Toro Rosso, Red Bull Racing, Mclaren Honda, Renault F1
A slightly dormant Williams team look to have erupted in the second test as they appear to be the best of the rest. Valtteri Bottas set the fastest lap of the second day with a 1:23.261 on the supersofts. Massa looked very promising too as he delivered a lap of 1:23.193 on the softs – just a tenth or so down on the best laps of Ferrari and Mercedes.
Force India are not very far behind with Nico Hulkenberg a mere 0.345 seconds off the pace of the fastest Ferrari. Keeping aside the stoppage on the final day on turn 12, the VJM-09 has performed well and Force India can expect better results this season.
Scuderia Toro Rosso have displayed massive signs of improvement and they could pose a serious challenge to big brother Red Bull. The Italian outfit unveiled it’s new livery on the 1st day of the second test. With the added benefit of the more powerful and reliable 2015 Ferrari power unit, and an exceptionally well balanced STR11 chassis, Toro Rosso definitely have what it takes to climb up the midfield and aim for that elusive 5th place they seek.
Red Bull Racing leave Barcelona feeling content with their car’s performance. The Austrian team did a lot of qualifying and race simulations and have displayed excellent race pace. The RB12 has demonstrated exceptional tyre management with very minimal tyre degradation over long distances. Red Bull will look to capitalise on this advantage, especially in the more demanding tracks where tyre management is key.
Mclaren Honda have taken massive steps for improvement after their dismal season last year. The MP4-31 displayed exceptional reliability- having run more laps in the 2nd test in Barcelona than in the entirety of last year’s pre-season testing.
However, there is still room for improvement where pace is concerned. Jenson Button’s fastest lap for the British outfit- a 1:24.714 was almost 2 seconds off the pace of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari.
Mclaren can take comfort in the fact that a lot of the mechanical gremlins which plagued their car last year have been sorted out. The ERS deployment issue has been fixed and other system faults have been sorted out.
Renault F1 have also made solid progress and look to score points in the inaugural race in Melbourne. However, the replacement of the Mercedes engine with the less powerful Renault engine has definitely left the team struggling for race pace.
Sauber F1, Haas F1, Manor Racing
Sauber unveiled their challenger for 2016 – The C35 Ferrari on the first day of the 2nd test. Development wise, there is little new with the car. Sauber look to be leading the battle of the backmarkers, as indicated by Felipe Nasr’s best laptime- a 1:24.760 , which seems to be marginally better than those of Haas and Manor.
Haas F1 got a dose of Formula 1 medicine with their second test turning out to be a stark contrast to their first. The American outfit hit the ground running in the first test in Barcelona but things went downhill on the second. The team was riddled with turbo problems, which saw them on the sidelines for most of the second day. A couple of brake failures resulted in Romain Grosjean beaching the car on 2 separate occasions. This has been a difficult testing week for Haas and it’ll be interesting to see how they fare in their first ever Formula 1 race in Melbourne.
Manor Racing aren’t far behind either. Mercedes protégé Pascal Wehrlein has been racking some seriously good lap times with the British team. The team seem to have incorporated the new Mercedes engine well with the chassis, displaying an enormous improvement in lap times, when compared to last season.
The back of the grid looks extremely tight this year, and it will most definitely be interesting to see how things conclude.