As I am sure you are all aware, this week has seen the return of Formula One in 2015 for the second pre-season test in Barcelona And this is what every Formula One fan has been looking forward to since the end of the first test in Jerez earlier this month.
This week, we will see Jolyon Palmer, Susie Wolff and Pascal Wehrlein make their first debuts of the season at the Barcelona circuit alongside many pundits and fans wondering if the performance we have seen from Ferrari and Sauber to be correct from the Jerez test, if McLaren-Honda and Red Bull can put their issues behind them, if the Mercedes team can still consistently acquire mileage and also if Force India can officially debut their 2015 car; the VJM08 this week.
Throughout four days at the second test of the season yet first winter test at Barcelona this week, we have seen the teams and drivers pushing the limit and getting to grips with the how their 2015 cars have improved in their second competitive outing of this season.
There have been unexpected issues, reas
ons for concern and signs of promise for everyone down the field this week. Question is: who came out on top?
Pastor Maldonado tops the timesheets on Day One of the Barcelona test
On Day One of the Barcelona test, Pastor Maldonado topped the timesheets ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo.
Pastor Maldonado used soft tyres to go fastest for Lotus-Mercedes on a Barcelona Formula 1 test day that was disrupted by a collision between Felipe Nasr and Susie Wolff.
Felipe Nasr off the circuit after his incident with Susie Wolff at Turn 5.
The Williams and Sauber came together early in the afternoon session, when Wolff was on an out-lap and morning pacesetter Nasr was at full speed. There was contact between the Williams’s left front and Sauber’s right-rear sent Nasr into the Turn 5 barriers, with Wolff also coming to rest in the gravel.
Prior to the long red flag as a result of the incident between Wolff and Nasr, Kimi Raikkonen had established Ferrari on top of the timesheets, initially on Pirelli’s ‘winter hard’ and then using mediums to do a lap time of 1.25.167s.
Raikkonen stayed there until a flurry of soft-tyre runs in mid-afternoon, during which both Maldonado and Red Bull-Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo went out for short bursts on the faster rubber. Maldonado was quickest with a lap time of 1:25.011 and demoted the Ferrari of Raikkonen by 0.156s who finished in second place.
Daniel Ricciardo could only get within 0.380 seconds of Raikkonen and finished the session in third place ahead of Sergio Perez in fourth place who took over the 2014 Force India from on-loan Pascal Wehrlein after the German was recalled to the Mercedes team and Perez managed to fit in 34 laps as a result.
Both Nasr and Wolff managed to get back on track in their repaired cars late on, although the Sauber triggered a red flag in the last few minutes when it stopped on the approach to Turn 9. But Nasr still held on to fifth place in the standings with his morning time.
Jenson Button in the McLaren-Honda MP4-30 before stopping on Day 1 of the Barcelona test.
While Red Bull stuck to short runs, Toro Rosso hinted at reliability improvements for Renault as Max Verstappen topped the lap count on 94 which was eight more than second-best Wolff. Verstappen went sixth quickest during a very long afternoon run ahead of Jenson Button who finished in seventh place, despite the McLaren-Honda being sidelined while its engine was changed.
McLaren is set to be compromised by the same problems on Friday, as it waits for a faulty part to be updated in time for the weekend’s running.
Pascal Wehrlein running in the W06 on the first day of testing in Barcelona
Pascal Wehrlein occupied both eighth and ninth places in the results. His best time from relatively long runs on hard tyres for Mercedes was a tenth adrift of his morning pace for Force India.
Wehrlein had been summoned back to Mercedes duties because Lewis Hamilton had to stop after 11 laps in the morning due to a fever and his team-mate Nico Rosberg was unable to step in due to pain from a trapped nerve in his neck.
Day One Timesheet:-
- Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, 1:25.011, 69 laps
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:25.167, 74 laps
- Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:25.547, 59 laps
- Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:26.636, 34 laps
- Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:27.307, 79 laps
- Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:27.900, 94 laps
- Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:28.182, 21 laps
- Pascal Wehrlein, Force India, 1:28.329, 32 laps
- Pascal Wehrlein, Mercedes, 1:28.489, 48 laps
- Susie Wolff, Williams, 1:28.906, 86 laps
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:30.429, 11 laps.
Daniel Ricciardo tops the timesheets on Day Two of the Barcelona test.
On Day Two Daniel Ricciardo’s morning time kept Red Bull on top ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa as the teams began race simulations in earnest.
Ricciardo lapped in 1.24.574 on soft tyres before the lunch break and that stood for the rest of the session with Kimi Raikkonen finishing in second place 0.1 seconds behind him.
Felipe Massa made progress up the timesheet to put the Williams team in third place after vaulting forward with two short runs on soft tyres after a competitive longer run on mediums. Massa finished ahead of Sergio Perez who got up to 121 laps in the 2014 Force India today.
Lewis Hamilton during Day Two of the Barcelona test
Reigning World champion Lewis Hamilton reclaimed the Mercedes from Nico Rosberg for the afternoon after having recovered sufficiently from the fever that sidelined him on Thursday, while Rosberg needed to rest his back as a precaution following a trapped nerve earlier in the week and ended the session in fifth place ahead of his team mate.
Carlos Sainz Jr stopping on track on Day Two of the Barcelona test.
Both of Hamilton’s and Ricciardo’s simulations were interrupted by a red flag for Carlos Sainz Jr putting the Toro Rosso in the gravel at the fast Turn 9 right-hander at the back of the circuit. That was one of two afternoon red flags, with Marcus Ericsson causing the other when he stopped on the pits straight in the final half-hour.
Fernando Alonso running on Day Two of the Barcelona test.
Fernando Alonso was seventh for McLaren after getting up to a best-yet tally of 59 laps despite some concerns over the engine following Thursday’s seal problem.
Jolyon Palmer edged closer to the pace on his debut for Lotus and ended up eighth overall ahead of Marcus Ericsson and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Day Two Timesheet:-
- Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:24.574, 143 laps
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:24.584, 90 laps;
- Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:24.672, 88 laps;
- Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:24.702, 121 laps;
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:24.923, 89 laps;
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:25.556, 66 laps;
- Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:25.961, 59 laps;
- Jolyon Palmer, Lotus, 1:26.280, 77 laps;
- Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:27.334, 113 laps;
- Carlos Sainz Jnr, Toro Rosso, 1:28.945, 100 laps.
Pastor Maldonado topped the timesheets on the third day of the Barcelona test.
On day three of the Barcelona test, Pastor Maldonado once again set the pace for Lotus for the second time in three days of Barcelona Formula 1 testing on Saturday.
A mid-afternoon run on super-softs took Maldonado to a time of 1.24.348 and therefore beating Toro Rosso’s rookie Max Verstappen who finished the session in second place. Verstappen also used super-softs to set his best time in the morning but he was beaten by Maldonado to three tenths of a second. But Verstappen still led the lap tally for Saturday as he managed 129 laps of the circuit.
Lewis Hamilton finished the session in third place who stuck to medium tyres for his best runs during the session and managed over 100 laps of running. The other big movement on the timing screens in the afternoon came courtesy of Marcus Ericsson who finished the session in fourth place. Ericsson after missing the majority of the morning of the test due to gearbox problems did extremely well to finish in fourth and was able to give Sauber more mileage.
Sebastian Vettel spins off the circuit on day three of the Barcelona test
Sebastian Vettel had a smooth end to a day that began with a spin into the gravel on cold tyres on his out-lap. He eventually clocked 105 laps for Ferrari and went fifth fastest ahead of sixth place driver Daniil Kvyat. During the afternoon of the session, Red Bull’s pitboard indicated that a race simulation was in prospect but Daniil Kvyat returned to the garage after two stints had been completed.
Seventh-placed Felipe Massa handed the Williams over to team-mate Valtteri Bottas for the afternoon. But Bottas’ programme was dominated by pitstop practice and it was only in the final few minutes that he completed any full flying laps. Bottas slotted in between Pascal Wehrlein who finished in ninth place as the Mercedes test driver completed his on-loan stint at Force India .
Jenson Button stopping on the circuit after the incident with Max Verstappen
McLaren had yet another frustrating day. The new seal intended to resolve the Honda MGU-K problem that had compromised the first part of the week proved no better, and after a long pause in the garage, Jenson Button had to run with reduced power for the rest of the day and ended the session in tenth place.
Button was also involved in a late red flag, when both his McLaren and Verstappen’s Toro Rosso parked in the pit exit in quick succession.
Day Three Timesheet:-
- Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:24.348, 104 laps
- Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1:24.739, 0.391, 129 laps
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:26.076, 1.728, 101 laps
- Marcus Ericsson, Sauber ,1:26.340, 1.992, 52 laps
- Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:26.407, 2.059, 105 laps
- Daniil Kvyat ,Red Bull ,1:26.589, 2.241, 110 laps
- Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:26.912, 2.564, 55 laps
- Pascal Wehrlein, Force India,1:27.333, 2.985, 81 laps
- Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:27.556, 3.208, 48 laps
- Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:29.151, 4.803, 24 laps
Romain Grosjean tops the timesheets on the final day of the Barcelona test
At the final day of the Barcelona test, Romain Grosjean ensured Lotus ended the second Formula 1 pre-season test on top as Nico Rosberg used medium tyres to fire a warning for Mercedes’ rivals at Barcelona.
Grosjean, taking over from team-mate Pastor Maldonado, used Pirelli’s super-soft tyres to put the E23 top of the pile for the third time in four days in Spain. His best lap time of a 1.24.067 was only a quarter of a second faster than Rosberg who finished the session in second place who managed despite him being on tyres that Pirelli estimates are as much as two seconds a lap slower.
Rosberg started the day by spinning into the gravel but he shot up the leaderboard in the final hour, as yet again the team’s new W06 ran without using either of Pirelli’s two softest options.
Daniil Kvyat on track on the final day of testing in Barcelona
Daniil Kvyat ended the session in third place after briefly set the pace before being toppled by Grosjean’s super-soft run ahead of Felipe Nasr in fourth place and Valtteri Bottas in fifth place who stopped on the track.
Alonso’s countryman Carlos Sainz Jr topped the morning session but he also crashed at Turn 3 after the lunch break, bringing out the red flags. The Toro Rosso driver did not continue but finished the session in sixth place ahead of Sebastian Vettel in seventh place and Nico Hulkenberg in eighth place.
Fernando Alonso’s McLaren stopping after his crash on the final day of testing in Barcelona
But beyond the headline times, there were more troubles for McLaren-Honda. Fernando Alonso endured a difficult morning with minimal running and when he did appear and started pushing, he crashed at Turn 3 just before lunch and had to be airlifted to hospital.
Though a CT scan revealed the Spaniard was unharmed in the crash, the team was not able to continue running despite Jenson Button being due to take over in the afternoon. Driving for Pleasure will keep you updated on Alonso’s condition as and when information is available.
McLaren’s dramas mean the team leaves Barcelona having completed just 104 laps across the four days, a tally surpassed on Sunday alone by three Mercedes-powered teams – the factory outfit (129), Williams (127), and Lotus (111).
Three other drivers caused stoppages in the afternoon session at the final day of testing in Barcelona. Valtteri Bottas’ Williams stopped at Turn 4 shortly after Sainz’s crash, though the Finn recovered to set the fifth-best time, while Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India suffered a terminal Mercedes engine failure.
Felipe Nasr caused the final red flag when he stopped at Turn 8 with 10 minutes remaining.
Day Four Timesheet:-
- Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1:24.067, 111 laps
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:24.321, 131 laps
- Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull, 1:24.941, 104 laps
- Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:24.956, 73 laps
- Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:25.345, 129 laps
- Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:25.604, 88 laps
- Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:26.312, 76 laps
- Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:26.591 36 laps
- Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:27.956, 20 laps
The second (yet first) winter test at Barcelona has produced some interesting results. Many Formula One fans were looking forward to seeing how the teams and the drivers would get on with the challenges of their new cars for this season. And in my view, it is a mixed bag still.
We have seen Mercedes showing that they are the team to beat in terms of mileage from the session. And yes, it will bring them a crucial advantage in terms of how to improve the W06 before the next test in Barcelona this week. There is no question about it, even though Rosberg has stated to the media that the team and he are unsure about their actual pace Still. But this is a good starting point for the team despite this and will be looking to improve their track performance.
Williams, Lotus and Toro Rosso will once again use the mileage that they have gained from the first test in order to improve their cars before the next test in Barcelona next week and will have also gained some much needed data that will allow them to try and improve their cars. But the signs for the three teams respectively are good and will provide them with a solid base to build upon in terms of developing their cars especially with regards to Lotus and Red Bull who have improved from the Jerez test earlier this month.
Sauber and Ferrari have topped the top 5 at some stage of the week. And I believe that it is too early within the season to make any significant claims about their performances. But their performances have at least indicated that they are on the right track with their cars and have managed to gain invaluable track time that will no doubt push all three teams to improve their cars further and get back to competitive ways for this season.
Force India have managed to acquire some mileage that will help them as they try and get the VJM08 ready in the best possible position for Melbourne next month and also try and close the gap down to their rivals as quickly as they possibly can in the short timescale that they have left.
But this week, the spotlight is firmly on the McLaren team. Even though we have seen McLaren experiencing problems since the first test in Jerez earlier this month, it is to be expected given the fact that both McLaren and Honda will be learning more and more about the car as time goes on in their first year back together in partnership.
You can be sure that McLaren despite their issues this week will have learnt a lot from the test and will use the data and the experience to try and iron out their existing issues as quickly as possible. But for me, the main thing is that they managed to gain more mileage than the Jerez test which is a small positive step in the right direction but they still have a lot of work to do.
Even though it is hard to hear about Alonso and what happened to him today, until McLaren release an official press statement about what happened with the crash, please do not believe anything you hear on social media. At the moment, Alonso has no injuries and is fine after undergoing a CT scan at the hospital and will stay in the hospital overnight.
The big question is, is a few days enough time for McLaren to fix their problems with the MP4-30 and with the Honda engine? I believe that it won’t be, but we will find out in Barcelona sooner rather than later when the final pre-season test at Barcelona begins this Thursday.