2015 Formula One In-Season Test Review: Barcelona

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As I am sure you are all aware, this week has seen the return of the first in-season test of Formula One in 2015. And this is what every Formula One fan has been looking forward to since the end of the last test session in Barcelona two months ago. Throughout two days at the first in-season test at Barcelona this week, we have seen the teams testing new developments for their cars; alongside tyres for Pirelli.

There have been unexpected issues, reasons for concern and signs of promise for everyone down the field this week. Question is: who came out on top?

 

Day One 

Nico Rosberg tops the first day of the Barcelona test

Nico Rosberg tops the first day of the Barcelona test

At the first in-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg continued his unrivalled run by leading the way as Formula 1’s first 2015 in-season test opened.

Over the course of the recent race weekend in Barcelona; Rosberg was quickest in practice ahead of grabbing the pole position that provided the platform for the ninth win of his F1 career.

Straight away from the start of Tuesday’s session; Rosberg topped the times in his Mercedes and never lost the lead with the best of his mammoth 146 laps set in the morning session.

With Mercedes one of the four teams helping tyre manufacturer Pirelli test new rubber over the course of the two days (the other teams being Ferrari, Red Bull and Toro Rosso); Rosberg’s leading time of 1.24.374s came via an unmarked compound.

His laptime was 0.307 seconds quicker than his pole position time on Saturday, albeit 1.6s slower than his leading lap over the eight days of pre-season testing conducted at the track. On that occasion however, Rosberg did bolt on a set of soft tyres for that run, while medium and hard were used throughout the race weekend.

Rosberg finished 2.250s clear of Marcus Ericsson in his Sauber-Ferrari in second place, with Ferrari Academy driver Raffaele Marciello next up for the Ferrari team just 0.024s behind the Swedish driver in third place.

Marciello, who replaces Ericsson at Sauber on the final day of the test session on Wednesday; finished the day with the third highest number of laps behind Rosberg and Pierre Gasly on 125 laps.

Nick

Nick Yelloly makes his F1 debut at the first in-season test in Barcelona.

Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat finished the session in fourth place ahead of Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado. But on his F1 debut, Nick Yelloly finished in sixth place and completed over 100 laps for Force India. This was a day ahead of schedule as the 24-year-old stepped in late on for Mercedes reserve Pascal Wehrlein who was forced to pull out through illness and the Mercedes team are hopeful Wehrlein will be fit enough to step in for Rosberg on Wednesday.

Another driver on his F1 debut was GP2 driver and Red Bull Young Driver Pierre Gasly who finished in seventh place and wracked up a staggering 131 laps on his way to finishing seventh quickest for Toro Rosso; although he stopped on track after the chequered flag had fallen.

Williams’s Felipe Massa only managed 54 laps and finished in eighth place ahead of McLaren Test driver with McLaren tester Oliver Turvey bringing up the rear who was 4.1s down on the pace of Rosberg.

During the session, the McLaren team tested a raft of new parts, to such an extent Turvey took a long lunch break of two hours such was the work required on the car from the way it ran in the morning compared to the afternoon.

However, I should mention that all the teams were testing a variety of new components and aerodynamic parts given the different nature of the next two races in Monaco and Canada.

Day One Timesheet:-

  1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:24.374, 146 laps;
  2. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber-Ferrari, 1:26.624, 98 laps;
  3. Raffaele Marciello, Ferrari, 1:26.648, 125 laps;
  4. Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull-Renault, 1:26.904, 101 laps;
  5. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus-Mercedes, 1:27.338, 60 laps;
  6. Nick Yelloly, Force India-Mercedes, 1:27.396, 109 laps;
  7. Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, 1:27.639, 131 laps;
  8. Felipe Massa, Williams-Mercedes, 1:27.911, 54 laps;
  9. Oliver Turvey, McLaren-Honda, 1:28.542, 68 laps.

Day Two

Jolyon Palmer topped the timesheets on the second and final day of testing at Barcelona.

Jolyon Palmer topped the timesheets on the second and final day of testing at Barcelona.

On the second and final day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, a late run on a set of supersoft tyres allowed Lotus reserve driver Jolyon Palmer to top the timesheets ahead of Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein.

Palmer deposed long-time leader of the session Pascal Wehrlein with 18 minutes of the day remaining, and finished just over four tenths of a second clear of the 20-year-old German with a laptime of 1.26.080s.

This was still 1.7 seconds adrift of the best lap over the two days at the Circuit de Catalunya, set by from Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix winner Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes W07 Hybrid on Tuesday.

Wehrlein performed creditably as he overcame illness to chalk up 137 laps which was the highest of the day and ended the session in second place despite still being ill. He was struck by a fever on Monday that left his entire body covered in pain and was confined to bed on doctors orders. This then forced him to miss his initial opportunity with Force India on Tuesday.

Wehrlein performed creditably as he overcame illness to chalk up 137 laps which was the highest of the day and ended the session in second place despite still being ill. He was struck by a fever on Monday that left his entire body covered in pain and was confined to bed on doctors orders. This then forced him to miss his initial opportunity with Force India on Tuesday.

He was then attended to by Mercedes’ team doctor and with medicine to help him recover quickly, Wehrlein was given the all-clear to take over the wheel from Rosberg on Wednesday, although conceded to being far from 100 per cent back to its normal self.

Pierre Gastly finished in third place on the final day of the Barcelona test.

Pierre Gastly finished in third place on the final day of the Barcelona test.

Red Bull protégé and GP2 driver Pierre Gasly who turned 131 laps for the Toro Rosso team yesterday; switched to a Red Bull on Wednesday and completed a further 72, and finished the session in third place ahead of the McLaren-Honda of Jenson Button who finished in fifth place and managed to run 100 laps in the session after not having a great first day of the test.

Testing with Williams for the first time, development driver and GP2 title-contender Alex Lynn only managed 52 laps, but he was also within nine tenths of Palmer’s lap time and finished in fifth place. The very talented Esteban Ocon who was called up by the Force India team for Wednesday’s session after Nick Yelloly took up the seat from the ill Wehrlein on Tuesday ended the session in sixth place.

On his maiden outing for Ferrari as the teams’ reserve driver (and his first run since the end of last year after being axed by Sauber), Esteban Gutierrez finished the session in seventh place and managed to put in 119 laps during the day. Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz was almost two seconds down in his Toro Rosso, but did achieve the second-highest number of laps which was 126 laps and he finished the session in eighth place.

Ferrari Academy driver Raffaele Marciello, who drove for the Ferrari team on Tuesday, switched to Sauber on Wednesday and endured an ignominious start. The Italian driver slid off at Turn 3 and into a tyre barrier early on and damaged the front-left of the car.

But he did manage to return to the circuit to run later on in the day and finished at the bottom of the timesheets in ninth place.

Day Two Timesheet:-

  1. Joylon Palmer, Lotus, 1:26.080, 87 laps
  2. Pascal Wehrlein, Mercedes, 1:26.497 137 laps
  3. Pierre Gasly, Red Bull, 1:26.683, 75 laps
  4. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:26.927, 100 laps
  5. Alex Lynn, Williams, 1:26.967, 52 laps
  6. Esteban Ocon, Force India, 1:27.520, 94 laps
  7. Esteban Gutierrez, Ferrari, 1:27.930 119 laps
  8. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:27.997, 126 laps
  9. Raffaelle Marciello, Sauber, 1:28.829, 75 laps

The first in-season 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 after the Grand Prix weekend.

We have seen Mercedes showing that they are the team to beat in terms of mileage and reliability from the session. And yes, it will bring them a crucial advantage in terms of how to improve the W07 before the next Grand Prix in Monaco next week. There is no question about it, even though they had issues with the health of Wehrlein; they still managed to set the pace and show that they are still the team to beat.

Sauber, Force India and Toro Rosso will once again use the mileage that they have gained from the test in order to improve their cars before the next race next week. In particular, Gasly has impressed me with the performances he put into the test session as a whole and I believe that this will help him develop further as a driver while also ensuring that the teams keep an eye on his progress this season in GP2.

And despite sadly Manor not being at the test for reasons that are understandable given their current situation; it will be interesting for the team to see what their rivals have achieved at the test and see if they can close the gap down to them.

Red Bull, McLaren, Williams and Ferrari and their performances have at least indicated that they are on the right track with developing and improving their cars further and have managed to gain invaluable track time that will no doubt push all four teams to improve their cars further and get back to competitive ways for this season.

But the final question that everyone will be asking once again is will Mercedes once again show the rest of the field even more pace with their W07 to keep the winning streak going as we head into Monaco next week? We shall see.

 

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