As I am sure you are all aware, this week has seen the final in-season test of Formula One in 2015 in Austria. And this is what every Formula One fan has been looking forward to since the end of the first in-season 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?
Pascal Wehrlein finished at the top of the timesheets on Day 1 of the Austria test.
In the first day of the final in-season test in Austria, Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein led the way as F1 debutee Antonio Fuoco crashed the Ferrari on his debut.
Antonio Fuoco running in the early stages of Day 1 of the Austria test in heavy rain.
The rain was falling steadily when the session got under way, with Fuoco and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne heading out on full wets for an installation lap. The track then remained empty thereafter before the session was red-flagged at the half hour mark when the rain intensified at the Red Bull Ring.
With conditions not expected to improve until the afternoon, discussions began as to whether to cancel the day’s running and extend the test until Thursday. However, after much deliberation by the track organisers; the decision was taken to run in the afternoon, as the weather began to improve and instead extend the day’s running by two hours.
An hour after the lunch break, Vandoorne broke the silence when he headed on full wets, swiftly followed by Fuoco and Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen. Conditions on the track improved quickly with a switch to intermediates soon followed and it wasn’t long until the track dried sufficiently for dry rubber.
More rain fell with one hour before the test ended at 8pm (CET) and even though Esteban Ocon, Williams’ Susie Wolff and Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly headed out on a track that soon became dry enough for slicks, the times did not improve at all.
But it was Pascal Wehrlein who topped the timesheets on the first day of the first with a lap time of 1.11.005s to finish 0.187 seconds clear of Force India’s Esteban Ocon who finished the session in second place.
Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen finished the day in third place but he managed to complete the most laps of the day with 97 under his belt. Ferrari Academy driver Foccuo who won the 2013 Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS series clocked up an impressive number of laps on his debut.
Antonio Fuoco jumping out of his Ferrari after his incident on Day 1 of the Austria test.
But with three hours of running to go, the Italian put a wheel on the grass on the approach to Turn 1 and spun, hitting the wall and damaging the front-end of the car.
But he managed to finish in fourth place in the session ahead of Romain Grosjean in fifth place, Pierre Gasly in sixth place and Sauber test driver and Ferrari Academy driver Raffaele Marciello; who only put his first lap time on the board with three hours to finish in seventh place.
GP2 Championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne (who hands the car over to Fernando Alonso on Wednesday) was eighth fastest ahead of Williams Development Driver Susie Wolff –(who will be in the car for British Grand Prix FP1 session) finished in ninth place.
Day One Timesheet:-
- Pascal Wehrlein, Mercedes-Mercedes, 1.11.005s, 67 laps
- Esteban Ocon, Force India-Mercedes, 1.11.192s, 76 laps
- Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, 1.11.328s, 97 laps
- Antonio Fuoco, Ferrari, 1.11.331s, 71 laps
- Romain Grosjean, Lotus-Mercedes, 1.11.509s, 45 laps
- Pierre Gasly, Red Bull-Renault, 1.11.757s, 80 laps
- Raffaele Marciello, Sauber-Ferrari, 1.11.826s, 53 laps
- Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren-Honda, 1.12.530s, 76 laps
- Susie Wolff, Williams-Mercedes, 1.13.248s, 39 laps
Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in the final day of the Austria test.
On the final day of the final in-season test in Austria today, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg set the pace at the front of the grid ahead of Ferrari test driver Esteban Gutierrez and Williams driver Valtteri Bottas.
It was an all-round smoother day for the teams after rain played havoc on Tuesday, with a brief smattering of drizzle just before lunch the only interruption weather-wise.
The Red Bull team was on course for a trouble-free day when Daniel Ricciardo stopped at the pit-lane entry with a brake problem, bringing out the red flag with an hour to go. But the team made some adjustments on the car and got him back out with a few laps remaining in the session.
Gutierrez had a moment when he slid off the track and ran through the gravel just before lunch, but he rejoined unscathed and completed another lap before pitting. Before the session broke for lunch, Bottas set the pace in the morning with a 1.10.029s; even though Williams did not run the unique winglet spotted on the car on Tuesday.
Rosberg topped the timesheets with a lap time of 1.09.113s and was 0.818s ahead of Ferrari’s Esteban Gutierrez who finished the session in second place, and was one of eight drivers to complete more than 100 laps.
Valtteri Bottas ended the session in third place despite setting the pace in the morning as he did not improve as he switched from doing aerodynamic testing in the morning to set-up work in the afternoon. But Bottas finished ahead of reigning DTM champion Marco Wittmann who made his debut in a Formula 1 car today and he achieved the most laps of anybody with 158 laps and finished the session in fourth place.
Pascal Wehrlein swapped the Mercedes (which he drove on Tuesday) for the Force India and finished fifth fastest with 132 laps on the board ahead of Lotus reserve driver Jolyon Palmer who ended the session in sixth place.
With all eyes on McLaren-Honda and their planned upgrade package that was brought to the Austrian GP that sadly were managed beyond repair when Fernando Alonso crashed in Sunday’s race. However, the parts the team had spares for were flown to Austria in time for the start of the session; with McLaren insisting it had enough to carry out some useful evaluations of the package.
As a result, Fernando Alonso finished the session in seventh place today after the McLaren-Honda team tested various new aero components (which included its shorter nose) and managed more than 100 laps running which is great progress for the team after a disappointing Austrian GP.
Despite all the problems he encountered on the track today, Daniel Ricciardo finished the session in eighth place and managed to get 116 laps under his belt. Ricciardo managed to finish ahead of Sauber driver Felipe Nasr who ended the session in ninth place.
Day Two Timesheet:-
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1.09.113, 110 laps
- Esteban Gutierrez, Ferrari, 1.09.931, 110 laps
- Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes, 1.10.029, 79 laps
- Marco Wittmann, Toro Rosso, 1.10.103, 158 laps
- Pascal Wehrlein, Force India-Mercedes, 1.10.253, 132 laps
- Jolyon Palmer, Lotus-Mercedes, 1.10.373, 109 laps
- Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Honda, 1.10.718, 104 laps
- Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-Renault, 1.10.757, 116 laps
- Felipe Nasr, Sauber-Ferrari, 1.10.922, 138 laps
The second and final in-season test at Austria 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 Silverstone next week. There is no question about it, even though they had issues with the car; 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 and Wittmann have impressed me with their performances he put into the test session as a whole and I believe that this will help him develop further as a drivers while also ensuring that the teams keep an eye on his progress this season in GP2 (Gasly) and DTM (Wittmann).
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 Silverstone next week? We shall see.