As I am sure you are all aware, last week saw the return of Formula One in 2016 for the second and final 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 Barcelona last week.
This week, we will see all the teams and the drivers making the most of the last pre-season test session in preparation for the first race of the race in Melbourne in just under a week’s time.
With fans hoping that Force India will be able to build on what they have achieved in the first test, alongside McLaren and Honda working towards fixing their issues that appeared in the first pre-season test and also the reliability of Mercedes and Ferrari especially, many will be wondering if the first pre-season test and the performances shown there will be a sign of things to come this season.
Throughout four days at the second test of the season and last winter test at Barcelona this week, we have seen the teams and drivers pushing the limit and getting to grips with the how their 2016 cars have improved in their second competitive outing of this season.
There have been unexpected issues, reasons for concern and signs of promise for everyone down the field last week. Question is: who came out on top?
On Day One of the second pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was quickest ahead of Williams driver Valtteri Bottas and McLaren driver Fernando Alonso.
The Mercedes team split their running between their two drivers, with Rosberg driving in the morning and his team-mate Lewis Hamilton taking over in the afternoon. But it was Nico Rosberg who topped the timesheets with a lap time of 1.23.022 on a qualifying-style run and was just 0.212s off the best time of last week, which was set by Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari on ultra-soft tyres.
After flying under the radar for most of the first test, Williams indulged in some laps on the ultra-soft tyres on Tuesday afternoon. With Valtteri Bottas using the new compound to finish the day in second place; just 0.207s off Rosberg on the soft tyres — but more importantly finished the day with a healthy 123 laps.
At the first day of the test, the McLaren-Honda team used the time between tests to complete a filming day in an attempt to ensure the hydraulic and coolant leaks of the first week were fixed. Things appeared to be going well in the morning, but just before the lunch break Fernando Alonso stopped at the pit exit with a telemetry glitch. The problem was fixed by the afternoon and in the final hour Fernando Alonso on the soft tyres put in a lap time that allowed him to finish in third place.
However, Ferrari’s day was less impressive. Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest medium tyre lap time with a 1:24.836 which made him finish in the timesheets in fourth place but he was restricted to just only 71 laps.
He completed 42 laps before lunch as Ferrari focused on aerodynamic work and a series of set-up changes, but came to a halt at the end of the pit lane with a gear selection issue as the session resumed in the afternoon. The SF-16H remained in the garage until the final 90 minutes when it re-emerged and clocked up another 29 laps.
Red Bull also saw its track time limited on Monday after Daniil Kvyat returned from one of his morning runs with a rear brake on fire. The team made changes to the brake ducts in the afternoon and he returned to the track to finish the day on 69 laps and ended up in fifth place at the end of first day of testing.
World Champion Lewis Hamilton jumped in the car in the afternoon and completed a race simulation before setting his best time on medium tyres at the end of the day. Hamilton could only finish the day in sixth place, but he will get his chance to drive the W07 on low fuel later in the week. But combined, the two Mercedes drivers managed 171 laps today.
With a new livery painted on his Toro Rosso, Max Verstappen managed a total of 143 laps following the official launch of the STR11 and finished in seventh place ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg who also focused on mileage with a series of long runs resulting in a total mileage of 121 laps by the end of the day and ending the session in eighth place.
With the new Sauber C35 finally made its testing debut today, Felipe Nasr racked up 102 laps behind the wheel and ended the session in ninth place ahead of Kevin Magnussen in the Renault in tenth place; who completed 119 laps before stopping in the final 15 minutes at Turn 3 and causing a late red flag.
The Haas team and their second week in F1 got off to a disappointing start with just 23 laps due to a fuel system issue. However, Esteban Gutierrez ended the session in eleventh place ahead of Manor rookie Rio Haryanto, who sat out of most of the morning session with an oil leak who finished the day in twelfth place.
Day One Timesheet:-
- Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:23.022 – 82 laps (morning)
- Valtteri Bottas – Williams – 1:23:229 – 123 laps
- Fernando Alonso – McLaren – 1:24.735 – 92 laps
- Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1:24.836 – 71 laps
- Daniil Kvyat – Red Bull – 1:25.049 – 69 laps
- Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:25.051 – 89 laps (afternoon)
- Max Verstappen – Toro Rosso – 1:25.176 – 144 laps
- Nico Hulkenberg – Force India – 1:25.336 – 121 laps
- Felipe Nasr – Sauber – 1:25.493 – 103 laps
- Kevin Magnussen – Renault – 1:25.760 – 119 laps
- Esteban Gutierrez – Haas – 1:26.661 – 23 laps
- Rio Haryanto – Manor – 1:26.625 – 45 laps
At the second day of the second pre-season F1 test of the 2016 season at the Circuit de Barcelona, Williams driver Valtteri Bottas was quickest ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Renault driver Kevin Magnussen as new team Haas continued to struggle with another reliability issue.
But it was Valtteri Bottas who was quickest with a lap time of 1:23.261 which was actually slower than his best effort on Tuesday. Bottas finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton in second place as the Mercedes team are splitting all four days of this week’s test between him and his team mate Nico Rosberg. But today it was Rosberg’s turn to complete a race simulation in the afternoon while Hamilton went in search of a quick qualifying-style lap on soft tyres in the morning.
Rosberg finished ahead of Kevin Magnussen in third place whose relationship with his new Renault seems to be improving. His time was set on super-softs and is the best lap recorded by the RS16 in testing so far. However, when compared with the laps of rival teams on the same tyre compounds, the Renault is still lacking. His team mate Jolyon Palmer will take over driving duties for the remaining two days.
After concerns about reliability on Tuesday, Ferrari answered its critics with 144 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya today. Much like Mercedes in the first week of testing, Sebastian Vettel stuck to the medium compound tyre and aimed for consistency over longer runs. He finished the day in fourth place but more importantly a lot more confidence in the durability of the SF16-H.
The McLaren-Honda continued to run its updated Honda power unit without major issue, although the team is still playing down expectations ahead of the first race. But Jenson Button finished the day in fifth place ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in sixth place, Carlos Sainz in seventh place and Sergio Perez in eighth place.
Nico Rosberg finished the session in ninth place ahead of Pascal Wehrlein in tenth place and Marcus Ericsson in eleventh place. With both Manor and Sauber failing to reach the 100 lap milestone, things could be better for both teams especially Marcus Ericsson who caused a late red flag when the new C35 stopped on track.
At the other end of the pit lane, Ferrari engine customer Haas was not having such a smooth day. On Tuesday, a fuel sensor issue stopped Esteban Gutierrez after 23 laps and on Wednesday a problem with the turbo limited him to just one lap at the wheel of the VF-16. It was the worst day of the team’s short testing programme so far, but Gene Haas said problems are to be expected in the first weeks of testing.
Day Two Timesheet:-
- Valtteri Bottas – Williams – 1:23.261 – 107 laps
- Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:23.622 – 73 laps (morning)
- Kevin Magnussen – Renault – 1:23.933 – 126 laps
- Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 1:24.611 – 151 laps
- Jenson Button – McLaren – 1:25.183 – 121 laps
- Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1:25.235 – 135 laps
- Carlos Sainz – Toro Rosso – 1:25.300 – 166 laps
- Sergio Perez – Force India – 1:25.593 – 128 laps
- Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:26.298 – 91 laps (afternoon)
- Pascal Wehrlein – Manor – 1:27.064 – 79 laps
- Marcus Ericsson – Sauber – 1:27.487 – 55 lap
- Esteban Gutierrez – Haas – No time – 1 lap
At the third second day of the second pre-season F1 test of the 2016 season at the Circuit de Barcelona, Kimi Raikkonen was quickest ahead of Williams driver Felipe Massa and Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg as new team Haas continued to struggle with another reliability issue.
Kimi Raikkonen’s lap time of a 1:22.765 replaced team-mate Sebastian Vettel’s best effort from the first week of testing and set a new benchmark to for the final day of the pre-season on Friday. The time was set on Pirelli’s new ultra-soft compound, which reigning champions Mercedes have opted not to use this winter.
With testing times on different days rarely offer a fair comparison; you could argue that Ferrari’s effort sends a message of intent just two weeks remaining before the first race weekend gets underway in Melbourne. Raikkonen went on to complete a race simulation in the afternoon, mimicking Mercedes run plan on the opening days of this week’s test.
Raikkonen finished ahead of Felipe Massa in second place whose lap time was within two tenths of the Raikkonen/Rosberg soft tyre target time which does suggest that the Williams team has also made solid progress with its car over the winter. Massa finished ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in third place ahead of Max Verstappen who finished in fourth place.
Nico Rosberg finished the day in fifth place ahead of Felipe Nasr in sixth place and Fernando Alonso in seventh place as both Sauber and McLaren focused on mileage and both teams managed well over 100 laps. It was also Fernando Alonso’s last day behind the wheel of the MP4-31 ahead of the Australian Grand Prix and he set the team’s best time of the test so far on super soft tyres.
Manor struggled for laps again with just 48 for Pascal Wherlein over the day who managed to finish in eighth place ahead of Daniil Kvyat in ninth place, Jolyon Palmer in tenth place and Lewis Hamilton in eleventh place.
Meanwhile the Haas team have resolved the turbo problem that limited Esteban Gutierrez to one lap on Wednesday. However, the new American team’s 78 laps were far from smooth, with Romain Grosjean twice ending up in the gravel either side of the lunch break and ended the day in twelfth place.
The session was brought to an early end when Grosjean was forced to park his car on track 10 minutes before the chequered flag.
Thursday’s test day also marked the first public debut of a new cockpit protection system which is set to be introduced next year. Raikkonen tested an early development of the Halo device and completed a single lap in the morning with the prototype attached to the SF16-H.
Although plans are not yet finalised for 2017, the Halo device is expected to be chosen over a closed canopy, which is also being considered longer term.
Day Three Timesheet:-
- Kimi Raikkonen- Ferrari– 1.22.765- 136 laps
- Felipe Massa- Williams– 1.23.193- 119 laps
- Nico Hulkenberg- Force India– 1.23.251- 137 laps
- Max Verstappen- Toro Rosso– 1.23.382- 159 laps
- Nico Rosberg- Mercedes– 1.24.126- 81 laps
- Felipe Nasr- Sauber– 1.24.760- 116 laps
- Fernando Alonso– McLaren– 1.24.870– 118 laps
- Pascal Wehrlein- Manor– 1.24.913- 48 laps
- Daniil Kvyat- Red Bull– 1.25.141- 121 laps
- Jolyon Palmer- Renault– 1.26.224- 98 laps
- Lewis Hamilton- Mercedes– 1.26.488- 63 laps
- Romain Grosjean- Haas– 1.27.196- 78 laps
At the final day of the second pre-season F1 test of the 2016 season at the Circuit de Barcelona, Sebastian Vettel was quickest ahead of Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz and Williams driver Felipe Massa.
After two weeks of pounding round the high-speed track outside Barcelona, Ferrari laid claim to the two fastest lap times of the winter. Sebastian Vettel was quickest with a lap time of 1:22.852. But a true picture of the competitive order ahead of the first race in Australia in two weeks is not so clear.
Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz finished the final day of testing in second place after using the purple-striped ultra-soft tyres. His lap was the fourth fastest over the four days of the second test and underlines the progress Toro Rosso appears to have made since switching from Renault power to year-old Ferrari engines this year.
But the Williams team remains a likely contender for best of the rest and Felipe Massa completed another positive day in the FW38 with 129 laps and ended the test in third place. Force India is also in the running for a strong finish at the first race, with Sergio Perez finishing in fourth place.
However, Perez’s day was cut short at 60 laps when he stopped on track in the afternoon. World Champion Lewis Hamilton finished the day in fifth place after setting his quickest time on the mediums, but was still quicker than Daniel Ricciardo who ended the session in sixth place.
However, for the first time this pre-season the Mercedes came to an unexpected halt on track and caused a red flag. The problem was traced to a transmission issue and brought an early end to Lewis Hamilton’s final morning in the car. Not long after lunch Mercedes fixed the issue and prepared the car for Nico Rosberg to take over in the afternoon and complete another 70 laps.
Jenson Button finished the test in seventh place as McLaren completed another long day of no-thrills testing. However, in an interview to the media this afternoon; McLaren racing director Eric Boullier said plenty more performance would be bolted on to the car for the opening race and that they are not running the full 2016 specification on the car at the moment.
Jolyon Palmer ended the test in eighth place after completing 90 laps in the Renault, but has admitted that his first pre-season as a full-time driver had not gone to plan. But he finished ahead of Marcus Ericsson in ninth place and ahead of newcomers Haas who have recovered from a brake-by-wire issue that pitched Romain Grosjean into a spin twice on Thursday to complete 91 laps between its two drivers on Friday.
With Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez finishing in tenth and eleventh places, the team still finished the test with less mileage than it had hoped for and could find themselves at the back of the grid with Manor come the first race.
But the Manor team had another tricky day on Friday due to a mechanical issue in the morning. After completing one lap before lunch, Rio Haryanto managed another 57 laps in the afternoon but still finished in twelfth place by the end of the day despite a run on the ultra-soft tyres.
Nico Rosberg finished the final day at the bottom of the timesheets, but was working on longer runs using much harder rubber. On the final day of the test, the Mercedes team did restrict itself to a programme of long runs on medium tyres, which has been a staple run plan of the team throughout winter testing.
Day Four Timesheet:-
- Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 1:22.852 – 142 laps
- Carlos Sainz – Toro Rosso – 1:23.134 – 133 laps
- Felipe Massa – Williams – 1:23.644 – 129 laps
- Sergio Perez – Force India – 1:23.721 – 60 laps
- Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:24.133 – 69 laps
- Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1:24.427 – 123 laps
- Jenson Button – McLaren – 1:24.714 – 121 laps
- Jolyon Palmer – Renault – 1:24.859 – 90 laps
- Marcus Ericsson – Sauber – 1:25.031 – 132 laps
- Romain Grosjean – Haas – 1:25.255 – 66 laps
- Esteban Gutierrez – Haas – 1:25.422 – 25 laps
- Rio Haryanto – Manor – 1:25.899 – 58 laps
- Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:26.140 – 70 laps
The second (yet last) 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 W07 before the first race of the season. 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, Renault, McLaren and Toro Rosso will once again use the mileage that they have gained from the last test in order to improve their cars before the first race of the season 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 McLaren, Renault and Red Bull who have improved from the Barcelona test earlier.
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 solid mileage that will help them as they try and get the VJM09 ready in the best possible position for Melbourne in two weeks 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 once again, the spotlight is firmly on the Haas team. Even though we have seen Haas experiencing problems since the first test in Jerez, it is to be expected given the fact that both Haas and Ferrari will be learning more and more about the car as time goes on in their first year back in partnership.
You can be sure that Haas 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 first test which is a small positive step in the right direction but they still have a lot of work to do.
The big question is, is just under two enough time for Haas to fix their problems and I believe that it won’t be, but all they can do in my eyes is get themselves in the best possible position for Melbourne as they can under the circumstances.
In conclusion, in terms of pure mileage, Mercedes finished the two weeks streets ahead of its main rival with a total of 1294 laps — the equivalent of twice driving from the team’s base in Brackley to the Circuit de Catalunya and back again — compared to Ferrari’s 854.
But the true gap in performance between Mercedes and Ferrari is likely to remain unknown until the first qualifying session in Melbourne in two weeks, but Vettel appeared confident when talking to the media later this afternoon about how things have progressed during the pre-season testing period.