2016 Formula One In-Season Test Review: Barcelona

Circuit-de-Barcelona-Catalunya_3137685

As I am sure you are all aware, this week has seen the return of the first in-season test of Formula One in 2016. 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

Sebastian Vettel tops the timesheets on the first day of in the season test.

Sebastian Vettel tops the timesheets on the first day of in the season test.

On the first day of Formula One’s first in-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona today, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was quickest ahead of Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button when the Williams team tested a radical new rear wing as part of 2017 development.

Dry but chilly conditions greeted the teams on the first morning of the two-day test but temperatures gradually warmed up as the sun broke through. But the first day of the test saw the Ferrari team focusing on one-lap pace in the morning, having struggled for pace in Spanish Grand Prix qualifying and completed a series of short runs on the soft and medium.

But it was Williams that caused a stir when it unveiled a radical new rear wing and modified front wing which is in preparation for the 2017 regulations that soon will be kicking into the sport. Williams then reverted to its 2016-spec configuration for the afternoon and managed 86 laps with Lynn.

But it was Sebastian Vettel who clocked a 1.23.220 on the soft tyres and managed 103 laps to finish ahead of Nico Rosberg in second place who was 0.117 seconds behind Vettel, who had the highest lap tally with 119 laps. But Rosberg finished ahead of Jenson Button in third place who was 0.5 seconds behind Vettel.

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean ran a new chassis yesterday as he looks to get on top of his balance problems and ended up in fourth place ahead of Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein who finished in fifth place ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who ended the day in sixth place.

GP2 Driver Pierre Gasly drove the Toro Rosso for the first time this season and ended the day in seventh place ahead of Force India development driver Alfonso Celis Jr in eighth place and ahead of Williams development driver Alex Lynn in ninth place and ahead of Esteban Ocon in tenth place who was 3.310 seconds off the pace despite giving Renault’s new spec power unit its first outing.

Even though Renault was testing its upgrade on the first day of the test, it is unlikely the team was looking for raw performance at this stage; with a big step forward expected when the team introduces the upgrade to its race cars for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Day One Timesheet:-

  1. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:23.220, 103 laps
  2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:23.337, 119 laps
  3. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:23.753, 86 laps
  4. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:23.882, 96 laps
  5. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:24.297, 86 laps
  6. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:24.307, 89 laps
  7. Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, 1:24.821, 78 laps
  8. Alfonso Celis Jr, Force India, 1:24.821, 99 laps
  9. Alex Lynn, Williams, 1:26.071, 86 laps
  10. Esteban Ocon, Renault, 1:26.530, 105 laps

Day Two

Max Verstappen tops the timesheets on the final day of the Barcelona test.

Max Verstappen tops the timesheets on the final day of the Barcelona test.

On the second and final day of Formula One’s first in-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona today, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was quickest ahead of McLaren-Honda’s reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne and Mercedes’ Pascal Wehrlein; in a session which saw Wehrlein putting in the most laps after being called up to the Mercedes team instead of Esteban Ocon to test out new parts.

During the session, Manor’s Jordan King was responsible for the first red flag of the day after he ran wide at Turn 7 and dragged gravel onto the track that required cleaning. However, Daniil Kvyat caused the second red flag of the day when he stopped on track between Turns 4 and 5.

But it was Max Verstappen who clocked a 1.23.267 on the soft tyres before the lunch break and was unchallenged all day. But Verstappen finished ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne in second place who was 0.117 seconds behind Verstappen who put in an impressive laps. But Vandoorne finished ahead of Pascal Wehrlein in third place who was 0.5 seconds behind Verstappen and put in a consistent and impressive performance after being called to the team late after Mercedes announced that Lewis Hamilton had other standing commitments while Wehrlein was already on-site as he is staying in Spain for a Manor team filming day.

Haas F1 driver ended up in fourth place ahead of Ferrari Academy driver Antonio Fuoco who finished in fifth place and completed 100 laps. But he remained ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat Daniel Ricciardo who ended the day in sixth place ahead of Force India development driver Alfonso Celis in seventh place.

As we head into the latter stages of the grid, Kevin Magnussen was eighth quickest in the session and reported that the drivability of the new Renault engine is better than the old specification. Magnussen was ahead of Felipe Massa in ninth place who ran Williams’s radical rear wing as the team continued gathering data for the 2017 aerodynamic rules overhaul. But Massa remained ahead of Manor Development driver Jordan King who ended the session in tenth place.

Day Two Timesheet:-

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:23.267, 118 laps
  2. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 1:24.006, 108 laps
  3. Pascal Wehrlein, Mercedes, 1:24.145, 132 laps
  4. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:24.592, 104 laps
  5. Antonio Fuoco, Ferrari, 1:24.720, 118 laps
  6. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:24.737, 116 laps
  7. Alfonso Celis Jr, Force India, 1:25.016, 103 laps
  8. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:25.133, 122 laps
  9. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:27.167, 94 laps
  10. Jordan King, Manor, 1:27.615, 91 laps

Conclusion

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.

The drivers that have impressed me in the test have been Vandoorne and Wehrlein have all impressed me with the performances they have put into the test session as a whole and I believe that this will help them all develop further as a drivers while also ensuring that the teams keep an eye on their careers.

The driver that hasn’t impressed me at all is Alfonso Celis. It seems to me that he cannot extract pace and performance from the car in FP1 sessions and in the test either. And with Perez stating to the media that he hasn’t “performed” as they thought, the pressure will be on him again when he runs in another practice session soon.

Manor, Haas, 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. 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.

And despite sadly Sauber 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.

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 W08 as we head into Monaco next week and bounce back with a win? We shall see.

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