Ferrari surprises, McLaren disappoints and Red Bull remains a mystery!!!!
Formula One testing is a weird time for fans and teams alike. The normal rule of being the fastest simply doesn’t apply. Yet no matter who you are I can almost guarantee that you would have checked the best lap times from every day at Jerez. I’m right aren’t I?
Testing lap times are quite frankly meaningless. This is because we have no idea what specification each team is running at a specific time. If we were to believe testing times we would conclude that Ferrari and Sauber will be fighting for a win in Melbourne while McLaren and Red Bull are busy scrapping over last place.
For the sake of fairness and curiosity though here are the best lap times by team over the four days at Jerez.
1 Ferrari (Kimi Raikkonen) 1:20.841
2 Sauber (Felipe Nasr) 1:21.545
3 Mercedes (Nico Rosberg) 1:21.982
4 Williams (Felipe Massa) 1:22.276
5 Toro Rosso (Max Verstappen) 1:22.553
6 Lotus (Pastor Maldonado) 1:22.713
7 Red Bull (Daniel Ricciardo) 1:23.338
8 McLaren (Jenson Button) 1:27.660
Again as I mentioned before, the above times are meaningless. I could have randomly made up the times they are that pointless. There is however a better way to gain some insight into who is where heading to Barcelona.
If we calculate the average lap time from every team over the four days we get a better view of what to expect. Of course this also isn’t an exact science – in fact we won’t really be any the wiser about true pace until we see race simulation runs in Barcelona but this is the best way to analyze the opening test.
1 Ferrari 1:23.873
2 Red Bull 1:25.214
3 Williams 1:25.286
4 Mercedes 1:25.309
5 Sauber 1:26.053
6 Toro Rosso 1:26.105
7 Lotus 1:26.564
8 McLaren 1:28.382
Of course we have to disregard a few minor hiccups in the averaging system (i.e. Ferrari and McLaren) but on the whole this way of looking at the lap times appears to be more sane.
So, how did each team do in Jerez? Are Mercedes still favorites? Will Ferrari be fighting for wins this year? And can McLaren and Red Bull iron out their early problems? Let’s find out.
Testing for Mercedes this year is all about sorting out their only downfall from 2014, reliability. It’s safe to say that on day one at least they were supreme. Nico Rosberg completed an unbelievable 157 laps and although on the final three days they had minor niggles, the team did what they aimed to do – clock up BIG miles.
And clock up miles they did. Hamilton and Rosberg completed 516 laps over the four days with their nearest rivals not even doing 400.
As you would have seen above Mercedes were not the fastest in Jerez but, as the entire paddock knows, the 2014 champions were being very conservative and through their ridiculously long runs they will have gathered a significant amount of data. A feat that didn’t go un-noticed by others.
Christian Horner and Eric Boullier were very vocal in their praise for Mercedes and made it clear that they were still the favorites. Horner admitted that, “turning up and doing 157 laps on the first day is taking the mickey.”
While Boullier said: “What was frightening is they (Mercedes) were doing pit-stop training on the first day – their confidence level is very high.”
It’s not at all surprising that McLaren struggled at Jerez with their new Honda engine. Other engine suppliers sorted out their V6 packages last year so Honda were always going to be playing catch up with the others.
Prodigal son Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button only completed 79 laps between them over the four days but when you consider they only did 12 after two days, it doesn’t seem so bad.
It’s hard to draw any solid conclusions about the McLaren-Honda at the moment. Some claim that Honda engine was down on power because they were almost 17km/h slower than the next slowest car through the speed trap in dry conditions.
Leading figures within McLaren though claim that the car was only running at half of its potential.
On the plus side for McLaren, they were significantly faster in damp conditions, which is surely something they can build upon.
Heading to Barcelona they will have more developed engines for the test – let’s hope the sound of the more developed engine is as impressive as it was in Jerez. If it’s running that is.
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were quickest on three of the four days in Jerez. Take from that what you will but skepticism was rife throughout the paddock.
Although the car seems to be genuinely fast, averaging out at over a second faster than anyone else, their performance still remains a mystery.
If you look at Ferrari’s run pattern in Jerez their performance seems to makes sense. Where Mercedes were completing over 30 laps at a time, Ferrari were only managing 10. In simple terms this would mean that Ferrari were completing ‘glory laps’ on low fuel.
That’s not the whole story however. It’s quite clear that Ferrari have made a genuine step up from last year (it would be hard not to). Sources from within Ferrari claim that they have found an extra 50bhp with a further 30bhp to be found in Barcelona. This will significantly bridge the gap to their rivals as last year they were visibly sluggish on power.
The biggest proof that the team have made a huge step forward comes from an unlikely source – new dad of the paddock Raikkonen.
The Finn was visibly happy (yes happy) with how the new car feels. He claims that the car has improved in every area and that he had a good feeling straightaway.
After a dismal 2014 if anyone can see a genuine step forward in the new car its Raikkonen.
Red Bull’s poor test in Jerez sort of slipped under the radar because McLaren have been hogging the headlines after their early failures. Red Bull however had similar failures which meant they recorded the second lowest mileage (behind McLaren).
Like last year they hit problems with the Renault engine. Their stints were also significantly shorter than their rivals, causing old reliability demons to be brought to their attention again.
They seemed to escape any real scrutiny in Jerez due to their eye catching camouflage livery and the jokes surrounding Daniil Kvyat’s wing-less run.
The facts from Jerez though seem to paint a slightly worrying picture for Red Bull. Whispers are growing all the time that Red Bull, and in particular Renault, will be playing catch up this season.
The team have promised to make big steps in Barcelona and they need to or they risks being brushed aside by their rivals.
Williams / Lotus / Torro Rosso / Sauber / Force India
Not much can be said about Williams at the moment. They pretty much picked up where they left off last year. They look as though they will be the main rivals for Mercedes in 2015 after going about their business in Jerez in a quiet but impressive manner.
Although Williams may have gone largely un-noticed so far, it could be a blessing in disguise for the team who are trying to cement themselves as a top team in 2015.
Claire Williams claims that a win is their main aim for 2015. If they do build on their impressive 2014 season who would bet against that.
Lotus, who only ran for two and a half days, have made huge steps forward from their terrible 2014 season. They have switched to Mercedes engines for 2015 and that has had an almost instant effect on their performance.
Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado appear happy with the changes that have been made with the new car and seem positive. Which isn’t too hard considering how dire 2014 was for them.
Another team who had an awful year in 2014 was Sauber. They have raised a lot of eyebrows in Jerez, not only because of the Microsoft paint livery, but because they posted the fastest time on day three.
Of course their pace is subjective and we will only see their true speed in Barcelona but the fact they were able to post top times shows that they have made big steps from their dire 2014, and that the Ferrari engine has significantly improved.
Toro Rosso’s testing was all about giving their new young drivers a chance to get to grips with their 2015 car. Their pace was average, as was their reliability, which says more about the Renault engine than the team itself.
And finally Force India were notable by their absence. Rumors have been flying round the paddock about whether they will be on the grid in Melbourne and according to sources at Force India they will. How competitive they will be is another question?
Will it be more questions or answers in Barcelona?