Testing Times for McLaren in Barcelona
The F1 teams headed to Barcelona last week for the second pre-season test and it proved to be a good one for Lotus. But does that mean they can challenge Mercedes this season? A closer inspection of performances reveals a different story.
Both Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean managed the fastest times during the four days of testing but they were achieved using super soft tyres. Opposing teams were using medium tyres and would have recorded much better times if using the same tyres as Mercedes. Some estimates say the change of tyres could have seen times improved by 1.2 to 2 seconds.
Lotus operations director Alan Permane said both his drivers felt the new car was better in all areas than the 2014 model but they have no idea where they stood in the competitive order. Grosjean feels “everything is going in the right direction but it is very early in the year to make predictions.”
Another reason not to go over-board about the Barcelona results is the fact teams don’t publish the fuel loads they are using. Again that can have a big effect on lap times.
All isn’t going well at McLaren though as they suffered problems with their motor-generator unit. Reliability is proving to be a problem and Honda spent a fair amount of time during the test period redesigning the malfunctioning part. Both Button and Alonso struggled to get time on the track.
Button in particular was disappointed saying: “I haven’t really driven this car in anger yet.” Alonso fears that “we will arrive in Australia hoping it was in June or July” and fears his new team won’t be “completely ready.”
If the engine problems had been worrying McLaren (and they continued on Sunday) then worse was to come when Fernando Alonso crashed into the wall on Sunday and had to be taken to hospital. McLaren racing director Eric Boullier said: “Fernando’s accident was just one of those things that happens in testing.” He added: “it was enough of an impact to warrant quite a lengthy check of the gearbox and power unit systems.”
World Champion Lewis Hamilton had a mixed time in Barcelona. On Day One, he had to withdraw during the second pre-season test as he suffered with a fever and could only manage two hours testing. Also struggling during the testing was Nico Rosberg who had an inflamed nerve in his neck. Despite their health problems they still battled on and produced times on medium tyres that indicate they will again have a dominating season. Hopefully though it won’t be quite as dominating as the 2014 series of 1-2’s.
Force India still hasn’t got their 2015 car so it’s difficult to say how they’ll get on this year. They hope to have the 2015 car ready for the final set of testing.
Both Red Bull and Ferrari had promising times with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo edging out Raikonnen and Massa for the fastest time on Friday. Again though all three were on the super soft tyres.
With only 3 weeks to go until the new season many of these teams need to get their act together.