The two sessions of preseason testing, totaling just eight days of running in Barcelona, are now complete and it is time to prepare the cars for shipment to Australia.
Even though running was limited the teams managed to pack n the miles with the average amount of running the equivalent of twelve Grand Prix distances! Of course some teams ran better than others and Mercedes AMG was far ahead of anyone else, running over 19 race distances while encountering just one mechanical issue.
The only other team to stand out on the positive side was Scuderia Toro Rosso who, despite the last minute change to Ferrari power units, ran very reliably and put in over 1,000 laps.
The middle of the pack comprised of Williams, Ferrari, Force India, Red Bull, Renault and Sauber (albeit with their 2015 car at the first test). They all put in an average amount of laps, they all suffered mechanical problems at some point and they all put in competitive lap times at times.
McLaren-Honda would have also fit into that group, too had it not been for one abysmal day to end the first test where they spent all day chasing coolant leaks.
It was really no surprise that both Manor with their new Mercedes power units and Haas as a completely new team both ran into problems. Both outfits ran close to 500 laps but are both going to be playing catch up at the opening flyaway races and will be lucky to be competitive.
Even scarier was that Mercedes put on soft Pirelli rubber for the first time and Nico Rosberg lapped a quarter second faster than Valtteri Bottas in a Williams using ultrasoft tyres! Lewis Hamilton followed this up in the afternoon by running a full race simulation while many teams struggled with technical issues.
Red Bull had brake duct issues that caused a fire on Daniil Kvyat’s RB12, Kimi Raikonnen was sidelined for most of the morning with gearbox problems on his Ferrari while Haas struggled mightily with fuel system issues that kept Esteban Gutiérrez in the pits almost all day.
Other teams fared better. The new Sauber C35 debuted and Felipe Nasr was able to put in a good days work, commenting afterwards that the car is a good step forward. Toro Rosso continued to rack up the mileage as Max Verstappen put in 141 laps in the newly liveried STR11, while both Fernando Alonso in the McLaren-Honda and Kevin Magnussen in the Renault both had solid days as they try to play catch up from the first test.
The four day test at the Circuit de Catalunya is now complete with Ferrari setting the fastest time on three of the four days (utilizing the new ultra-soft tyres), but Mercedes logging almost twice as many laps – and using only medium compound rubber.
The Mercedes was bullet proof, which meant changing their driver scheduling to “avoid fatigue”(!), while Ferrari ran into cooling issues towards the end of the test.
After a bumpy start the Renault team logged solid mileage in the last two days with Kevin Magnussen, while Toro Rosso and Red Bull both ran solidly. Williams started slowly and ended badly but were saved by two solid days in between, while the 2015 Sauber ran as expected the team is still behind the Eight Ball in their preparations for Australia.
The decision to give rookie Alfonso Celis two full days in the Force India was odd given the limited testing time available and his ability to give feedback to the team, as opposed to the experience of Perez and Hulkenberg, but they put in useful mileage.
As expected, Haas had teething problems but responded well while Manor also struggled somewhat to put in meaningful laps with the new Mercedes power unit – not helped by Hatyanto’s crash on Thursday.
Things seemed to have improved dramatically at McLaren-Honda until a coolant leak sidelined the car completely on Thursday, adding to Fernando Alonso’s frustrations.
So now both we and the teams have just a few days to regroup before the second and final test March 1st.
Will we see then just how fast the Mercedes is or will they continue to sandbag?
Will Ferrari put in the miles or once again go for speed?
Will Honda finally come through for McLaren?
We’ll see next week…