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…
When the F1 Strategy Group (a laughable name for a group that seems to have no actual strategy for the sport) brought up the idea of the front-running teams supplying customer cars to the smaller outfits, it was met with derision from many fans, as well as the likes of Sauber, Force India and Lotus.
Crazy Uncle Bernie got in on the act at the Monaco GP by offering to broker the deals between The Big Four (Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull) and the struggling teams. There have long been technology deals between teams (Red Bull and Toro Rosso; Honda and Super Aguri; McLaren and Force India; Ferrari and Haas F1) but the chassis itself is manufactured by the team – that is why there is the CONSTRUCTORS championship.
What Ecclestone didn’t mention was that under the present Concorde Agreement the placing in the Constructors Championship determines prize money, not the Drivers Championship. So if a team used a customer car they would no longer be a constructor – and therefore would they not qualify for prize money?
Do your think the likes of Frank and Claire Williams, whose team is fast enough to be successful but not included in the Big Four, likes the idea of teams behind them suddenly running a pair of Mercedes or Ferrari cars that are beating them now?
The issue doesn’t lie in the smaller teams ability to build a good chassis, it lies in the unfair distribution of money within the sport. The side deals negotiated by Ecclestone with the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull mean the smaller teams are simply outspent during the course of the season and can never develop their great ideas (Exhibit A: Sauber in Australia vs. everywhere since).
What’s laughable is that Toro Rosso seem to have designed a better performing chassis this year than parent Red Bull, who have been pissing and moaning about Renault all year and threatening to quit the sport entirely. Call that stability? Maybe Red Bull just want to use an STR11 in 2016…
It’s time for the FIA to take the decision making away from the teams, abolish the “Strategy Group” and even out the financial playing field. It’s time for Jean Todt to stop arsing around with the United Nations and to grow a pair.