The last two weeks in Formula 1 have been fueled by hype and anticipation. As the opening week of testing began, these long awaited cars were finally launched and unleashed onto the Barcelona circuit. Those first four days were all about learning. We got the new cars on track for the first time and find out exactly how fast they could go. Mercedes and Ferrari were emphatic in answering the question of speed. They each obliterated the fastest times from testing last year.
It was abundantly clear that the teams were running the cars in various states. High fuel loads, set up work and tyre testing were all factors in making sure it was virtually impossible to know exactly how relevant the times were.
As always in winter testing, the timing screen is a way down the priority list. At this stage, all analysis is pure speculation. If anything, I have more questions going into the second week of testing than I did seven days ago.
Having only eight days to prepare for the season opener in a few weeks time will definitely prove a challenge for some. For so many years now, the teams have taken three weeks of pre-season running. It will be interesting to see how ready they are when the chequered flag falls on Friday evening. This week could get extremely tense.
Are Ferrari really that quick? Or are Mercedes hiding something?
There is always an element of doubt in attempting to read into testing times. But I have to say I find it hard to believe that Valtteri Bottas was only able to find an extra tenth of a second on the Ultrasoft tyres. Unless he made a mistake, there is definitely more to come from that car.
Ferrari are looking good though. They were also playing around with fuel loads, and putting in plenty of extended running. I think the Italians were very impressive throughout, interestingly focussing almost completely on running the Soft and Medium tyres. Both Vettel and Raikkonen completed over 200 laps, which is a remarkable achievement. They were only bettered by Mercedes all week, and not by much.
Can Honda sort themselves out?
The situation at McLaren is getting more and more severe by the day. They thought it was bad when they suffered an appalling opening year with Honda. It only got marginally better in season two, and looking at the early signs of season three, they will be lucky if they haven’t gone backwards.
This new Honda engine suffered an opening day that was about as bad as it could get. After a single lap, it transpired that there was a fundamental design problem with the oil tank. The only word that came to mind was one famously used by a certain Spaniard two seasons ago.
I can imagine that the McLaren team are very aware of the fact that they now only have four days left to make the car reliable and find some speed because at the moment, they have neither. McLaren were three seconds slower than Mercedes on the Ultrasoft tyres. Leaders at Honda are already voicing concerns for the opening race in Melbourne. Three years in to this project, the current situation is totally unacceptable.
Will Red Bull reveal their true potential?
Red Bull had a quiet opening test. They suffered some electrical niggles, but the power unit from Renault looks far better than than last years effort.
Both drivers did enough to put the car in a comfortable third position. And it feels like that is exactly where they wanted to be. Both drivers have sounded confident in their interviews and their laps on the Soft tyres were quicker than many others on Supersofts.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Red Bull appearing closer to the top of the timing sheets this week. The car ran well over the final two days and if that reliability continues, then speed will be the next port of call. The battle between the front three looks set to be very interesting.
Are Toro Rosso in serious trouble?
Toro Rosso’s uncanny resemblance to the Mercedes has been a major talking point so far Some of the similarities in the aerodynamic philosophy are astounding. It is a fantastic looking car, but so far, the performance doesn’t seem to be there.
There team were consistently falling towards the bottom of the times, and neither driver appeared to be particularly positive at any stage. It must be a boost to have an up to date engine in the car this year, and they will surely be hoping to find some performance over the next four days.
To see the team begin to pick up speed would not be a huge surprise. The car looks good, certainly much better than the Sauber or Haas. I’m not worried about this team just yet. A car that looks as fantastic as that simply has to be quick.