So there we have it, the first official day of the 2016 F1 season has come to a close, and without reading too much into the day one testing times, it seems 2016 has started in a fairly familiar way to where 2015 left off, well…sort of.
I’ve just read on Sky Sports F1 that Toto Wolff is welcoming the pace of Ferrari, and I think that is a view echoed by everyone in the F1 community, apart from probably Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg! Vettel’s table topping time of 1.24.939 was just 0.3 seconds off last years pole position in Barcelona, ominous signs for the rest of the field on the first official day of running. With major rule changes planned for 2017, its perfectly reasonable to expect a large degree of familiarity this season before a rejigging of the pecking order next season, so below are four things I learnt during day one of the 2016 season.
It’s an improvement from McLaren, but to suggest they will be regular frontrunners in 2016 is wide of the mark.
In comparison to the first day of 2015, McLaren’s opening day of the Catalunya test can be regarded as a success, but for one of F1’s most successful teams there remains a long and difficult path back to the top. Despite showing a tenfold increase in reliability, Jenson Button’s fastest time of a 1.26.735 was set on soft tyres whilst Vettel and Hamilton set theirs on the medium compound, highlighting just how far McLaren trail F1’s leading twosome. Nevertheless, there looks to have been a slight improvement from the team at Woking, however Eric Boulier’s comments earlier in the day about how the new McLaren wasn’t good enough are surely a sign of concern? I suspect as the week goes on we’ll gain more of an idea about where McLaren and the Honda power unit really stand in comparison to Mercedes however my gut feeling is that McLaren will still spend the vast majority of 2016 scrapping for the leftover points. I hope I’m proved wrong!
A solid, if not spectacular debut from Haas
I mentioned numerous times towards the tail end last season that in Romain Grosjean, Haas have a driver capable of delivering should they provide him the package to do so. On what we saw on day one in Barcelona, Haas’s target of points in their debut season remains a possibility. 1.28.399 remains a very respectable time for a team on their first ever day of F1 action and despite only completing 31 laps, that’s still more than Honda managed on their return to the sport last year. Like with McLaren (and with many other teams) I think by the end of Thursday we’ll have a much better idea of where Haas stand, however today was by no means the disaster some were expecting it to be. If Haas can stay there or there about during the season, then they should be more than capable of snatching the odd point or two in some of the more chaotic races.
Impressive start from Red Bull
I don’t think even Red Bull are really expecting to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari consistently this year, however I do think they are expecting to regain 3rd place in the constructors from Williams, and they showed some strong pace on day one. I think Williams have more than exceeded expectations for the last two seasons, and their impressive haul of podiums has been testament to great effort made by a considerably smaller team working with a considerably smaller budget. With Red Bull’s renewed commitment to the sport however, I expect Horner and Co to come at Williams all guns blazing in 2016 and Ricciardo’s time of 1.26.044 was just marginally quicker than the time set by Bottas of a 1.26.091. I think the jury’s still out on how much progress Renault have made on the engine front over the winter, with Palmer languishing down in 10th place it’s difficult to compare the Renault engine with the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari. The team at Enstone know how to build a good chassis so I’m putting Palmer’s slow pace today down to teething problems, and I thoroughly expect Renault to feature higher up the time sheets come the end of the week. Then, I think we will have a good idea of just how close the battle between Red Bull and Williams will be in 2016.
And finally, the liveries!
I’ll be honest here, I’m not sure what I expected but I feel somewhat let down at the lack of originality displayed by F1 teams of the livery front this season. From Sauber merely adding one or two more logo’s onto their 2015 livery, to Haas’s similar lack of creativity. I’d love to hear you’re opinions on this! Are you similarly disappointed in some of the livery designs this season? I mean, the yellow and black Haas concept livery has been doing the rounds on social media all winter (I’m sure you’ve seen it) and I think it looked great. Maybe whoever designed that concept set the bar too high but I for one feel this seasons livery launches were a bit of an anti climax. Please do let me know in the comments below or on twitter (@hairpin_corner) if you agree or disagree!