Well I don’t know about you but I thought today’s testing times were pretty interesting. From McLaren showing signs of a tentative recovery to Nico Rosberg’s blistering 1.23.022 set on the soft tyres the first day of the final 2016 pre-season test was full of fascinating sub-plots and headline grabbing times. Below, you can find four key points which I picked out from today’s test which I think were of particular importance.
Finally, some positives for McLaren. I only started this blog back in late August/early September so I’m sure any even relatively astute Formula One fan can understand why I haven’t had many positive things to say about McLaren since then, however for possibly the first time in the history of this blog I want to start off this post by addressing McLaren, in a positive frame of mind! The SkySports live blog suggested this was McLaren’s best day of testing for at least a couple of seasons, and I definitely agree. Free from any major reliability setbacks Alonso managed to clock a very impressive 1:24.735 which, as I lifelong McLaren fan (you’d never know right) I was incredibly pleased about.
Apparently McLaren are also running some updated fuel from Esso? Well, according to Eric Boullier on twitter anyway so maybe that has something to do with their newfound “speed”? Either way, for reasons I’m sure everyone can understand I wasn’t overly convinced by Boullier when he said last week was about finding reliability and this week about performance, however going on how the MP4-31 performed today maybe he was telling the truth. It’s great to see McLaren finally get on top of their some of their problems, even if it’s just for a day at this point so long may this improved fortune continue. 92 laps and just one breakdown before lunch is a good start.
Do Mercedes have a bigger advantage than it previously appeared? In a qualifying simulation Nico Rosberg clocked a 1.23.022 on the soft tyres, that two tenths faster than Valteri Bottas on the ultra softs. Which seems to me at least that Mercedes were holding quite a lot back last week, and perhaps they have a larger advantage over Ferrari than it first appeared. The ultra soft tyres are said to have a performance advantage of around a second, so if Rosberg’s time from today was just two tenths short of Vettel’s time last week then it might suggest that Ferrari still have a little bit of catching up to do. The Mercedes W07 was again mesmerising, completing a trouble free 166 laps as they look to tighten their grip on F1.
In contrast, Ferrari endured a troubled day of running. Bad luck certainly seems to be following Kimi Raikkonen around in what are surely the twilight years of his F1 career and whilst the new Ferrari is certainly revolutionary and certainly quick, it’s also certainly troubled. Raikkonen completed just 72 laps and his fastest time on the medium tyre was still half a second shy of Rosberg’s. There can be no doubt that Ferrari, after showing some strong pace last week need to seriously improve their reliability before Melbourne if they are to challenge Mercedes more often than they did last season, and each moment they spend fixing their car in the garage is a moment where Mercedes further increase their advantage.
I wrote in my week two preview yesterday how I expected any performance gains Renault made this week to be masked by improvements on their rivals cars and that certainly seems to have been the case today. I guess Renault have somewhat a reliable car, today was the third day of testing where they had completed over 100 laps before they broke down but a 1:25.760, set on soft tyres is hardly going to set the world alight. Interestingly, Renault were outpaced today by Sauber (same tyres) who were running their 2016 car for the first time, and Toro Rosso who were running medium tyres. I don’t know exactly how much to read into Renault’s times from today, we obviously shouldn’t read into them too much but it could well be that they are a little bit further down the pecking order than I previously thought, something stephen170294 astutely commented on after reading my week one roundup. Good call mate!