Part 2 will follow tomorrow morning!
Mercedes – Grade A**
Mercedes have entered 2016 just the way they ended last seasons record breaking year, ahead by a country mile and despite some people thinking that Australia will be an evenly matched fight between Mercedes and Ferrari, I would be extremely shocked to see anything but a Mercedes take victory on race day. I was honestly shocked to see Hamilton grind to a halt just before lunchtime and despite that one small hiccup the W07 has been the class leading car in terms of reliability. The rest of the field have every reason to fear Mercedes in 2016 and I get the impression that they far from pushed the car to its limits in Barcelona, they also did the majority of their running on the medium tyre.
All in all, I don’t think Mercedes could have asked for a better preseason programme. Much like in 2015, they have led the field straight out of the blocks and their continuous pursuit of lap time and further development should be commended.
Ferrari – Grade A-
Now Ferrari were good, and they enjoyed two very good tests however they just miss out on an A grade due to some questionable reliability at times. Of course, with such a revolutionary car they were bound to encounter problems at some point or another, and if they can iron those out before Melbourne then it will only play to their advantage. The SF16-H seems to be to Raikkonen’s liking and with his assistance Ferrari managed to dominate the top four positions on the end of test time sheet.
Although I think Mercedes still hold a sizable advantage over Ferrari I am expecting the Scuderia to win more races this season. I’m not completely sure why, it’s just a feeling I have, especially if Raikkonen can help take points off Hamilton and Rosberg. I’d be interested to see if you agree so let me know! I know Rosberg has said that Mercedes’ data shows Ferrari could even be ahead, but I struggle to believe any team could make up that deficit to Mercedes over a single winter off season, especially as Mercedes are showing no signs of slowing development.
Williams – Grade A
I think Williams can go home extremely happy with their efforts over the last two weeks. Although I’m conscious of reading too much into the testing times I think it’s fairly clear that Williams have managed to hold onto the title of third fastest team. I think Red Bull and Force India might be just slightly adrift. If, as the drivers say they have, Williams have addressed the cars significant performance deficit at high down force tracks and in the wet then the FW38 should keep them snapping at Ferrari’s heels.
They showed solid reliability and solid, if not spectacular pace over the eight days of testing although Massa and Bottas did manage to sneak into eighth and ninth place on the overall lap time chart on the soft and ultra soft tyres.
Red Bull – Grade B+
Red Bull enjoyed a good strong test and considering the current capabilities of the Renault engine then I’m not sure what more they can achieve until the engine deficit is solved. Ricciardo and Kvyat completed a solid number of laps and the Red Bull showed good reliability bar a few breakdowns over the course of the two weeks.
I predicted towards the end of last year that Toro Rosso could have a serious chance of beating Red Bull on outright pace over the first half of 2016 and that does seem like a real possibility. Whilst I’m sure no one at RBR will be happy at being outperformed by their “junior” team, I expect to see a marked improvement from Red Bull over the course of the season. It seems again they have designed an incredibly strong chassis.
Force India – Grade A-
The new Force India is a fantastic evolution of what was a very strong car at the tail end of last season. Whilst they somewhat failed to replicate their headline grabbing times from week one, both Hulkenberg and Perez completed a good number of laps and clocked in some times which should make Williams and Red Bull take notice.
Hulkenberg managed to slot in at sixth and tenth on the overall testing timesheet, interestingly closely matching the times of Bottas and Massa but I still think that come Melbourne Williams will have the edge over Force India. Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say that FI have firmly cemented themselves as F1’s fifth fastest team (at least) and I look forward to seeing whether they can continue their upward trajectory this coming season.
I’d love to hear if you agree with my opinions! As always, you’re more than welcome to comment below! Part two of this report card will be posted tomorrow morning.