The trouble with pre-season testing is that the lap times are impossible to take on face value. With varying tire choices, fuel loads and development programmes in play, the timesheets are rarely representative of what we will see in Australia next month.
However, it is possible to come to some conclusions from the past four days of running in Barcelona, especially as the teams begin to explore the limits of their new cars more.
Today, it was Romain Grosjean who soared to the top of the timesheets for Lotus, completing a hat-trick for the team after Pastor Maldonado finished fastest on Thursday and Saturday in Barcelona. A quick run on the super-soft tire proved to be enough for Grosjean as Nico Rosberg finished two-tenths of a second down on the Lotus.
The big story of the day was Fernando Alonso’s crash and subsequent transfer to hospital at lunchtime in Barcelona. The Spaniard crashed at turn three, and although little is known about the incident, he did require medical attention. Thankfully, a CT scan showed that he was not injured, although he will remain in hospital overnight for observation.
Here’s a full recap of all of the news and action from the final day of testing in Barcelona this week.
- Romain Grosjean topped the timesheets on a dislocated day of running in Barcelona, edging out Nico Rosberg and Daniil Kvyat.
- Fernando Alonso was confirmed to be “uninjured and fine” following a crash towards the end of the morning session today that warranted a visit to hospital.
- We spoke with Pastor Maldonado earlier this week about his chances this year after a miserable campaign in 2014.
- Sebastian Vettel may ignore the ban on helmet design changes, depending on the punishment.
- Pascal Wehrlein had a good week with Force India and Mercedes, and is relishing his next opportunity to test an F1 car.
- Nico Rosberg was frustrated by the tricky conditions in Barcelona today as windy and cold weather affected running.
- Jenson Button believes that it is impossible to define the pecking order in F1 yet, with a number of teams looking impressive during testing.
- Carlos Sainz Jr. was upbeat despite crashing on the final day of running for Toro Rosso.
- Nico Hulkenberg enjoyed his first F1 run today since last year’s Abu Dhabi GP, and is eager to test the new Force India car next week.
- P1 man Grosjean was happy with the result, but more impressed by the progress that Lotus made across the course of the four days in Barcelona.
THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK
So that’s it for test two, and we’re still none the wiser as to how the grid will be shaping up in 2015. After Ferrari and Sauber shared the spoils in Jerez, Lotus and Red Bull were the teams to top the standings this week. No-one had a perfect test by any means, but some will certainly be happier than others. Here are some of the big talking points following the end of the test on Sunday.
Mercedes still top dog despite finishing second
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton may have failed to finish quickest on any of the eight days of running in pre-season, but Mercedes is undoubtedly still the team to beat. Today in Barcelona, Rosberg had to settle for second place in the final standings behind Romain Grosjean. However, bear in mind that Grosjean’s P1 time was set on the super-soft tire; Rosberg’s was on the medium. The pace difference between these is huge, maybe around 1.5 seconds, showing that the Silver Arrows still hold the advantage. The W06 may not be as dominant as its predecessor was, but Mercedes is still the team to beat in 2015.
Lotus has certainly made progress
Three out of four ain’t bad for Lotus. The one lap pace of the E23 Hybrid certainly looks good, with both Grosjean and Maldonado finishing fastest on their allocated days behind the wheel, and the Mercedes engine is giving the team a far easier ride than last year’s Renault did – definite progress is being made. That said, the long run pace of the team still isn’t up there with the other teams. Grosjean managed to complete most of a race simulation today, and his times were behind those of Red Bull and Williams when they conducted theirs. Lotus may not yet be back up with the front-runners in F1, but you can certainly expect the team to fare better in 2015 than it did last year.
Quiet confidence from Williams?
Once again on day four in Barcelona, Williams didn’t make a great deal of noise and fight up at the sharp end of the timesheets. In fact, despite being the second fastest team for much of 2014, the team has not finished inside the top two at all during pre-season. However, the FW37 is yet to have truly been unleashed. Over the past couple of days, the team has focused on making sure that all systems are running smoothly, and the times Bottas completed in his race simulation today were impressive. Test three should see the team’s true form come to light, but don’t go thinking that it won’t be fighting for podiums and wins once again in 2015.
Back to reality for Ferrari
After finishing inside the top two for all of the first six days of winter testing, Ferrari came back down to earth this weekend as the SF15-T flared up with some teething problems. Sebastian Vettel’s running was limited on Sunday, restricting him to just 75 laps in total and seventh place in the final standings. The new car is certainly an improvement over the old one – then again, that’s not hard – and the team seems to be in a far better place this year. Conditions were very tricky on track today with cold weather and gusts of wind, but Ferrari will be hoping to make another step forward next week to keep Mercedes on its toes.
Alonso walks away unharmed
Following an accident during the morning session, Fernando Alonso had to be airlifted to hospital for a precautionary check-up and assessment, sparking concern throughout the F1 community. The incident itself remains a mystery, with few pictures showing what impact the McLaren driver made with the wall at turn three, but the main thing is that his is okay. The Spaniard will remain in hospital overnight for observation, and will hope to return to the track in Barcelona next week as the team tries to make up for lost time with the MP4-30.
So that’s it for test two. We’ll be back in Barcelona on Thursday for the third and final pre-season F1 test. Melbourne draws ever closer, but there is still an enormous amount of work still waiting to be done by all of the teams racing this year.