Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Thursday

0 Comments

The third and final pre-season F1 test got off to something of a quiet start in Barcelona today as the teams evaluated the updates that will appear on their cars in Melbourne.

In contrast to some of the running we saw in Barcelona last week, very few of the teams could be completely happy with their days. Williams’ Felipe Massa topped the timesheets and managed over 100 laps, but Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes all encountered problems on Thursday.

A problem with the MGU-K on the Mercedes W06 Hybrid limited defending world champion Lewis Hamilton to just 48 laps in total, but he made good use of them to finish third with yet another impressive time on the medium compound tire. Once again, it appears that the advantage lies with Mercedes in Barcelona.

Yet again, McLaren hit trouble in testing as the MP4-30 continued to present problems. This time, it was the power unit that was at fault, requiring a replacement after a hydraulic leak on Jenson Button’s car. Although such issues are common with a new engine, the team must be getting increasingly nervy given that it has three days of track time left before the first race of the year in Australia.

Rounding up all of today’s action in Barcelona, here’s the F1 Paddock Notebook.

SESSION REPORT

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Enter Williams?

Williams has been the dark horse of winter testing so far this year. The British team was yet to truly unleash the FW37 in anger, instead choosing to focus on pit stop practice – a weak spot in the past – and its long-run pace. Today though, Felipe Massa sent out a statement of intent by topping the timesheets on the soft tire. Although the team appears to be behind Mercedes still, it will certainly give the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari to think about as they plan for the battle for second place in the constructors’ championship this year.

Yet more trouble at McLaren

After a turbulent first test in Barcelona last week, McLaren turned up at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Thursday with renewed vigor in the hope of putting in the laps and ironing out any remaining problems with the Honda power unit. In the end, the team managed just seven laps as a hydraulic leak warranted a complete change of the engine on Jenson Button’s car, meaning that he was unable to make up for the time that he lost last week. We may have expected there to be problems at McLaren in pre-season, but few would have thought there would be quite this many. Time is ticking at Woking.

Updates aplenty, and even a paint job?

The final test in Barcelona is by far the most indicative of the pecking order as the teams apply upgrades to their cars that will remain for the first race in Australia. Mercedes sported a new sidepod design on Thursday, whilst Toro Rosso applied a new nose which received a thumbs-up from Carlos Sainz Jr. However, Ferrari went one step further and appeared to subtly change the color of its car. With most of the teams opting to focus on making sure the updates were working accordingly, there was little in the way of a battle at the top of the timesheets, making for a rather relaxed day in Barcelona.

Mercedes proves its not bulletproof

Heading into the new year, Mercedes made clear that its priority was reliability. The W05 Hybrid was by far the best car in F1 last year, and yet it failed to win three races (two due to on-car problems, with Spa being the exception). The early signs in 2015 were good as the W06 began to put in the laps on day one at Jerez, and yet today the team did hit trouble. Following in McLaren’s footsteps, Mercedes suffered an MGU-K failure of its own on Thursday, costing Lewis Hamilton his afternoon running. Although he wasn’t too downbeat, the Briton will have been disappointed to see his penultimate day of pre-season testing end in such fashion.

Setting the record straight

Following on from Fernando Alonso’s accident on Sunday, McLaren CEO Ron Dennis held a media briefing on Thursday to set the record straight. He clearly outlined the facts surrounding Alonso’s crash and quashed all rumors of a cover-up or conspiracy, confirming that the Spaniard did lose consciousness briefly during the accident but was not concussed. Although the details still remain unclear, the main thing is that Fernando is okay. Dennis expects the Spaniard to race in Australia, but time will tell on that one.

***

We’ll be back tomorrow with all of the latest news, reports and features from Barcelona as pre-season testing continues.