BARCELONA – Sebastian Vettel once again took Ferrari to the top of the timesheets on day two of the first Formula 1 pre-season test of 2016.
Vettel led the way in the new Ferrari SF16-H on the first day of testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and continued to lay down an impressive pace as the entire field racked up plenty of mileage on Tuesday.
Vettel recorded a fastest time of 1:22.810 in the final hour of the morning session after enjoying his first run on Pirelli’s new ultra-soft tire, which made its first appearance.
The lap was enough to give Vettel a buffer of seven-tenths of a second at the top of the timesheets ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who also posted his best time on the ultra-soft tire. Both drivers completed over 100 laps, record 125 and 112 respectively.
High mileage was common throughout the field, with Force India’s Sergio Perez breaking the century barrier with just five minutes remaining in the session. The Mexican driver ended the day third in the standings.
Nico Rosberg led the way in terms of mileage for Mercedes, following the example set by teammate Lewis Hamilton on Monday. Rosberg racked up a mammoth 172 laps en route to fourth place in the final standings, finishing just over two seconds off Vettel’s time.
Marcus Ericsson finished an impressive fifth for Sauber, while Esteban Gutierrez enjoyed a solid first day for Haas to finish sixth, putting in 79 laps behind the wheel of the VF-16.
Valtteri Bottas ended up seventh for Williams ahead of Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein, while Fernando Alonso’s first run in the new McLaren saw him put in 119 laps without any major issues – a good early sign for McLaren.
Jolyon Palmer was less fortunate, though, completing just 42 laps in the Renault before a power unit failure brought his day to an early end and sparked one of three red flag periods. Max Verstappen also caused one due to an issue in the morning, leaving him to prop up the timesheets in P11 for Toro Rosso.
Testing resumes on Wednesday morning in Barcelona from 9am local time (3am ET).
THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK
A few observations from the track in Barcelona on Tuesday:
- Mercedes may not have topped the timesheets for the second day in a row, but it unquestionably has the edge once again. The W07 car looks more planted than the rest of the field through corners and particularly strong on turn in. The mileage Nico Rosberg racked up today was – as was Lewis Hamilton’s on Monday – ominous for the chasing pack.
- Let’s not discount Ferrari just yet though. Vettel’s time on the ultra-soft tire was massively impressive, showing the pace advantage it will offer. The fact he gapped Daniel Ricciardo by such a great amount just minutes after the Australian had posted his time shows that the Ferrari is genuinely strong. The repackaged power unit may offer that extra edge that is needed to give Mercedes more of a fight this year.
- Like its parent team, Haas enjoyed a very good day in Barcelona. Esteban Gutierrez was the happiest man in the paddock after his first run in the VF-16, speaking to the media after the session with a huge smile on his face. The car looks a bit ragged on exit of corners, but the traction mid-turn is strong. P6 in the standings continues the best start for a new F1 team in 17 years.
- Toro Rosso is due to get more parts for the STR11 next week at the beginning of the second test. The late change in engine supplier meant not everything could be readied for the start of testing on Monday, so more is due. Regardless, the early signs are good, with the 2015-spec Ferrari power unit giving the team a boost for the start of the season.
- It proved to be another day to forget for Renault as a power unit failure sidelined Jolyon Palmer just after lunch. The Briton has completed just 79 laps over his two days of running, marking a poor start for the French manufacturer in its comeback year. Kevin Magnussen will assume driving duties in the morning and hope for a better day.
- Fernando Alonso seemed happy with the McLaren after his first run on Tuesday, completing almost two race distances – a far cry from last year’s struggles. The Spaniard once again had to insist that he will not be leaving the team this year, saying that he felt proud of what all at Woking had achieved over the winter.
- All in all, what stood out most today was the mileage the teams managed. Just three red flags all day prove how far the current era of F1 cars have come in terms of reliability. A year ago, it was a far higher number. Good progress is being made by all of the teams.