With the opening test of 2015 all wrapped up, Dan Paddock looks at what we learned from the opening four days of running at Jerez.
Mercedes: There were no headline grabbing times from the reigning champions at Jerez, but the team completed a serious haul of mileage over the course of the opening four days to suggest that it has gone some way to fixing the reliability problems that hamstrung last year’s title winning car.
Nico Rosberg completed a massive haul of 308 laps, while Lewis Hamilton managed 208 of his own to take the team’s total clear of the 500 mark for the week. A sum considerably more than any of its rivals.
Yes, there were problems, such as a water leak for Hamilton on Monday, and while Rosberg was cautious about the new Ferrari, given the team’s achievements last year it is hard to see them being displaced at the top of the pecking order.
Red Bull: Ahead of the Jerez test Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said whatever happened at the Spanish circuit it could not be nearly as bad as the team’s experience in 2014, when it spent most of the first test in the garage due to the RB10’s affinity with setting on fire.
The last week was not quite on that scale of misery, but the team did encounter power unit problems for a second year running, which seriously restricted the mileage Daniel Ricciardo and new-boy Daniil Kvyat managed to put on the dazzle camouflage-liveried RB11.
Kvyat did not help matters when he broke the team’s only front wing with a minor off on Monday. Desperate for mileage, the team sent the Russian back out sans a front wing.
Red Bull will certainly be frustrated to have finished behind Lotus, who missed the opening day, on the mileage charts, and only ahead of McLaren, which struggled with early teething problems form new engine partner Honda. However, the team did manage a series of longer runs on the final day which is a sign of progress. As last showed, write them off at your peril.
Williams: Much like last year, Williams got on with the business of testing in a quiet and efficient manner at Jerez.
Certainly, the surprise package of 2014 did not seem in any great rush, as it completed just the fifth amount of mileage, despite few obvious problems.
The team also shied away from chasing any headline topping times, with its drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas just seventh and eighth in the combined timesheets.
There are also positive sounds coming from the drivers, with both Massa and Bottas confident that the new car is an improvement on the FW37 with which they finished on the podium at the 2014 season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Ferrari: The Scuderia has been quickly branded as the ‘most improved team’ after topping three of four days at Jerez.
Raikkonen’s fastest lap of the week, set on the final day, grabbed the headlines, but it is Vettel’s lap on Tuesday which is the real eye opener, and has prompted curious glances from Mercedes.
Vettel posted a 1:20.984 to end the week second fastest, a tenth shy of Raikkonen, but on the medium tyre. Whatever way you want to look at it, that is a handy time.
Importantly, it appears that Raikkonen is also far happier with the new car, calling it a “different story” in comparison to its much-maligned predecessor, with which the Finn struggled throughout last year with.
It is ‘only testing,’ and cynics will point out that Raikkonen topped the opening day at Jerez last year, but it is obvious the team has made a step forward over the winter, especially with its power unit – just look at Sauber.
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McLaren: As to be expected, it was a difficult opening test for the Woking-based team which encountered early problems as was to be expected with its new Honda-powered MP4-30.
Engine issues meant the team spent most of the four day test in the garage. Fernando Alonso debuted the new car on Sunday but managed just six laps. Jenson Button mustered just six more the following day and it was all looking a bit farcical.
The team did make some progress from day three onwards, as Alonso and Button completed 30+ laps a piece, taking the teams tally to 79 for the week. It was hardly the 507 laps completed by Mercedes, but a stark improvement on the 21 Red Bull managed at this stage last year.
Despite the early struggles, it is still all smiles at McLaren who seem confident with the car they have on their hands, and both Alonso and Button have praised the early feel from the MP4-30. The Barcelona test will be telling for McLaren.
Toro Rosso: The team enters 2015 with lofty ambitions after team boss Franz Tost targeted a fifth place finish in the constructors’ standings this season.
The STR10 is certainly a pretty car but by all accounts it is a bit of a handful on track, and credit must go to the team’s two rookies Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz who both kept their noses clean and completed 353 laps over the course of the week.
The team admitted a lot of its work over the four day test focused on acclimatising Sainz and Verstappen to the job, and that showed as the pair finished ninth and 11th in the overall standings.
While Red Bull struggled for laps after problems with its Renault power-unit, Toro Rosso managed the third most miles of any team – 1051 – to at least give Renault some data to work with ahead of the next test at Barcelona later this month.
Lotus: The Enstone-based team arrived late at Jerez, missing the opening day of testing after the transit of its car was delayed. Despite this, Lotus got straight down to work once the car arrived at Jerez, with Maldonado completing 41 laps on its debut.
There were problems, as to be expected after making the switch to a new power unit, but the team still managed to complete more mileage than Red Bull with the Mercedes-powered E23.
There were also good early signs from the drivers, as Maldonado talked up the driveability of the team’s Mercedes engine, while Romain Grosjean, who had just the one day in the car, called the E23 much closer to the race winning 2013’ Lotus, than the ghastly twin-tusked car the team battled with throughout last year.
Sauber: After a miserable 2014 season, there were some encouraging early signs for the Swiss team at Jerez, as the new C34 featured in the top two in the standings on each day, Nasr even going fastest on Tuesday.
That this was all accomplished on the soft tyres might suggest the team, bereft of sponsors, was looking to make a statement early in testing with a series of glory runs, although Sauber deny this.
Still, as Ericsson said on Wednesday, after the depressing lows of last year, the early signs have given everyone at Sauber something to smile about.
Overall standings from Jerez:
1. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1:20.841 – Day 4
2. Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 1:20.984 – Day 2
3. Felipe Nasr – Sauber – 1:21.545 – Day 3
4. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:21.982 – Day 3
5. Marcus Ericsson – Sauber – 1:22.019 – Day 4
6. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:22.172 – Day 4
7. Felipe Massa – Williams – 1:22.276 – Day 3
8. Valtteri Bottas – Williams – 1:22.319 – Day 2
9. Max Verstappen – Toro Rosso – 1:22.553 – Day 4
10. Pastor Maldonado – Lotus – 1:22.713 – Day 3
11. Carlos Sainz Jr – Toro Rosso – 1:23.187 – Day 3
12. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1:23.338 – Day 1
13. Romain Grosjean – Lotus – 1:23.802 – Day 4
14. Daniil Kvyat – Red Bull – 1:23.975 – Day 4
15. Jenson Button – McLaren – 1:27.660 – Day 4
16. Fernando Alonso – McLaren – 1:35.553 – Day 3
Total distance by driver:
1. Nico Rosberg – 308 laps – 848 miles
2. Lewis Hamilton – 207 laps – 570 miles
3. Kimi Raikkonen – 200 laps – 550 miles
4. Felipe Nasr – 197 laps – 542 miles
5. Marcus Ericsson – 185 laps – 509 miles
6. Carlos Sainz Jr – 183 laps – 504 miles
7. Max Verstappen – 170 laps – 468 miles
8. Sebastian Vettel – 149 laps – 410 miles
9. Felipe Massa – 144 laps – 396 miles
10. Pastor Maldonado – 137 laps – 377 miles
11. Valtteri Bottas – 134 laps – 369 miles
12. Daniel Ricciardo – 84 laps – 231 miles
13. Daniil Kvyat – 81 laps – 223 miles
14. Romain Grosjean – 53 laps – 146 miles
15. Jenson Button – 41 laps – 113 miles
16. Fernando Alonso – 38 laps – 105 miles
Total distance by team
1. Mercedes – 515 laps – 1417 miles
2. Sauber-Ferrari – 382 laps – 1051 miles
3. Toro Rosso-Renault – 353 laps – 971 miles
4. Ferrari – 349 laps – 960 miles
5. Williams-Mercedes – 278 laps – 765 miles
6. Lotus-Mercedes – 190 laps – 523 miles
7. Red Bull-Renault – 165 laps – 454 miles
8. McLaren-Honda – 79 laps – 217 miles
Total distance by power unit:
1. Mercedes – 983 laps – 2705 miles
2. Ferrari – 731 laps – 2012 miles
3. Renault – 518 laps – 1426 miles
4. Honda – 79 laps – 217 miles
This analysis article first appeared on Richland F1 – Images courtesy of Mercedes AMG PETRONAS, Red Bull Content Pool, Williams F1 Team, Scuderia Ferrari, McLaren, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Lotus F1 Team, Sauber Motorsports AG