by Dave Bass
Firstly there are a couple of changes with fuel supplies. McLaren will now use BP-Castrol fuel and lubrication after being partners with Mobil 1 since 1995.
Renault have also changed to BP-Castrol previously in partnership with Total. Renault Chief, Cyril Abiteboul, has also stated the all three teams (Renault, Red Bull & Toro Rosso) will all run with the same ‘top-spec’ engines, although Red Bull will again be labelled as TAG-Heuer and using ‘ExxonMobil’ fuel and lubricants.
Pirelli had to cancel the second day of wet testing after Seb had a hefty crash and damaged the Ferrari SF15-T mule car running at the Fiorano circuit in Italy on an artificially soaked track.
Who did well at Barcelona? Day 4 is designated as a wet test day (artificially watered track).
Mercedes had a trouble-free 4 days clocking up the most laps (558) and topping the time sheets on days 1 & 3 (Ham & Val) so it would seem as if they are carrying on from last year. Unfortunately Ham did not drive on the last day so he had no wet running.
Red Bull were not so lucky as they suffered with various problems such as engine sensor, battery issues and an exhaust problem, completing 294 laps and a fair way down the time sheets of their rivals.
Ferrari had a good start clocking the best times on days 2 & 4, both courtesy of Kimi, but Seb was second on the other 2 days and the team completed 465 laps.
Force India had an average start, but not trouble-free as the exhaust gave them problems on the first 2 days. They used reserve driver Celis Jnr on day 3 who did not impress and they ended the session with 278 laps.
Williams started well with Massa clocking 103 laps and placed third on the time sheet. The Canadian rookie Lance Stroll took over and crashed the car which hampered running time for the 2 days and as the car had a damaged chassis no running on the last day leaving them with only 213 laps completed (and no wet running).
McLaren with their name (McL) and new orange and black livery did not show any signs of improvement with recurring problems with the new Honda power unit completing only 207 laps, an average of just 51.75 per day.
Toro Rosso also had a bad start suffering with various problems mainly on day 4 when Dani only made it out for the installation lap, meaning the team completed the least laps of all 10 teams doing 183.
Haas appeared to have a reasonable start with the exception of KMag hitting a wall on day 1, but he came good on the second day covering the most laps of anybody with 118. More gremlins on day 3, but the team completed 340 laps over the 4 days.
Renault had a fairly good start clocking up 293 laps, but the times were not showing promise.
Sauber started without new recruit Wehrlein, who was replaced by Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi, although having to change the PU on day 2 the team did very well to complete 346 laps 3rd behind Mercedes & Ferrari with their best time on day 4 in 5th place. Val put in the fastest time overall clocking 1m 19.705s 0.247s faster than Seb, Kimi, Ham & Ricci making up the top five.
The 10 teams between them did 3,175 laps 14,779.6kms.
Wehrlein was given the all clear to take part in this session after his ROC accident.
Mercedes showed much the same as the previous session, although not so far ahead, only topping the timesheets once, but still doing 538 laps.
Red Bull had more reliability woes spending a lot of time in the garage. There were a few glimpses of brilliance, but only managed 390 laps.
Ferrari showed a lot of promise as both drivers excelled with some very quick laps whilst completing 488 laps.
Force India showed some improvement by completing 507 laps and was in the top ten on each of the four days.
Williams also had a better test as Massa topped the timesheets on day 1 and was 2nd on day 2 with rookie Stroll piling in the laps as well. He did have a few offs, but it was very encouraging for the team as they covered 587 laps which was 49 more than closest rival Mercedes.
McLaren had another disastrous 4 days with Honda troubles. Alo (not a happy bunny) openly criticised the Japanese manufacturer saying the engine has a 30km/h deficit on the straights, NO reliability, NO power and NO hope with only 217 laps in the 4 days.
Toro Rosso also suffered with reliability woes, but they did manage to do 401 laps.
Haas were still having brake problems and a few minor reliability troubles, but a very encouraging test covering 372 laps.
Renault also had reliability problems, but they covered 304 laps and should improve with the data collected.
Last but by no means least is Sauber, who, if you remember, are using a year old Ferrari engine, but the car did appear to run well as they clocked up 447 laps; considerably more than McLaren, Renault, Haas & Red Bull. They are expected by most to be the back-marker this season, but we should wait and see what happens. Kimi put in the fastest time with 1m 18.634s with Seb, Val, Ham & Massa the top 5.
Overall laps (8 days) per team – Mercedes 1,096, Ferrari 953, Williams 800, Sauber 793, Force India 785, Haas 712, Red Bull 684, Renault 597, Toro Rosso 584 & McLaren 424. The advert is ‘Honda the power of dreams’ it should be ‘Honda dreams of power’.
It is very difficult to make any assessment regarding positions after the first two test sessions as all the teams were running with different strategies, tyres, fuel loads and even car specifications, as well as time spent ironing out the little faults and teething troubles and coping with a few off-circuit excursions, but it appears that Ferrari may have the edge at the moment unless Mercedes were sandbagging, meaning as usual we will have to wait until the first race in Australia to see how much and if any improvements have been made and by whom.
Some very sad news, racing legend John Surtees died last week at the age of 83. He was the only person to have won premier class world championships on both 2 and 4 wheels with several 350cc & 500cc motorcycle and the F1 championship in 1964.
The first and second practice sessions in Australia were on Friday 24th March.
Pirelli with the new spec and wider tyres for this season for Australia will supply the Ultrasoft (purple), Supersoft (red), soft (yellow).