Formula 1 was back last week and it announced its arrival with the starting of the first preseason test. All confirmed 2015 teams for the season, expect Force India, arrived and started their on track preparation for the new season. Although, all the 2015 cars did not see many changes from its predecessors, there were still a bits and pieces of new bodywork and aero changes which were on display in Jerez. This is because, all the cars this season are an evolution-form of their last year’s concept and this was imminent to see all through the grid. However, rain played spoil sport in some phases of the testing, but the teams were more than happy with the data they have got, at least those who could run frequently.So what else did we learn and understand from the test, let us take a look.
- Mercedes are still the team to beat:
With a combined millage of more than 500 laps for 4 days, and a decent time on hand, the Silver Arrows dominance looks like won’t be challenged. Though the Ferrari did seem the most likely team that could challenge Mercedes this year, but I am sure Mercedes did not bother about times. They were in for reliability and long runs, to gain maximum understanding of car and tyre longevity. The 2015 Mercedes is a direct-evolution of their last year’s car and with the regulations not changing much; their strong pace-reliability package is hardly a surprise to anyone. Same with Williams, it was quite understood that the team were much more focused on getting everything car in car right, rather than setting the world of fire with times.
- Ferrari are back with a quite a decent car:
The magic of James Allison was once again at display, as the Ferrari SF 15-T looked sharp, mean and most importantly quick. Kimi Raikkonen and new teammate Sebastian Vettel topped the combined 4-day timesheet as the Scuderia clocked up close to 250 laps worth of millage. And as quickly as these times were being set, the paddock began talking about a possible challenge to the mighty Silver Arrows. Also, Ferrari engine department seems to have sorted out their lack of power issues, as also their customer team Sauber finished 3rd in the overall standings in the hands of rookie Felipe Nasr. A Ferrari engine one, two and three, who would have guessed that.
- Red Bull might be camouflaging their true potential:
Everyone is the paddock has a feeling that Red Bull can go faster than what they have achieved in the 4 days. The Bull seems to be a bit off color both in terms of pace and lap numbers, but rain, Renault systems and lack of front wings did hamper their program a bit. Of course, issues of Renault still continue, and it was because of them Red Bull probably couldn’t their targets at Jerez. Though, the team was quite happy and jovial about the new car and were relieved that this test wasn’t anything like the last year’s one. The car is tightly packaged as ever, and we will have to wait till Barcelona to see its true potential.
- McLaren and Honda are just about hanging in by the rope:
It is still early days, but the renewed McLaren-Honda combination is already on their toes. Apparently,it was determined by the paddock experts that the basic Honda engine is quite good and output wise it has the numbers. But the problem is with the engine’s electronics and long term reliability, whichhas to be sorted out quickly. The team believes it is taking step, so be baby-steps, but they will figure it out eventually. The car on the other hand looks good with a very interesting size-zero tightly packaged rear end. Anyway a few laps on the new engine, about 80 plus since the Abu Dhabi test, is a matter of joy, but still is practically a worry for the team. But the testing in Barcelona will be very vital for the British-Japanese duo.
- Taking about Lotus , Sauber, Toro Rosso and the midfield:
Well, Lotus seems to have made strides, comparing from last year, at least which is the feeling of their drivers. With a Mercedes engine, that was bound to happen, so no surprises there. Still, Lotus missed a good chunk of the test with their late arrival, so we would still have to wait for their true potential. Toro Rosso on the other hand looked like a nicely packaged midfield car but like their parent team, Renault power might drag them back a bit. Force India missed this test and they are about to miss the next one too, so getting to know their potential will take time.Although Sauber were topping the time sheet, but the suggestion was that they were doing glory runs, which the team of course flatly denied. But everyone is getting the feeling that Sauber will also feature in this midfield pack more often, a clear improvement from last year for the Swiss squad.
- Reliability is still not bulletproof but much better than the last year’s position:
Last year it was a disaster for some teams as they struggled during the last year’s Jerez test, particularly of the Renault powered cars. This time, though there were some drive train and electronic issues which many teams had to face, but apart from McLaren-Honda, all the teams will relatively be happy with the reliable nature of their cars. In fact, all the teams, apart from McLaren, completed well more than 100 laps (both drivers combined) in the 4 days of testing, which is always a good sign.
- Cars look faster than last year already:
Yes, but in the last rounds of the 2014 season, we had already seen that the teams were getting fastest lap times, at least equal times, compared to 2013 cars. So this gradual evolution has been going on. And with the teams getting more than one year to master the new engines and regulations, it is a no surprise that the cars are already looking fastest than last year
- More noise from the engines?
Although it is not confirmed by anyone, but the 2015 engines did sound a bit rougher than the last year’s units, at least the Mercedes units did. But the team said it maybe because of the environment or the fact that people were listening to the engines after 2 months or so. Even they agreed that the units sounded a bit louder than before. Mercedes’ engine chief Andy Cowell put it quite well though: “We haven’t properly measured if the engines are really louder, as we only concentrate on making them faster.” And you have to be certain that no fun was intended.