So the eight days of pre-season testing is over, and in a fortnight the teams will have already run for the opening day of the Australian Grand Prix weekend, no doubt desperately trying to figue out the new qualifying system. As Haas no doubt learned this week, it is the ability to reliably circulate around the track that will help you more than going for outright headline grabbing lap time. This will enable the team to gater more data, and test more aspects of the car to prepare for the upcoming season. So how did the teams do over the last four days:
This table shows the number of laps each team completed over the last four days, and what that equates to in kilometres, and how far the teams managed in the last test in 2015. As you can see, all the teams made an improvement over their distance travelled in 2015 except for Sauber. However this was the first time the 2016 Sauber had run, so some teething troubles were to be expected. They still ran better than both Manor and Haas though, with the newest team on the grid having significant difficulties on the first two days of this test.
Looking overall at the distance run in the eight days of testing in 2016 compared to the twelve days teams had in 2015 shows an interesting picture:
The totals for Force India and McLaren are greater this year than last, which shows some of the problems those teams had in 2015 pre-season. However, the comparison of the Mercedes distance is telling of just how reliable the team has been this year (apart from one failure just before lunch on the final day).
Looking at the best times that teams recorded over the last four days, and comparing them to the final test last year, we can see that while most of the teams improved their times compared to 2015, it is largely down to using softer tyres this time around.
Only three teams (Mercedes, Red Bull and Renault/Lotus) used the same tyre compound to set their best times in both years. The differences were small, with Mercedes actually slower in 2016 than 2015, and the 2016 Renault faster than the 2015 Lotus powered by the dominant Mercedes. I am not sure that we can read too much into these differences, as Mercedes in particular didn’t appear to try for a qualifying simulation this year.
Looking at the best times set by each driver involved in the full eight days this year we get this list:
Once again we can see that Mercedes come in only third and tenth. I for one don’t believe this is a true indication of their outright pace (or the difference between their two drivers). Ferrari, Force India and Toro Rosso seem to be the teams who have concentrated on getting good times on the board, and hopefully this will translate into race pace, and not just be ‘winter championship’ improvements. Manor do not seem to have caught the pack, and Haas are surprisingly far down considering that they were in second place on the third day of the first test. The one advantage is that there is not long to wait before we can begin to understand what these times really mean.