The final day of pre-season testing was good for some, and not so good for others. The warmest day of the winter tests with up to 19°C air temperature, teams may have been able to get some more representative data on tyre performance. Lewis Hamilton stated yesterday that the track seemed to have got slower by two or three tenths compared to running last week. This has been masked by improvements in the times shown as the cars have been sorted or new parts added
Williams packed up 90 minutes early with their testing programme complete. Valtteri Bottas ending up fastest of the day, using the super soft tyre. Williams have completed just over 4900km in testing, just 10km further than in the pre-season tests in 2014. The team must be hoping that their fuel supplier (Petrobras) can find a little more horsepower than the works Mercedes team’s supplier (Petronas), or that their air to air intercooler is more efficient than the water to air intercooler of the works cars.
There were three red flags through the day:
1 – a Red Bull ERS problem which limited Daniel Ricciardo’s running through the morning, although the problem was fixed later;
2 – Pastor Maldonado crashed his Lotus in the afternoon, bringing to the end his trouble free run through pre-season, the car could not be repaired in time to re-join;
3 – a Toro Rosso engine problem stopped Max Verstappen for a time in the afternoon, but the team were able to repair the car, and he was able to resume to take the fourth fastest lap of the day.
McLaren only managed two laps prior to lunch break, a sensor issue means they have to take the power unit out, delaying the start to their final day of running. Jenson Button didn’t have a completely trouble free run during the afternoon, and only managed 30 laps in total for the day. The final table for today’s times is:
Mercedes have been using a compound harder tyres than their rivals (early race simulations were all done on the hard compound, and qualifying runs over the last few days on the soft), so either they have plenty of pace in hand, or they are working the tyres harder than the opposition, which may bring benefits during winter testing but could be detrimental during the typically warmer races.
Lotus appears to be the only team (we have yet to see the car Manor may run) that is using the old small LED steering wheel display. With the ban in driver coaching being enforced this season, this may put their drivers at a disadvantage when it comes to managing their fuel use during the race. Alternatively, Lotus could be so confident with the improved economy of the 2015 Mercedes power unit when compared to the 2014 Renault that they would rather save the weight of the larger LCD display.
One of the frustrating aspects of testing is that the different teams choose to do their testing on different days during the test. It can therefore be difficult to determine how close the field is on any given day, as the time delta between the fastest and slowest car has frequently been over five seconds. However looking at the fastest time that each of the nine 2015 cars have achieved during the eight days at Barcelona (and noting that these days the cars must run in a legal configuration at all times) we get the following table, which indicates that the cars are capable of lapping within 2.5 seconds of the Mercedes:
The improvement in times over the eight days spent testing at Barcelona over the past week and a half is shown in this graph:
While the best overall time for each driver taking part in the tests is shown in this table:
This would appear to indicate that the fastest once again are Mercedes followed by Williams and Ferrari, everyone else being over a second away. It also indicates that at the current state of development the 2014 Force India is faster than the 2015 version. As this team was towards the back of the field at the end of last year, I do wonder just how fast the 2014 Mercdes or Williams would have been at this test?