With the conclusion today of the fourth day of the first pre season test at Barcelona, we are halfway through the testing for this year. When compared to 2015, there are four fewer test days this year, as we have lost the testing that took place at Jerez. 2015 did however have two tests at Barcelona, so it is easier to compare the figures from the first Barcelona test of 2015 to the test which has just finished. An important point to note however is that for the 2015 test, the teams had already had the opportunity for four days of testing, so the cars weren’t as new as they were this time around.
Looking at the distance covered in this test compared to the first Barcelona test in 2015, we can see that most teams have improved, with Mercedes going half as far again as they did last year.
To be honest, this is possibly a more valuable statistic that the lap times, as not all the teams were going for fast times this week, with only two trying the new ultra soft tyres, and two teams sticking with the medium tyres. However, it is noticeable that three teams (Red Bull, Williams and Renault [Lotus]) covered fewer laps this time around than last year. This could just be that at the first Barcelona test of 2015 the teams had already had four days of testing to sort the early car teething problems out. What is very encouraging is that all teams were present (even if Sauber are running last year’s car), and that none of the teams had as bad a start as McLaren last season. Even Manor who managed the shortest distance covered twice the distance that the Woking team managed last time.
Moving onto the times, as this seems to be what most people judge the teams on, Ferrari, Force India and Red Bull were the teams that used the ultra soft and super soft tyre compounds, and unsurprisingly were the fastest over the four days.
When compared to the times the teams were doing in the first Barcelona test last year, three teams went faster, six teams were slower and two didn’t test last year. Most of the differences could be explained by the tyre choice, with Ferrari and Red Bull setting faster times in 2016 thanks to using softer compound tyres, while Renault [Lotus], Sauber and Toro Rosso went slower this year as they were using harder compound tyres. Only four teams (Force India, McLaren, Mercedes and Williams) used the same compound of tyre in both years to set their best time, and Force India went faster, and the others slower. This just goes to show that at this stage of testing it is very hard to make any sort of judgement based on lap times, as without knowing the team’s individual test programme it is impossible to compare.