F1 Testing Diary: Spain, second test

2016-03-09 06:00

EVERY year all reports about pre-season testing start with the cautionary bit which warns against reading too much into what goes on at these sessions.

There is a simple and warranted reason for this warning. Regardless of how the lap times and tyre choices are pored over at the end of a day, or a test, the reality is that a big piece of the picture is missing.

At a basic level is the relative fuel levels and these days factors such as engine modes/settings also come into the equation. It’s these unknown factors that make it difficult to draw a decisive conclusion on the pecking order.

There aren’t many in the paddock that wouldn’t put Mercedes in a league of their own in 2016. The team racked up a mammoth 6 024km throughout both four-day tests. They’ve delivered the equivalent of nearly 20 full Spanish GPs and as close to an unbreakable car as possible.

It’s an assumption, but by this stage the guess is that if you’re not a Merc fan you’re not overly excited to see the new season get under way.

If you’re begging for a fight at the front there may be some hope yet. On the new ultrasoft Pirelli tyres, Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest lap of all the eight days.

In reality, this lap doesn’t reveal anything. Instead it’s a lap that the Finnish Ferrari driver did on the yellow-marked soft tyres that really impressed.

On the penultimate day of testing ,Raikkonen’s 1:23:009 edged the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg by 0.013 seconds. Yes, there are still the unknown factors of engine settings, fuel loads, and even track conditions which come into the equation.

However, what it does it suggest is that there’s no assurance that Mercedes is in a class of its own. This is probably too what prompted Rosberg’s admission that Mercedes feel that Ferrari is close to them on pace.

The Williams F1 Team has chosen its normal mode of operating under the radar. The FW38 showed good reliability throughout testing and the team, aptly led by Claire Williams, believes that it has enough to take on Ferrari for second place in the championship.

However, the general feeling is that Williams remains the third-best team on the grid and, roughly, trail Ferrari by four tenths to half a second in race pace.

Kimi Raikkonen provided a glimpse into the safety standards of the sport’s future as he trialled the Halo head protection system. The system has been developed by the FIA and Mercedes and is expected to be introduced for the 2017 season.

While Raikkonen reported that the structure did not hamper his vision, opinion on the system was divided.

Those who oppose the introduction of the Halo do so mostly on the grounds that it is not attractive.

Though they have a point, the lack of aesthetic appeal is surely a concession worth making.

If it can save a driver from serious injury or death there is no argument to be had.

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