F1 pre-season testing first observations

This week has seen the 2015 Formula One season roar back into life with the first pre-season test ending today at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain.  With the last of the four days of running winding down as I write this, now seems a perfect chance to assess the first impressions of all the cars running this week. Although I am aware that usually at this point of the season, little can be correctly predicted for the upcoming opening Australian Grand Prix in March, some things can be learned from the team’s running these past four days.

Firstly, let’s look at the dominant 2014 Constructers and Drivers champions AMG Mercedes, who revealed their 2015 MGP W06 on the morning of the first day’s running last Sunday. Over the four days both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have completed over 400 laps and counting, and whilst the team has not grabbed the headlines with their times, their consistently competitive times leave them in good shape for Melbourne.

Whilst the team have suffered some reliability problems, with only problem free day’s running from the four. It seems these problems were small issues however, with a water leak and a spin stopping Hamilton and day’s two and four, whilst an engine shutdown on track stopped Rosberg on the afternoon of day three. In overall terms, it still seems very likely AMG Mercedes will be dominating the opening races of the season, although the rest appear to be making ground on them based on this first test.

Nico Rosberg leaving the pits at Jerez. Photo credit goes to Motorsport.com

Next up is Red Bull Racing, a team that this week gained headlines this week when they revealed their Red Bull RB11 car on Sunday morning before the first day’s running in a black and white camofluage livery. This practice is common with prototype road cars and race cars, as it makes it very hard to identify subtle design features with the new design.

The team has suffered a troubled test, with an off from new driver Daniil Kvyat costing the team their only new spec front wing, and therefore some relevant running on the second day of the test. Engine issues have also curtailed their running on the third and fourth days of this first test.

Whilst the team have began the 2015 season a lot better than they did a year ago, the team have suffered some reliability problems which have limited their running. When the car has been running it has shown some pace, although it appears their claim to be the closest challengers to AMG Mercedes may have been lost to both Williams and Ferrari based on this test.

Daniil Kvyat in action, displaying the striking black and white camouflage of the Red Bull RB11. Photo credit goes to Motorsport.com

Williams were the first team to fully launch their new car in January, although the definitive FW37 didn’t appear until the first test in the flesh, with the team releasing a CFD computer image of the car in January. The team has had a very productive and low key first test, much like engine partner Mercedes.

The team have not suffered any reliability problems during the four days, and have set some competitive lap times also. Whilst the team have hovered around the top four times each day, the team have not stole any headlines with their pace so far. It seems the team have once again produced a quick and reliable car, and it appears they will join Ferrari in taking the challenge to AMG Mercedes for most of this 2015 season. Watch out for Williams to take a win this season.

Felipe Massa putting the new Williams FW37 through it’s paces this week. Photo credit goes to Motorsport.com

Ferrari released their SF15T in January to much attention, as their tumultous 2014 season instigated a complete overhaul during the year, with the team playing down expectations this year as talk of a major transition for Ferrari over the next few year intensified. So far in this first test the team has been the biggest surprise so far, as new star driver Sebastien Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have regularly topped the times over the four days, with only the Sauber of Felipe Nasr stealing their thunder on day three.

The car have looked more aerodynamically efficient, with a seemingly more powerful engine also giving the team quiet optimism going into the 2015 season. Whilst the team may well be using low fuel and soft tyres runs to gain the headlines and keep the relentless Italian media happy, it does appear the team have made a big step forward from an awful 2014 season.

It seems Ferrari may well be regularly challenging for podiums again this year, and don’t be at all surprised if they claim a win and more this season with the talent of Vettel and Raikkonen at the wheel. Watch out for the prancing horse to head upward this year.

Kimi Raikkonen at the wheel of the new Ferrari SF15T. Photo credit goes to Motorsport.com

McLaren are another major team going through a transition year seemingly in 2015, as the team welcomes back both Fernando Alonso and Honda. The team were playing down expectations for their star acquisitions in the build up to pre-season testing, and it appears they were right to do so after trouble with the Honda engine.

After a very poor first showing for the engine in the Abu Dhabi post-season test late last year, the team has carried it over to Jerez as the team have suffered engine problems on all four days, severely limiting their time on track. Jenson Button completed the most laps with 35 on the final day. Whilst this suggests the team is making progress every day, in comparison with the other team in Jerez this leaves them in a serious disadvantage going into the start of the season.

When on track the car has shown promise and it does seem once the team get on top of the engine, the team will be fighting for podiums. Look for McLaren to come on later on in the season, with podiums a possibility in the second half of the year. Until then it will be a tough first half or even whole year for world champions Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.

Jenson Button giving a rare glimpse of the McLaren MP4/30 on track at the first test in Jerez. Photo credit goes to Motorsport.com

Sahara-Force India should be next up, as I’m previewing each team in order of Constructers position in 2014, although the team decided to miss the first test in Spain. The team initially wanted to bring the 2014 car and sell the seat to a young driver, although with no takers the team stayed at home.

Whilst they initially planned to join the two tests in Barcelona, it now appears the team may not appear until the final test. The team has also scotched rumours it was running seriously behind schedule and could miss the Australian GP. For now the team have only revealed their 2015 livery, with drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg surely itching to get their hands on the new VJM08 car.

Team owner Vijay Mallya along with 2015 drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg launching the new livery for the team this year. Photo credit goes to F1Fanatic.com

Scuderia Toro Rosso are a team looking to move up the grid this year, something they hope their new STR10 car will be able to give them. The team has ambitiously targeted fifth in the constructers points, and if they can achieve that it will be one of the talking points of the season.

The team ran a quiet programme in the first test, focusing on giving rookie drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen as much seat time as possible as they look to get acquainted with F1 before the opening Grand Prix in Australia next month. The car has ran reliability, barring a stoppage for Sainz Jr on the afternoon of the opening day of the test.

Both drivers have been able to put in some solidly quick laps, something which prematurely suggests the team has made an improvement over last year. Expect this team to be fighting for points on a regular basis this season, especially once both drivers start to gain experience and feel comfortable in F1.

Max Verstappen learning the new Scuderia Toro Rosso STR10. Photo credit goes to Motorsport.com

The Lotus team are another team looking to move up the grid this year, as it seems the team have managed to solve the problems that severely inflicted them as they suffered a hugely disappointing season by their high standards. The budget problems that de-railed them last year appear to have been solved, and the under-powered Renault engine has been ditched for a Mercedes engine too.

Lotus suffered a fraught beginning to the test, with the car only being fired up for the first time at 4am on Sunday Morning. The team rushed over to Jerez where they amazingly managed to be out for the second day of the test on Monday. Unsurprisingly with such a late schedule, the car suffered some reliability problems during the test, although the team were still able to get a decent amount of laps in as they found their way with the new E23 car.

The team are aiming for a third or fourth placed finish in the constructers championship, their pace and reliability so far in the first test suggest this may just about be an achieveable target, something that would delight the team after a very hard 2014 season.

Romain Grosjean in action with the newly Mercedes powered Lotus E23. Photo credit goes to Motorsport.com

Whilst Marussia are next up, and I should be talking about their progress in Jerez, events over the off-season mean I can only write about their recovery plan after going into administration late last year. It initially looked as if the team was dead, although the recent news has only been positive regarding the team. Firstly the auction of all their key equipments such as tools and the cars themselves was cancelled at the last minute, and it now appears the team will come out of administration on February 19th.

The team has an entry for this year under the Manor Grand Prix name, so theoretically the team could compete with last year’s car, although a lot of work and money still has to be found for the team to make it on the grid in Australia next month. Whilst I sincerely hope they can resurrect the team and continue in F1 this year and beyond, time is fast running out for the plucky British team.

Last up is the Sauber team, who suffered a dreadful 2014 season, their first ever season without scoring a point since they entered the sport in 1993. A lot has changed from last year with financial concerns a factor in the decision to dump Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez for Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.

The C34 car for this year is a classically conventional Sauber design, and the team has been the revelation of the first test, as the car has ran reliably throughout the four days. The team’s only drama was a driver error from Marcus Ericsson who spun on the first day of the test. Alongside a significant amount of laps completed on all four days of the test, the team has also shown a turn of pace as they have regularly challenged Ferrari for the top spot each day.

After missing out on the first two days, it was third time lucky for the team as Felipe Nasr’s soft tyre run set the fastest lap on day three of the test. Whilst the team has denied deliberately going for low fuel runs to grab the headlines in testing, I would be shocked if the team were in the same position come the Australian GP. The team will be hoping to capitalise on their reliability to score points throughout the year, something that would be a marked improvement on last season for the popular Swiss team.

Marcus Ericsson putting laps in the Sauber C34 in Jerez. Photo credit goes to Motorsport.com

The Formula One season feels like it’s slowly cranking up with this first test, and I simply cannot wait now for the second and third tests in Barcelona coming up, where plenty will be further revealed going into the Australian Grand Prix. Finally photo credit for all the amazing photos in the article goes to Motorsport.com , please feel free to check out their high quality photos and up to the minute news. Please also feel free to comment below.

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