The first day of testing is always an exciting affair. New cars are unleashed into the public eye for the very first time and the F1 withdrawal symptoms which fans endure throughout the winter months begin to ease. Last season, as anticipated, the first day of testing was largely a non-event, with few laps completed on account of reliability issues. In 2015, following a year of adjustments to the new regulations, the majority of teams hit the ground running today – albeit one team stood heads and shoulders above the rest.
Mercedes were nothing short of unbelievable today. The W06 completed lap after lap after lap with Nico Rosberg at the helm, to end the day with an astonishing 157 laps recorded. It is an almost unprecedented achievement – a car, straight out of the box, completing such trouble-free running on the opening day of testing. Mercedes’ achievements today truly dwarf that of their rivals, as is evident in the graphic below.
Heading into today, the mileage completed by Marcus Ericsson and Valtteri Bottas would have seemed excellent had it not been for the W06’s heroics. To add to the marathon mileage, Rosberg managed to beat the best time set in the duration of last season’s Jerez test – a 1:23.276 by Kevin Magnussen – within the first 90 minutes of running. He may have ended the day third on the timesheet, behind Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Ferrari debutante Sebastian Vettel, but the many in which Nico exploded out of the gates was the phenomenal aspect of the early running. I shall have to stop praising Mercedes now, on the basis that I have exhausted my repertoire of superlatives.
As always, the timesheet in testing is ultimately academic, however, you would forgive Ferrari fans for taking at least some pleasure in seeing their team back on top of the pile. Sebastian Vettel’s first outing with Ferrari may not have resulted in a stunning quantity of laps, but it seems the quality of the mileage was sufficient. Systems checks in the morning meant that only 9 laps were completed before the team broke for lunch, but Vettel recorded consistently fast laps in the afternoon, with a string of 1:22’s including his table-topping effort.
Meanwhile, the Ferrari powered Sauber of Marcus Ericsson was my surprise package of the day, as the team finished an equal second best in regards to laps completed, with 73. Aside from an early spin for Marcus, Sauber’s day appeared to proceed smoothly. However, second place on the timesheet may flatter the C34’s ultimate pace on account of the fact that it was set on a short run, perhaps on low fuel. Despite this, the same could also be said of Vettel’s fastest time, on the basis that it was recorded on a four lap dash. Therefore, I would suggest that Sauber’s first day has been promising and it will be fascinating to see how they build upon what has been a productive start.
Elsewhere, Red Bull launched their RB11 in a “striking” camouflage livery, intended to deter prying eyes. Despite the PR success, running was limited in the Red Bull today, with Ricciardo failing to reach the half century of laps which I would cite as an achievable target by which to judge the success of a day’s work at this early stage of testing. A battery failure and unrelated powertrain issues were the root causes of the mediocre mileage, yet on the basis of 2014, Horner and company will acknowledge that all is not lost after just one day of trials and tribulations. I would anticipate Kvyat to gather significantly more laps tomorrow.
However, McLaren are at a very different phase compared with their rivals. The first generation Honda powertrain made its MP4-30 debut today, with Fernando Alonso behind the wheel. Mileage was seriously limited, with Alonso crossing the line just 6 times. The car is a work in progress and the engineers are still learning the finer details of this new powertrain, so McLaren fans should not be unduly concerned by the limited lappage – 6 timed efforts is one more than the MP4-29H managed in the post-season Abu Dhabi test, which accounted for two days of running.
Day one has certainly offered plenty of talking points. Day two, promises to provide even more, as clues to the puzzle that is the 2015 pecking order continue to emerge by the lap.