The final chapter of the second act of pre-season 2015 has been dramatic. McLaren have made headlines once again, yet it is Fernando Alonso rather than reliability, the focus of today. The Spaniard crashed heavily on the exit of turn three and was subsequently air lifted to hospital. Thankfully, following a CT scan, the team have confirmed that the two time champion is “uninjured and fine.” Elsewhere, Mercedes gave us a taste of just what the W06 has to offer and on the medium tyres, Rosberg posted some emphatic times.
McLaren Honda had been enjoying a slightly more productive morning. Following a two hour delay while the team fitted the famous new seal, the MP4-30 finally took to the track. With 20 laps on the board, Alonso was aiming to squeeze some additional mileage in before the break for lunch, but his day ended in the barrier. The cause of the crash is unknown at the moment, yet the severity of the impact has necessitated Fernando to be kept in hospital overnight for observation. McLaren have confirmed that he is unhurt which is a huge relief.
Elsewhere, Lotus topped the timesheet yet again today, this time with Romain Grosjean behind the wheel. He was one of four drivers to break the 100 lap barrier, as Lotus continue to put consistent mileage on the E23. Consistent is somewhat of a buzz word at Lotus so far this year, as both Grosjean and Maldonado have praised their engineers for building a car which allows them to provide consistent lap times. The nature of the E23 is far less erratic than the E22, which should mean that both drivers can maximize the potential of the car this season as oppose to having to second guess the moving target of where to break, turn and accelerate.
While Lotus have taken a step forward, it seems that the same can be said of Mercedes. Throughout the Jerez test and also during the course of this week, we have been speculating whether the W06 can dominate in the manner in which its predecessor controlled proceedings in 2014 – on today’s performance, Mercedes have not just maintained their advantage but extended it. Nico Rosberg may have only finished the day second of the timesheet’s, but his 1:24.321 was set on the medium tyres, as oppose to Grosjean’s 1:24.067, posted on the sticky supersoft rubber. It is an emphatic display from Mercedes and has thrown down the gauntlet to the opposition. This is likely to be a taster for things to come.
It is only testing, but if I were you, I would get set for Hamilton and Rosberg to resume their duet, as judging by today’s pace, not even a reformed Ferrari outfit is a serious threat to Mercedes supremacy.
Rosberg’s haul of 131 laps was nearly toppled by Williams’ productivity, as Valtteri Bottas had a busy outing, clocking 129 circuits. In the same fashion as this time last year, Williams seem to have built a very reliable car, highlighted by an impeccable race simulation from Valtteri today. They continue to quietly work through their winter programme – so much so, that no-one really knows where Williams lie in the pecking order. Following this test, I would guesstimate that Mercedes leading the way, with Ferrari in second, followed by Williams and then Red Bull.
The midfield pecking order is anyone’s guess.