Anyone track-side for today’s session was treated to a feast of action as all teams placed some pleasing mileage on the board – it is evident from the briefest of glaces at a mileage chart that not one team could say that they had an unproductive day. The big headlines following such a busy affair; Mercedes strapped the soft compound to the W06 for the first time and displayed the type of speed that we have all been anticipating and McLaren have finally had a breakthrough, as Jenson Button became a centurion for the first time in 2015. In fact, Button was one of a number today…
While yesterday’s running was interrupted by rain around lunchtime, ever-present clear skies meant that the teams were presented with near perfect conditions for testing. This translated into significant mileage haul’s for so many, with six surpassing the 100 lap mark.
One of those centurion teams was Mercedes, as they demonstrated strong reliability once again after a brief complication yesterday. However, today was the day when they finally dusted off the soft tyres and took over top spot on the timesheet in an emphatic manner. We expected that this day would come and Nico Rosberg surely delivered, with a time which topped Felipe Massa’s soft tyre benchmark set in yesterday’s running by a full seven tenths. On this evidence, it seems that Mercedes have assumed a similar position to where they finished last season, unless of course, today’s headline time was set with a conservative fuel load or a lower engine map, in which case, they have greatly extended their preeminence. Knowing Mercedes, you would not like to bet against it.
While THAT lap will take the main headline for today, McLaren Honda will be extremely happy with their running, as the partnership finally managed to make a real breakthrough. With 101 laps, Button has taken the MP4-30’s lap count up to 311 and highlighted that the car and partnership can deliver the kind of reliability required to finish races in the early stages of the season. The graph below demonstrates just how significant today’s mega mileage could be in the context of McLaren’s pre-season programme.
The car may have come to an unscheduled halt in the final minutes, but the second day of the final teat will surely go down as one of the most significant days for the newly reformed McLaren Honda partnership, if not the singular day which stands out. However, in isolation, the mileage recorded in this session will count for very little if the team cannot sustain the reliability shown today. In order to head to Melbourne with a safe chance of seeing the chequered flag with both cars, McLaren will need another two days at a similar level of productivity. Kevin Magnussen could be busier than he would have first foreseen.
While one powerunit was showing signs of true progress, Renault endured another day of concern. Albeit after recording significant mileage, Max Verstappen headed for an early bath due to an electrical fault while the sister team fared no better, as a hydraulic sensor alert meant that Daniil Kvyat had to stop the RB11 in it’s tracks. Plenty of work for Renault to do in order to bridge the gap between them and Ferrari, who seem to have made great strides in the drivability department over the winter. The reliability of the new Ferrari powertrain was also evident again today, with Felipe Nasr clocking 141 laps for the day while Vettel finished top of the class on 143.
Elsewhere, Force India are my team of the day. They may have finished at the bottom of the pile, both in terms of times and laps completed, but with Hulkenberg completing 79 circuits with only an early puncture to halt his progress, it seems that the VJM08 has reliability straight out of the box. We mentioned that this was an essential for the team on account of arriving so late to the party, but at least on today’s evidence, it seems as though Force India might just get away with their tardiness.