Engines fired into life at 9am this morning, at the Circuit de Barcelona, as the first green flag of 2016 marked the start of pre-season testing. For the team widely regarded as the likely title protagonists – Mercedes and Ferrari – day one provided plenty of positives. Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheet while it was Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton who completed a marathon 155 laps.
Here are five things we learnt on the opening day of pre-season testing…
Mercedes are reliable
Did we really expect any less of the double world champions? After they exploded out of the traps last season, Hamilton ensured that 2016 would be a case of deja vu for the opposition, as the headline is once again Mercedes’ mega mileage.
The W07 managed 440 miles today – six more than day one in Jerez last year – and ran like clockwork from start to finish. Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Hamilton stated that it was an “amazing day. To get in a new car and have no problems is just a remarkable job by the team. So, for me, it was encouraging.”
Gone are the days when the Achilles Heal of the Brackley based squad was reliability. Mercedes have once again demonstrated that they will not be beaten by themselves as often was the case in 2014. On the basis of today at least, their car is the most reliable of the field.
Promising from Ferrari – but the jury is still out
Sebastian Vettel topped today’s timesheet by half a second from Mercedes, meaning that the Scuderia certainly had something to smile about at the end of a promising day.
The SF16-H has been widely tipped to be a close match for Mercedes. However, the jury is still out over the relative pace of the cars, given that Ferrari have topped the timesheet on the opening day of testing last year – while 2015 was a positive year, it was not a title winning one.
Boullier is in no mood for delays
After the disastrous pre-season in 2015, McLaren were bound to be nervous before embarking on today’s programme. However, in putting 84 laps on the board and finishing sixth on the timesheet, it is evident that the team have made progress this winter.
Despite a promising lap total, Eric Boullier was far from impressed with what was a tricky morning for the team, hindered by some reliability concerns. Speaking to Sky Sports F1 at lunchtime, the Sporting Director assessed the morning as “not good enough.” He downplayed the progress made since 2015, stating that the running was “definitely better, but we already have suffered one year of pain so this is the minimum we expect.”
Renault have work to do
Their opening day may not have been as painful as McLaren Honda endured in 2015, but Renault struggled on their first day back on track as a works outfit. Jolyon Palmer could only amass 37 laps as the programme was disrupted by reliability woes.
2016 was always going to start slow for Renault, with the team’s bigwigs managing expectations over the winter and highlighting how this is a long term project. There is work to do, but then, there was always going to be.
Manor add a splash of colour
After a launch season where fans have been looking longingly at a dulux colour chart wishing that F1 teams had done the same, Manor have bucked the trend of silver cars by unveiling a red, white and blue livery.
Pascal Wehrlein took to the track today as Manor took their first steps with the new Mercedes powertrain. This, combined with the fact that this was the team’s first new car since 2014, meant that mileage was at a premium today. They will undoubtedly build to higher lap totals over the next few days.