The plot thickened on day three in Barcelona as surprising names appeared at the top of the timesheet. Nico Hulkenberg put Force India on top with an impressive time on the supersoft tyre just three tenths short of Vettel’s ultrasoft benchmark posted yesterday. Meanwhile, Haas cemented what has been a very positive start to life in the sport by finishing the day second.
Here are five things we learnt from today’s running…
Force India are running light
As has been typical of the team in the past, Force India seem to be running with less fuel on-board compared with their rivals. Hulkenberg’s headline time today is likely to be slightly unrepresentative in terms of what it adds to an early pecking order.
Force India undoubtedly have a solid package. They ended 2015 as one of the fastest cars on the grid in the battle behind Mercedes and scored more points in the second half of the year than Williams. The front of their 2016 chassis is largely a copy of its predecessor and and updates coming for either Melbourne or Bahrain.
As such, it is unlikely that Force India are at all ready to eclipse the pace of Ferrari and Mercedes, in quite the manner that today’s times suggest, just yet. Suggesting that they are, however, the third fastest team may not be so far from the truth as Hulkenberg was fastest on mediums, softs and then supersofts as the day progressed.
Ferrari are not bullet-proof
Kimi Raikkonen eventually managed 78 laps today, recording mileage in the afternoon to make up for the meager four laps Ferrari managed in the morning.
A fuel system problem kept the Finn pinned in the garage while potential title rival Nico Rosberg managed 74 laps in that time, before he handed driving duties over to teammate Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon. The W07, which managed 162 laps in total today, ran faultlessly again. Reliability wise, Mercedes are far superior to their proposed title challengers.
Haryanto will improve quickly
It was always going to be a tough day at the office for Rio Haryanto. While teammate Pascal Wehrlein is also a rookie, the German has significantly more F1 experience than the former GP2 race winner, on account of his test duties at both Mercedes and Force India last year.
As such, Rio’s speed and polish was below the bar set by Pascal over the past two days of running. A spin today, as a result of driver error, was a notable mistake. However, now is certainly the time for mistakes to be made and lessons to be learnt. Overall, with 78 laps worth of reference points gathered today, Rio’s second day in the car is likely to be a lot smoother and a lot faster.
They Haas integrated powertrain and chassis well
While his running on Monday was hindered by a front wing failure, Romain Grosjean made up for lost time today, as the Frenchman completed an impressive 82 laps for Haas. Clearly, the raft of Ferrari parts have been integrated well with the chassis and reliability is not an issue at present for the newest paddock dwellers.
Renault can run a full programme
After two difficult days for Jolyon Palmer behind the wheel of the RS16, Kevin Magnussen’s first day in action at Renault saw the Dane clock 111 laps – a surprising number given that Monday and Tuesday combined only yielded 85.
Being reliable enough to record high mileage initiates a positive feedback loop. More laps means more data gathered which leads to a better understanding of the car which allows engineers to unlock more pace and eliminate technical gremlins. Renault needed a better day and K-Mag managed to deliver.