The first pre-season test came to a close on Thursday and early assertions in regards to the probable pecking order are being established. While the ultimate performance of many packages is yet unclear, Mercedes seem in good stead to enter Melbourne with the strongest package after bullet-proof reliability saw them complete an astonishing 675 laps over four days.
There incredible start to 2016 with the W07 has led Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to concede that they are already out of reach – at least in the opening rounds of the season.
After four years of championship glory – two by means of Mercedes-esque domination – Red Bull are enduring somewhat of a lean spell by their phenomenally high standards. Despite Ricciardo’s theft of three Grand Prix victories in 2014, last season was the team’s first win-less campaign since 2008.
Renault’s struggle to come to terms with the V6 Hybrid technology was no-more apparent than at the start of last season, when Red Bull publicly slammed the French marquee for its lack of progress.
This season, the team run re-badged Renault units, with the ‘alter-ego’ of TAG Heuer, that will have modifications inspired by the Illmor powertrain development team. However, it does not seem as though Red Bull’s fortunes are about to take an immediate turn for the better.
Last week’s test saw the team endure a rather quiet week. Barring headline laptimes set when both Kvyat and Ricciardo fitted the ultrasoft tyre, Red Bull lacked the sparkle that characterised their period of domination. Instead, it was Mercedes who enjoyed the fruits of reliability, consistent pace and ominous times on modest medium tyres.
“They’re obviously in a good place,” Ricciardo told GPUpdate. “Again, we expected it. I’m 100 per cent not going to be surprised if they get a 1-2, not only in Melbourne but for the first four races.
“They’re not really our target right now. I don’t expect to be on their level at the first few races. I’m sort of not even looking at them.”
Ominous signs that the opposition are already writing off the competition with Mercedes. While we are yet to see the pace of the W07 unleashed on the ultrasoft tyres, their reliability has been astonishing. Doing more laps means building up a greater understanding of the car and therefore, finding more ingenious ways to unlock pace.
The snowball effect that so often leads to title success.