Williams have stuck to form throughout testing so far, adopting a low profile and completing a programme free of headline making glory runs. However, Valtteri Bottas topped today’s timesheet as the team recorded qualifying simulation runs, on what was the Finn’s final day in the car before the season-opener in Melbourne.
Here are five things we learnt on day two of the second test.
Fifth place looks very possible
Following an excellent 2015 campaign, where their rookie drivers took center stage, Toro Rosso look poised for another great campaign. Carlos Sainz enjoyed trouble-free running yet again today, recording 166 laps in the process and finishing seventh on the timesheet. Intriguingly, his personal best of a 1:25.300 was just 0.07 seconds adrift of Daniel Ricciardo’s best lap in the Red Bull.
Both recorded these times on the medium compound tyres. It seems that the 2015 Ferrari powerunit has given Toro Rosso the boost they needed to draw level with their sister team.
Williams accept Mercedes superiority
In another rather ominous story, despite topping today’s timesheet, Valtteri Bottas has admitted that Mercedes are clear of the competition at the top of F1’s performance tree. “Mercedes are at the moment in their own league, that is the fact at this stage of the season,” Bottas said when speaking to Sky Sports F1. “I think we are there or thereabouts with Ferrari and Red Bull.”
His comments come after Daniel Ricciardo made a similar admission last week. Mercedes must be rubbing their hands with delight.
Potential shown by new Honda powertrain
While it seems wrong to celebrate a McLaren being 1.5 seconds adrift of the leading car, such a deficit does mark progress for the Woking squad. This week sees Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button trial an experimental Honda powertrain, with the best elements of the unit used this week set to be coupled with last weeks unit to create the Melbourne spec.
Button managed 121 laps today, building on Alonso’s excellent running yesterday and has hailed the latest Honda unit as a big step forward – the biggest since the famous partnership between McLaren and Honda was reunited prior to 2015. It has been one of their most promising test day’s to date and being 1.5 seconds away from Mercedes puts them in the vicinity of Q3.
Sauber’s late start does compromise them
An impressive 103 laps on debut yesterday led many armchair pundits to suggest that the C35’s late arrival to testing was not going to compromise the Hinwil based squad. However, Sauber arrived back to earth with a bump today, as Marcus Ericsson endured technical issues this morning, limiting his mileage to a decidedly modest 54 laps.
“We were still able to do some useful running, with longer stints in the afternoon, which was good for me to get a feel for the new car for the first time,” Ericsson stated on the team’s official website. “Sometimes this sort of thing happens with a new car when testing. Let’s look forward to the next time I test on day four.”
Haas are enduring teething troubles
After an unbelievably solid start to life in the F1 pressure-cooker, Haas have endured a dreadful week so far. After a fuel system problem derailed yesterday’s running, Esteban Gutierrez suffered a turbo gremlin today which kept him anchored in the garage for the duration of the day.
The Mexican has lost nearly two days of critical mileage now and will head to Melbourne on the back-foot. For Haas, the positives are that they are suffering the notoriously challenging teething troubles during testing rather than showcasing their issues to the world at Grand Prix’s. Better now than in three weeks time.