Monaco marked the first appearance of the purple marked ultrasoft Pirelli tyre at a race weekend. Introduced at the start of this season and initially billed as a qualifying tyre, the compound seems decidedly similar to a supersoft in both pace and longevity. An assertion supported by Haas and Renault’s decision to take just soft and ultrasoft tyres to the Canadian Grand Prix, avoiding the supersoft completely.
With his fifth consecutive victory and second of the 2016 campaign, Nico Rosberg’s rich vein of form continued in Bahrain. Despite losing out to teammate and chief rival Lewis Hamilton on Saturday afternoon, Nico dominated Sunday’s race after the Briton was heavily compromised by another poor start, followed by contact with Valtteri Bottas at the turn one pressure point. Recovering to finish third, Mercedes’ inter-team battle currently sees Rosberg a substantial 17 points ahead having recorded the maximum so far.
Haas have made an early impression on the paddock. The American based squad converted their excellent pre-season into a strong debut weekend, as Romain Grosjean took full advantage of a timely red flag to secure sixth place. Eight points already on the board for F1’s youngest team and their lightening start has certainly put pressure on Sauber and Manor as the teams who stand the most to lose should Haas continue to shine.
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…
F1 finally has an American team back on the grid. Haas revealed the VF-16 this afternoon, their 2016 challenger and “Very First” F1 entry. An aesthetically pleasing livery, albeit another lacking the distinct colours which many fans are pleading for, as well as some interesting technical features mean that Haas have certainly turned heads on their first day in the spotlight.
Heading into Ferrari’s 900th Grand Prix, it seemed fitting to consider their lead driver’s hopes of a remarkable title turn-around in the second half of the campaign. The German started the day just 42 points adrift of Lewis Hamilton in the standings and on a high following a determined drive to victory in Hungary. However, the ambition of those who predicted a title charge was matched in a high risk strategy from Ferrari today which ultimately saw Vettel limp home in a dismal P12. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton made the perfect start and proceeded to enjoy what was an untroubled cruise to victory on a circuit which has been unkind to the Briton in the past.
Another Mercedes 1-2 on Sunday to couple their Saturday afternoon exploits, but the spice of unpredictability was a feature of the intense scrap behind, which culminated in a surprise podium appearance for Lotus’ Romain Grosjean.
Following a tortuous 2014 driving an E22 which was notoriously unpredictable, both Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado were hopeful that 2015 would see Enstone return to the upper echelon of the field. While the successor to last season’s twin-tusked machine is a marked improvement, the E23 is yet to show any of the race winning credentials that were possessed by the Lotus’ that propelled Kimi Raikkonen to his 19th and 20th career wins. This fact, combined with a heap of misfortune and occasional driver errors means that Lotus have a right to feel a touch disappointed with their points tally at the halfway mark.