After the first two rounds of the season, Sebastian Vettel’s victory in Malaysia has been the leading headline, as an unexpected challenger to Mercedes superiority has emerged. However, one of the most curious aspects of the fledgling season has been the stuttering start for Lotus. The E23 has promised so much, with a shiny new Mercedes powertrain providing some relief following last year’s dire performance, yet the team are yet to convert this new ingredient into a top ten finish – disconcertingly, a la 2014.
The final chapter of the second act of pre-season 2015 has been dramatic. McLaren have made headlines once again, yet it is Fernando Alonso rather than reliability, the focus of today. The Spaniard crashed heavily on the exit of turn three and was subsequently air lifted to hospital. Thankfully, following a CT scan, the team have confirmed that the two time champion is “uninjured and fine.” Elsewhere, Mercedes gave us a taste of just what the W06 has to offer and on the medium tyres, Rosberg posted some emphatic times.
Just as it seemed that McLaren’s 2015 preparation had turned in fortunes, the MGU-K gremlins returned again today, with Jenson Button managing just 24 laps. While the Woking team faced another un-productive outing, day three yielded five centurions – a record for this pre-season so far – with Max Verstappen’s haul of 129 setting the benchmark for the day, while the W06 surpassed the 800 lap mark and with five days of testing to spare.
Pre-season testing made its return today and the opening day of the first Barcelona test was certainly not void of incident. Pastor Maldonado strapped a set of soft tyres to the E23, to finish the day at the head of the timesheet, however, Mercedes’ day was uncharacteristically unproductive, as their programme was dramatically altered when Lewis Hamilton brought a halt to his day after just 11 laps – the Brit, struggling with a fever. Elsewhere, Felipe Nasr and Susie Wolff met on track for the very first time and their first encounter will not be forgotten in a hurry.
Strictly speaking, the E23 has not yet been unveiled, yet Lotus provided the fans with a collection of computer generated images of their 2015 challenger earlier this week. Such a launch may not have the grandeur of a sponsors equipped, cloth pulling, equivalent event, but it does allow the fans an opportunity to observe the cars earlier than they otherwise would. The Lotus E23 has certainly not caused the stir that its predecessor managed, as the most notable feature of the launch is the absence of the split nose. Quite frankly, I doubt anyone will miss it, not least Lotus fans.