After key player Kimi Raikkonen signed a contract extension to keep him at Ferrari for 2016, the 2015 silly season was somewhat of a non-event, with the driver market remaining largely static. So far, this season has more than made up for last year’s deficit.
The rumour mill has been in overdrive over the past few months, with enormous speculation surrounding seats at Force India, Renault, Manor and Sauber. As always, a case of too many drivers vying for too few seats.
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.
Max Verstappen’s breakthrough victory at the Spanish Grand Prix took the motorsport world by surprise. His already lofty stock has risen considerably in the past two weeks. The teenager’s new team Red Bull are certainly returning to form, out-qualifying both Ferrari’s in Spain and are preparing to fit an upgraded Renault powerunit into the RB12, which promises to deliver around half a second per lap of performance.
Mercedes’ Barcelona test schedule has been modified ahead of the second day’s running, as reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein has replaced Esteban Ocon, who was billed to get his first outing for the Silver Arrows on Wednesday. Mercedes have cited the fact that they wanted a “driver with race experience” to complete a programme which involves testing of development parts.
The late change is a rather telling move by the reigning champions.
Daniel Ricciardo certainly capitalised on home advantage last weekend, as he took his Red Bull RB12 to fourth position. However, being in Australia had no bearing on the power output of the TAG Heuer branded Renault powertrain, as Ricciardo was seemingly able to compete on the straights – something the team have been unable to do in this era of the sport.
Having finished just 24 seconds off the lead despite being on a decidedly compromised strategy, Red Bull seem set for a stronger 2016 campaign.
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.
The final chequered flag has fallen on the first pre-season test, with Ferrari topping the timesheet for the third time this week. Kimi Raikkonen managed 80 laps in the SF16-H today, with a 1:23.477 recorded on a ultrasoft run. While the Finn’s benchmark was a full eight tenths clear of Daniil Kvyat’s time for Red Bull, it was half a second adrift of Sebastian Vettel’s equivalent run on Tuesday – which has remained the fastest time set during the entire test.
Here are five things we learnt on the final day of the opening pre-season test… (more…)