We are all desperate to read anything and everything in to winter testing. Even beyond the fans, the experts in the F1 media are prone to it as well – if only to stoke up some early season bylines for their articles, magazines and blogs.
Day 1 of 2015 winter testing at Jerez served up plenty to get the process of adding two plus two and getting five started. By the end of the day, Ferrari had a ‘great’ day by running quick in the hands of new saviour Sebastien Vettel, McLaren-Honda had a ‘disaster’ turning only 6 laps and a suffering a day beset with technical gremlins. Assumptions were made and conclusions jumped to by many.
But we only need to go back 12 months to find plenty of reasons to simply enjoy testing at Jerez as a chance to see drivers and teams break cover with their new cars, and nothing more. This time last year almost everyone was writing Red Bull off – day 1 of the 2014 Jerez test ended with 3 laps turned, no time set and a whole lot of problems. Conversely, Ferrari pounded round with remarkable reliability and the appearance of a car with the potential for speed. Fast forward to November and both had experienced quite differing seasons.
Red Bull knuckled down and with the stand out performance of Daniel Ricciardo ended the season 3rd in the constructors as the only other team to win a race other than Mercedes. Ferrari conversely got slower over the course of the season and had to fight hard with a misfiring McLaren team for 4th. Hardly what Jerez testing had promised.
Ferrari’s speed today is more than likely serving 3 purposes: 1) to get the Italian media off their backs to allow them to focus on testing, 2) to give their new signing (and great hope) a confidence boost after a difficult season/off season change, 3) show well for their new sponsors of which there are plenty compared with many of their rivals. Whether Ferrari and Vettel can first improve on the team’s achievements in 2014 will not be clear until the first couple of races at least. The gap between Ferrari and Mercedes in 2014 was substantial, and growing come the final race in Abu Dhabi. To close that gap will require some significant developments from Maranello.
There was however one thing that could be drawn from day 1 – the unsurprising continuance of Mercedes dominance and the advantage (for now) that Mercedes-powered teams will enjoy. That is probably the only significant and reliable conclusion that we can draw from day 1 in Jerez.