MotorSportNotes rounds up day 2 of F1 testing at Barcelona as Ferrari continued to lead the way and we got our first glimpse of Pirelli’s new ultra-soft tyres, resulting in some super quick lap times.
Red Bull demonstrated plenty of pace on day 2 with some very quick laps by Daniel Ricciardo. Taking on both Vettel’s Ferrari and Rosberg’s Mercedes, the Red Bull appeared quick around Barcelona but still looked vulnerable without the super soft and ultra soft tyre options.
Somewhat ironically Red Bull ran relatively trouble free for a second day with their TAG Heuer badged Renault power unit whilst the works Renault team had their day curtailed early after a poor 42 laps.
Italy’s finest continue to build on their successful opening day of testing with another massive haul of 126 laps and another fastest time of the day. Sebastian Vettel’s best time was set on the new ultra soft Pirelli’s but more interestingly his best time on medium tyres was only a tenth behind Nico Rosberg’s best on the same compound. It is of course only testing and Ferrari do tend to flatter to deceive in pre-season to keep the hungry Italian media at bay but it is a statement of intent if nothing less.
We can certainly conclude – even after only 2 days – that Ferrari enter the season as the main challengers to Mercedes and ready to go toe-to-toe on reliability again this year.
After yesterday’s monster haul of laps for Lewis Hamilton, the paddock was almost blasé about Nico Rosberg racking up a gargantuan172 laps on day 2. Continuing to run their own programme and appearing to pay little heed to the fast times laid down by Ferrari and Red Bull, Mercedes did not venture out on the new ultra soft compound.
With that in mind expect them to have at least a further 2 seconds per lap in the tank when they do decide to run the ultra soft compound. Vettel’s ultra-soft lap was 2.1 seconds better than his day 2 medium tyre fastest.
Williams racked up the second highest tally of laps today with Bottas at the wheel – clocking 134 circuits around the Barcelona track. Their pace continued to underwhelm with Bottas logging the seventh fastest time of the day on the soft compound. This was behind the super soft run of Sergio Perez for Force India, and, of more concern to Williams, the similar soft tyre runs of Ericsson for Sauber and Gutierrez for Haas.
Day 2 conclusion is that Williams are either playing their cards close to their chest or have a bit of work to do to maintain their challenge for best of the rest behind Mercedes and Ferrari.
More positive comments and more laps were the order of the day for McLaren-Honda as Fernando Alonso got his first taste of F1 2016. The myriad reliability issues from last season appear to be on their way out as Alonso notched up 119 laps.
Worryingly their pace kept them in the bottom quarter of the timesheets on day 2 with Alonso admitting they are waiting for the performance to come. The difficulty for the team is that old motor racing adage: it is easier to make a quick car reliable than a reliable car quick. With significant changes at the top of Honda’s F1 management it is either a sign of big things to come or big problems still to be solved.
Renault had a rather familiar and difficult day 2 in Spain as the power unit behind Jolyon Palmer died. 42 laps was little consolation with rivals – including new boys Haas – racking up more miles and faster times over the course of the day.
Twelve months ago 42 laps on day 2 would have been satisfying for the Lotus/Renault outfit. With Sauber, Force India and McLaren over the 100 mark today, it is looking like Renault’s return season will be a troubled one.