The Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain has for the past few years provided a clear picture of how the F1 season is going to turn out. In 2015, it was easy to predict that Mercedes with their W06 was going to dominate and that McLaren was going to get worse before getting any better. The 2016 winter testing has also given fans some timely sneak preview into the new season.
So, what did the F1 world learn from the entire pre-season testing? Here are a few takes:
1. Mercedes Still Reigns
It might be one of the big reasons Bernie Ecclestone won’t pay for his family to watch any F1 race, but still Mercedes has proven it can still dominate 2016. By the end of Day 1 of testing, Hamilton had 156 laps under his belt, a tally that went to 700 laps for the team by end of testing. Rosberg was impressive on Day 2 of testing, clocking the fastest time. Considering the team won 16 of 2015’s season 19 races, it was obviously that the W07 would come back optimized to do better.
2. The State of F1 Worries All
If you are a sports person, you would expect your league’s big shots to defend the sport vigorously. However, not so for Formula One and with good reasons; Bernie Ecclestone, the top gun in F1, has already said the sport is the worst that it has ever been. Fernando Alonso, one of the most valuable F1 drivers on the grid says he is sad for F1 while the mess surrounding qualifying times dominated the entire testing period.
3. The New Ferrari new SF16-H is Imperious
Vettel might have made a risky decision by leaving Red Bull but it has already started paying off. No one really doubted the Scuderia’s credentials in 2015 and in the 2016 winter testing, the new SF16-H has matched what Mercedes can do. The German is already excited about the prospects of the new car and though the monosyllabic Raikkonen didn’t say much, it was obvious on the last day of testing that the new car can challenge Mercedes.
4. The Struggle Continues at McLaren
If the facial expressions carried by Alonso and Jenson Button in the 2015 F1 season were anything to go by, things were really bad at McLaren. The team was upbeat about correcting the Honda Power Unit but it seems they are not there yet despite impressing at Barcelona. While the other teams including the New Haas unit were making hay, McLaren were held up in the garage in day 3 and 4 of testing. Was Alonso really right about his move from Ferrari? Time will tell, though the new chief Yusuke Hasegawa has promised swift solutions to reliability issues.
5. Ultrasoft Tires will Spice F1 Action
As Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo observed, the ultrasoft tires are an upgrade of the supersoft and Pirelli was also impressed though the high-degradation circuit was not ideal for the tire test. With a promise of gains reaching 0.5-0.8s per lap, drivers and fans are upbeat that these tires are perfect.
Well, there are other lessons including the extreme work-ethic of debutants Haas team, the controversial halo device and much more. Let’s wait for the real action now.