There are always two types of fans in all of sports (motor sports or otherwise). There are those who easily panic when things don’t appear to be going as planned, and those who prefer to let things play out in order to draw a conclusion later on.
Most of us do like to panic. Sports can be quite repetitive and there’s a lot of superstition involved. You tend to repeat things that you’ve done before important races or important games, as a performer. You may not be a superstitious person, but in some cases there is a very thin line between superstition and repetition.
So then, after 4 days of pre-season testing, should anybody panic? Let’s go ahead and take the temperature:
1. All is well at team Mercedes AMG Petronas
There is a building suspicion in the F1 world that Mercedes have been holding back during pre-season testing. For some reason, it seems to be what the other teams are saying. Could it be that they’ve been hiding their true pace, despite the fact that their cars have completed the most laps overall? Which basically cemented their position as the most reliable looking team thus far.
They’ve run no fewer than 516 laps, totaling 2,284km and burning through medium, hard and intermediate compound tires more than any other team that fielded a car in Jerez de la Frontera. They managed to pull of 42 laps on the hard compound alone, which was the longest stint of any team on any particular set of tires.
Their drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have done 208 and 308 laps respectively, and are looking primed for another terrific year of battling each other for a chance at being crowned 2015 Formula 1 Champion.
There’s also a slight pattern emerging in the team’s dynamics as Nico Rosberg seemed to be quite a bit more motivated than his recently crowned champion teammate Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg not only ran more laps than Lewis, but his best time was also better by about..oh pretty much an insignificant amount, but still, it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if this year Rosberg manages to hold off Hamilton and win the title.
It also wouldn’t surprise us if their cars show the same pace and reliability they did last season. Both drivers have already said that the 2015 car feels a lot like the 2014 car. Which isn’t a bad thing when your 2014 car was the best on the grid, by a huge margin.
2. Ferrari’s pony has plenty of reasons to be prancing
And when we say Ferrari, we mean both Scuderia Ferrari as well as everything having to do with Ferrari engines in general. Think about it. Right now, Ferrari is looking more promising in F1 than they have since 2012, when Fernando Alonso finished just 3 points behind Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship standings. Their engines also power Sauber and let’s not forget that through Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, Sauber managed to impress everybody with their overall progress.
Let’s get back to their pre-season results though, where we notice that apart from day 3 when Sauber’s Felipe Nasr went fastest, it was either Sebastian Vettel or Kimi Raikkonen coming away with the quickest lap times. In fact, Raikkonen provided the best overall lap from Jerez this off-season, doing a 1:20.841, which is roughly 2.5 seconds quicker than last years’ pace setter, McLaren-Mercedes‘ Kevin Magnussen.
Apart from their speed, Ferrari have also completed 349 total laps (731 if you also count Sauber’s power unit) which in our eyes makes them Mercedes’ no.1 challenger in 2015. Move aside Red Bull.
3. McLaren-Honda could very well be in a lot of trouble
In spite of Eric Boullier saying that he’s not worried, the team is not worried and nobody’s worried when it comes to them only completing 79 total laps in 4 days of testing, well, we’re certainly….worried! This is bad Eric, really bad. And it’s not just the low number of laps you ran, but also the technical problems you ran into.
Neither Fernando Alonso or Jenson Button managed to hit a single decent quick lap between them. Overall theirs was the slowest car on the track, almost 4 seconds behind the pace of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat – who was only running when he wasn’t crashing his RB11.
Maybe we should wait a little while longer before freaking out about Honda and their engines messing up McLaren’s chances of taking on the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Then again, those oil leaks and failing fuel pumps are pretty darn hard to ignore.
If they don’t get it together in a few weeks time in Barcelona and show that they can run the car at least as many laps as their rivals without something breaking down, well…we’ll be ready to call it and say “Better luck next year guys, thanks for playing!”.
4. Red Bull Racing deserve the benefit of the doubt
When you’ve fielded the best car in Formula 1 for 4 out of 6 years, with it still being a top 2 car when they didn’t win the championship, you kind of get the benefit of the doubt no matter how poorly you do during winter testing.
Seriously now, let’s not underestimate these guys. They’re the real deal and it just feels like they’ve got something up their sleeves with all that CamoBull stuff and Horner saying that they’re excited about a new livery and about the car overall – it just seems like we should hold out on our judgement.
Unlike McLaren, they’ve never been bad for two consecutive years. That should be the cut off point. If you’re bad for one year, you get a pass during next year’s testing, regardless of results. But if you’ve been bad for two years and counting and you still can’t get it together (yes we mean you McLaren), well then that’s too bad.
Red Bull’s going to have something to say this year. Call it a hunch. Call it an unwavering trust in the piloting skills of Daniel Ricciardo.
5. Youth is the gift that keeps on giving
Drivers nowadays just keep getting younger, and teams like Toro Rosso and Sauber are investing in the youth of their pilots just like you would invest in a young superstar athlete.
Let’s not forget that Vettel and Alonso were 19 years old when they first raced in Formula 1. And these guys are two of the greatest ever to do it. Now we’ve got a new age record thanks to Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen. The kid is just 17 years old. 17! That’s young enough to have just one thing and one thing only on your mind and it’s not racing cars. He’s teammate is 20 years old and a 20 year old managed to finish on the podium last season, McLaren’s Magnussen.
Finding future greats from such a fragile age has become very important in Formula 1. We wouldn’t be surprised if in 1-2 years time, some of today’s rookies will rise up and claim a title for whichever competitive team gets their hands on him.