Sunday, 28 February 2016

Barcelona Testing - Day 3 and 4

After the excitement of the opening two days, Wednesday and Thursday would see teams gain valuable insights into their new machinery. Although too early to gauge the pecking order some important indicators came to light. Here are a few observations from Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari.

'Shark Nose' Merc Clocks Mammoth Mileage

That nose
The final days saw Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg split the day's running between morning and afternoon sessions. Normal service was resumed with the car racking up huge mileage. By the end of Thursday's running the new W07 had completed an epic 675 laps and 1952 miles of the Circuit de Catalunya. That's enough on-road distance to travel to the Mercedes headquarters in Brackley and back again. A welcomed buffer that allowed Mercedes to continue experiment with interesting parts. After debuting their slotted barge boards earlier in the week, Thursday morning saw the car sporting an interesting new nose. An inlet on the underside resembled a shark's mouth and revealed an s-duct design. Air is channelled from this inlet through an 'S' shaped duct within the nose to exit on top of the car. This cleans up airflow as it transitions from the nose to the chassis, with the Mercedes design allowing a longer duct than rival designs to improve its performance. It is important to note that although nose design has a big visual affect on a car its actual performance benefits are relatively low.

What looks likely is that Mercedes will take some serious beating. Although not topping time sheets at present there hasn't been any quick runs on 'ultra soft' tyres.

McLaren Reliability Woes

A promising first two days saw stars Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso achieving a decent 203 laps between them -worlds away from last years dismal first test. "The best chassis [balance] is reachable, something very possible, maybe by the European races" spoke Alonso.

This new found confidence would take a dive as the week developed. Wednesday's running was curtailed when Button's car caught fire with a Hydraulic leak after 51 laps. After three installation laps the next day Alonso's running would also be cut short, this time with a water leak. Although a relatively minor issue Engineering Director Matt Morris explained the leak was " in a tricky position, which meant it took longer than usual to locate and fix"

Although early days there are still question marks hanging over the power of the Honda engine. So far the speed traps have shown the car to still have a low top speed. Can this be ramped up in time for Melbourne? Thankfully the team enjoyed a 'filming day' with the Haas team on Saturday, allowing further laps to help iron out reliability woes.

Ferrari Continue To Demonstrate Their Speed

After Vettel topped times for the first two days Raikkonen was stuck in the garage for Wednesday morning with 'fuel system checks'. Although the team claimed these were only precautionary measures its difficult to see any justification for track time to be eaten up. Thankfully the car got to run in the afternoon and registered 73 laps. Thursday would see the Finn top the times with a 1.23.477 - just under seven tenths shy of Vettel's 1.22.810 and the fastest lap of the week. Both these times were achieved on the 'ultra soft' tyre compound on fast runs. Rivals Mercedes set its fastest times further down the order on the mediums.

The Ferrari is certainly demonstrating good speed but until Mercedes shows its hand we won't know really how good this is.

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