Mercedes offered another glimpse of their searing pace ahead of the 2016 Formula One campaign, as Nico Rosberg topped the standings on Day 1 of the second round of pre-season testing in Barcelona.
The German set the second-fastest time of the winter testing so far on Tuesday, posting one minute, 23.022 seconds after the team decided to try out the soft tyre compound for the first time during the morning session; they also managed another massive amount of volume.
It meant the W07 was by far the fastest car of the morning, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who only used the medium tyre, posting 1:24.836 during his time on the track.
Valtteri Bottas was the only driver to use the supersoft tyres, clocking the second-best time in his Williams during the afternoon session. Fernando Alonso finished third in his McLaren, while world champion Lewis Hamilton focused on long runs.
The final timesheets for Tuesday, courtesy of Formula One's official Twitter account:
Mercedes' new W07 is proving to be an incredibly reliable car, as once again Rosberg and Hamilton were able to split the day and complete more than 80 laps each. The Brit mainly stuck to the medium tyres and focused on long runs, never challenging the top times during the afternoon.
The big story of the afternoon session was McLaren's remarkable pace, which saw Alonso finish the session as the third-fastest driver. The Spaniard completed more than 90 laps and easily stayed ahead of Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat, a strong performance given McLaren's horrid showing last season.
Raikkonen spent much of the afternoon in the garage after bringing out the red flags shortly after lunch, and per Autosport Live, it took the Fin some time to get back on the track:
Raikkonen has returned to action after that lengthy stay in the garage. #F1— Autosport Live (@autosportlive) March 1, 2016
Per Sky Sports, the gearbox malfunctioned on his Ferrari, which is not a good sign going into Day 2 of testing in Barcelona.
Kevin Magnussen also forced the red flags to fly shortly before the end of the afternoon session, but it was but a minor hick-up in what proved to be a fantastic day for Renault. With more than 100 laps to their tally, Renault look to have delivered a fine car for the upcoming season.
The same can be said for Williams, who also broke the 100-lap barrier and managed to push Bottas into second place in the timesheets. It's important to note that time came on the ultrasofts, however, per Autosport Live:
That Bottas lap was on ultra-softs - the first time we have seen them in this test. #F1— Autosport Live (@autosportlive) March 1, 2016
Haas' strong showing in the first test gave the American team plenty of reasons for optimism, but Esteban Gutierrez couldn't find much success in Barcelona, as a fuel system issue limited his car to just 23 laps, per the team's official Twitter account.
While most teams will walk away satisfied from the first day of testing in Barcelona, Mercedes' dominance was once again evident. The team didn't even have to break out the ultrasofts to keep hold of the top spot, were able to run race simulations and saw main rivals Ferrari struggle; it's clear who the big winners were on Tuesday.
The F1 Twitter feed provided us with the key details as the morning session came to a close, with Rosberg enjoying yet another fine stint on the track:
Having resisted the urge to throw on the soft compound in the first round of pre-season tests, Mercedes sought to push this car closer to its maximum on Tuesday, and Rosberg duly obliged with a brilliant standings-topping lap.
The time of 1:23.022 has only been bettered by Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari so far, with Rosberg’s compatriot posting a 1:22.810 on the ultrasoft tyres on Wednesday last week; it’s certainly going to be intriguing to see what the Mercedes can muster on that even quicker compound.
However, where Mercedes once again had the edge over Ferrari was in the amount of laps done in the session, with Rosberg able to get almost double the amount of laps in that Raikkonen could.
As we can see here, the Mercedes team were pretty pleased with the efforts of their driver on the whole:
What looked to be turning into a successful session for McLaren finished on a disappointing note, with Fernando Alonso’s MP4-31 stopping on the track late on and prompting a red flag. However, prior to that premature finish, the Spaniard was able to steer himself to third on the time sheet and an impressive 50 laps in total.
It remains to be seen whether the McLaren was conducting a dry fuel run at the end of the session, as is common practice, but nevertheless, as noted by F1 Paddock Access, the pace of the car seemed to suggest things are improving for the team:
One team who did struggle on Tuesday morning was Manor, with Rio Haryanto limited to just two laps and not a single timed one due to an oil leak.
Additionally, there was a little bit of drama in the Red Bull garage, with Daniil Kvyat’s car seeming to set alight at one point, per William Esler of Sky Sports:
Williams will be encouraged by some of their efforts in this session, as their best time was just three tenths back on Ferrari, who they’ll be seeking to keep pace with this season. Valtteri Bottas was able to get 58 laps done, too.
Max Verstappen and Nico Hulkenberg also got their weeks off to solid starts, with the Toro Rosso and Force India drivers, respectively, each posting in excess of a half-century of laps on Tuesday morning.