2015 F1 Cars Show Big Improvement over 2014 Models After 1st Day of Testing

Matthew Walthert@@MatthewWalthertFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2015

Red Bull debuted an unusual testing livery on Sunday at Jerez.
Red Bull debuted an unusual testing livery on Sunday at Jerez.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Preseason testing for the 2015 Formula One season began Sunday at the Circuito de Jerez in southern Spain. For anyone who complained that the 2014 F1 cars were too slow, the early results look promising.

Last year was the first season of a new V6 hybrid engine formula and, with the restrictions on in-season development of the power units, it was always going to take some time for the new cars to get up to speed. Now, after a full cycle of racing and offseason development, it appears the cars have made a big leap forward for 2015.

Nico Rosberg on the track in the F1 W06 Hybrid
Nico Rosberg on the track in the F1 W06 HybridDan Istitene/Getty Images

Recently, Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery told Autosport's Jonathan Noble that the F1 tyre supplier was prepared for times, "two to three seconds per lap quicker than last season."

After just one day of testing in Andalusia, that prediction is looking good—it might even be a bit conservative.

Before we start comparing lap times, though, remember that different weather, different tyre compounds and different programs for each team make it difficult to draw any firm conclusions from test results. Still, the early lap times are promising.

First, compare the best laps for the top five drivers on Sunday to the top five drivers' best times from the first 2014 preseason test at Jerez (the 2014 results are for the entire test, not just the first day):

2014 vs. 2015 Jerez Testing Times
Driver (Team)2014 TimeDriver (Team)2015 Time
Kevin Magnussen (McLaren)1m 23.276sSebastian Vettel (Ferrari)1m 22.620s
Felipe Massa (Williams)1m 23.700sMarcus Ericsson (Sauber)1m 22.777s
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)1m 23.952sNico Rosberg (Mercedes)1m 23.106s
Jenson Button (McLaren)1m 24.165sDaniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)1m 23.338s
Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)1m 24.812sValtteri Bottas (Williams)1m 23.906s

Already, Ferrari, Sauber and Mercedes have posted quicker times than Kevin Magnussen managed for McLaren last year. And Magnussen posted that time on the day three.

As any lingering mechanical issues get worked out and the drivers become more comfortable in their new cars, the lap times will drop even further.

Sebastian Vettel looked good in his first outing in the Ferrari SF15-T.
Sebastian Vettel looked good in his first outing in the Ferrari SF15-T.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

"Today was a good start," said Sebastian Vettel, who clocked the fastest time on Sunday in his first official test for Ferrari, in a team press release. "I can’t say more than that, because this is only the beginning. Everything is different, even the philosophy behind the car, when compared to what I was used to."

Just wait until the four-time world champion really starts to feel at home with the Italian team.

If we compare the lap times from Sunday to just the first day of testing in 2014, the differences are even more pronounced:

2014 vs. 2015 Jerez Testing Times—Day 1
Driver (Team)2014 TimeDriver (Team)2015 Time
Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)1m 27.104sSebastian Vettel (Ferrari)1m 22.620s
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)1m 27.820sMarcus Ericsson (Sauber)1m 22.777s
Valtteri Bottas (Williams)1m 30.082sNico Rosberg (Mercedes)1m 23.106s
Sergio Perez (Force India)1m 33.161sDaniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)1m 23.338s
Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso)1m 36.530sValtteri Bottas (Williams)1m 23.906s

Ferrari topped the time sheets both days, but Kimi Raikkonen's best time on the first day last season is nearly 4.5 seconds slower than Vettel managed this year.

The fact that Raikkonen turned in the fastest lap on day one last year should also serve as a caution for any tifosi getting too excited about Vettel's performance Sunday. Ferrari may have been quick out of the gate in 2014, but the company eventually stumbled its way to its first winless season in two decades.

Sauber, Ferrari's only engine customer this season, debuted a new livery of their own.
Sauber, Ferrari's only engine customer this season, debuted a new livery of their own.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Taken as a whole, though, the times from Sunday hint that the 2015 cars will regularly approach the performance of the 2013 models, the last season of the old V8 engines. Last year, there were two races where the fastest lap was quicker than it was in 2013: Belgium and Brazil. This year, we won't have to wait until the summer for that to happen.

It is still six weeks until the first race in Melbourne, but the cars are already flying, and the engines are roaring (or whistling, at least). There was plenty of great racing in 2014—this year, it will just be happening at higher speeds.

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