Power Ranking the Formula 1 Teams After 1st Test in Jerez
Formula One testing got under way last week with eight of the teams putting their 2015 challengers through their paces at Jerez.
Eight doesn't sound like many, but the grid is now down to just nine confirmed entrants—only Force India were missing. Manor (formerly Marussia) may join the party to make it 10, but their future remains very much uncertain.
Ferrari stole the headlines with an impressive best time of one minute, 20.841, but Mercedes were the kings of endurance. The W06 covered a staggering 2,248 kilometres, almost 600 more than anyone else.
One of them takes the top spot in the first B/R team rankings of 2015—but which one?
Note on Power Rankings
F1 power rankings ignore the points table (when one exists) and instead present a snapshot of where each team currently stands in relation to its competitors based on reliability, qualifying and race pace.
During testing, we look at apparent speed and reliability, and the rankings are created based on where each team would finish if there was a race immediately after the test. Teams less likely to manage the distance are, of course, ranked lower.
After appearing close to absolute collapse, there are signs the Marussia phoenix could still be capable of taking flight.
If they do manage to return, it'll almost certainly be as Manor—the name of the lower formulae squad John Booth founded in 1990.
So they're included here, but as they don't even have a car for the year ahead, they start off at the bottom.
9. Force India
Force India were initially planning to take their 2014 VJM07 to the first test, but elected to skip it entirely instead.
We have chosen not to run the old (2014) car in Jerez. The learning opportunities would have been limited so the focus is now on Barcelona.— Sahara Force India (@ForceIndiaF1) January 28, 2015
The situation has worsened since then. Team principal Bob Fearnley admitted to BBC Sport that it's not clear whether they'll even make it to the final test in Barcelona.
But they have more chance of making the start of the season than Manor and are therefore ranked ahead.
Teething troubles were expected for the new McLaren-Honda partnership, and teething troubles are what we got.
The team managed just 79 laps across the four days they spent in Jerez. Jenson Button did their best time on day four—one minute, 27.660 seconds.
There was definite progress from the first day to the last, and the MP4-30 certainly looks the business. The team will almost certainly move up the rankings as we get closer to the first race, but for now the car and engine combo is still a long way behind its more established rivals.
McLaren start off in eighth.
7. Red Bull
Red Bull rolled out a unique, zebra camouflage livery on day one. A half-hearted attempt to hide the sculpted curves of the bodywork (and perhaps, a whole-hearted publicity stunt), it was quickly unpicked by F1's technical experts. Matt Somerfield tweeted his illustration:
It's a typically magnificent piece of engineering, but as was the case in 2014, Red Bull were hampered by Renault's power unit. Per Autosport, the team were forced to limit the length of their runs due to a problematic part in the Energy F1.
They did the fewest laps of anyone bar McLaren and were also the second-slowest. Daniel Ricciardo's 1:23.338 was the RB11's best.
The car will undoubtedly come good, but Renault have work to do before the second test. For now, the power unit holds Red Bull back in seventh.
6. Toro Rosso
Toro Rosso made a reasonable start to their testing campaign, putting in more laps than their sister team Red Bull. Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, Jr. did a total of 353 laps, a 1:22.553 their best.
They did not appear to be as badly affected by the troublesome Renault engine as Red Bull were, but trackside observers were less than impressed by the way the car handled. Hugely experienced F1 photographer Darren Heath tweeted his opinion.
Per Sky Sports, team principal Franz Tost said the STR10 is "the fastest car Toro Rosso have built so far."
It seemingly needs a bit of fine-tuning before it can achieve its potential, but the lap totals place Toro Rosso ahead of Red Bull for now.
Along with McLaren, Lotus are the other team starting a new relationship with an engine supplier. Happily for them, it's Mercedes. After missing the opening day, the Enstone team were able to get some useful running done.
The sailing wasn't always plain; a drivetrain issue on day two and an unspecified problem on the final day held their lap totals down, but Pastor Maldonado managed 91 laps on day three.
His best time was 1:22.713—not lightning fast, but in the ballpark of respectability.
A reasonable start for Lotus, who covered a greater distance in Jerez—841 kilometres—than they did at any of 2014's pre-season tests.
They start off fifth.
What a difference a year makes...8,760 little hours...
Sauber scored no points in 2014 but were one of the most impressive teams at the opening test in Jerez.
The blue-and-yellow C34 was second only to the Mercedes in terms of laps completed. In the hands of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, it pounded around the circuit 382 times. Reliability (along with speed) was a major weakness in 2014, so covering this sort of distance bodes well for the year ahead.
Nasr did the team's best lap—1:21.545—which was good enough for second overall behind Ferrari.
There's no chance they'll be in that position when the first race rolls around, and realistically they're not second-quickest now.
But they're doing OK. Sauber rank fourth.
Williams did not look overly impressive at Jerez, but like Mercedes, they ignored what everyone else was doing and concentrated on their own program. That's usually a good sign.
ESPN reports Valtteri Bottas believes the car is a definite step forward from the highly successful FW36. The Finn highlighted the improved aerodynamics, arguably the team's primary weakness last term.
Felipe Massa set Williams' best lap, a 1:22.276. That put them fourth-fastest, three-tenths of a second shy of fellow glory-shunners Mercedes.
Williams start the year in third.
Ferrari stole the headlines in Jerez, with Kimi Raikkonen's 1:20.841s the quickest lap of the test. He and new team-mate Sebastian Vettel did 349 laps between them.
It was a very impressive display, but unless Vettel and Raikkonen were taking shortcuts, they were clearly doing a different programme to their rivals. Per BBC Sport's Andrew Benson, their average lap time at the test was a huge 1.5 seconds quicker than anyone else's.
No one believes that is even close to representative, least of all team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. He said on the team website:
"In terms of performance, I don’t think our competitors—one in particular—have shown their true potential over these past days. I think we will only discover the truth about them and about ourselves at the last Barcelona test session."
Wise words from the new man.
But Ferrari still made a far better start than many would have expected and are ranked second at this stage.
Mercedes didn't set the fastest time of the test, but still fired off an ominous warning to their rivals by putting their focus on mileage. The scene was set from day one, when Nico Rosberg did a staggering 157 laps.
That translates to 2.3 full race distances. By the end of the fourth day, the W06 had done 2,248 largely trouble-free kilometres—more than Red Bull and Ferrari's totals added together.
The reigning champions didn't bother the top of the time sheets at all, their best lap a modest 1:21.982. That was only good enough for third-quickest—but as with Ferrari, only a fool would think that represented their true pace.
Mercedes are still the team to beat and kick off the year on the top of the pile.
Data on lap totals and distance covered used throughout sourced from Formula1.com.