Winners and Losers from 3rd Formula 1 Test in Barcelona
Mercedes dominated the third and final Formula One pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya and will head to the 2015 Australian Grand Prix as firm favourites for both titles.
Nico Rosberg set the fastest lap of the test on Day 2, with Lewis Hamilton close behind a day later. Both used the soft-compound tyres; none of Mercedes' rivals could match the times even when they bolted on the supersofts.
Behind them the field looks a little closer than last season, and small achievements and failures over the last four days could make all the difference in the opening races.
The first of those is the Australian Grand Prix—now less than two weeks away.
Some teams met all their targets and will be looking forward to the race; others aren't quite where they want to be and may be more apprehensive.
Here are the six teams which stood out as winners and losers in Barcelona.
Nico Rosberg produced the "wow" moment of the test on Day 2. The Mercedes man bolted on the soft tyres for the first time all winter, and everyone waited with bated breath for the result.
He didn't disappoint, slamming in a jaw-dropping lap of one minute, 22.792 seconds. Lewis Hamilton went a touch slower the following day on the same compound. Even with the added grip of the supersofts, none of the other teams could dislodge the pair from the top of the timesheet.
If we were to look for a tiny shred of hope for their rivals, the team's lap count was lower than that of some other teams. And on Day 1 especially, reliability cost them kilometres.
But then, per Sky Sports F1's live test commentary, they only used one engine across all three tests.
No team did better in Spain, and a dominant one-two in the first race is the most likely scenario.
McLaren had their best day of the winter on Friday and do appear to have made some progress, but the overall test cannot be considered a success—especially as de facto lead driver Fernando Alonso was unable to take part.
They did a total of 177 laps, the best of which was a 1:25.225 by soft-tyre-shod Kevin Magnussen on Day 3. On the same track at around the same time, Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes was just over two seconds quicker.
Magnussen's one day in the car ended after 39 laps.
An oil leak has stopped play, so that's a wrap for today. We’ll be back tomorrow for more #F1Testing.— McLaren (@McLarenF1) February 28, 2015
Reliability is still a huge problem, and on the evidence of this final test, McLaren are highly unlikely to make it to the end of the race in Australia—a race which, if the times are in any way representative, they'll probably start from the last or second-to-last row of the grid.
Not the best start to the partnership with Honda.
Williams had been flying very much under the radar for the first two tests but exploded out of the shadows on Day 1. Felipe Massa bolted on the soft tyres and set the quickest time of the test so far by 0.5 seconds.
The lap was later smashed out of the ballpark by Mercedes, but as a signal of intent it worked.
Felipe Massa clocks a 1:23.500, that's quicker than anything set across the two Barcelona test so far #F1— Richland F1 (@RichlandF1) February 26, 2015
Valtteri Bottas used the supersoft tyres on Day 4 to go even faster and set the team's quickest time of the test, 1:23.063. Williams then packed up early, having finished their programme.
Reliability is good, and the FW37's pace looks excellent. The team which scored just five points in 2013 look at the very worst level with Ferrari as second-best—and definitely ahead of Red Bull.
It seems the bad car/good car/bad car/good car sequence has finally come to an end.
Losers: Red Bull
Most teams would love to be in the situation Red Bull look to be in, but the Austrian team has extremely high standards. Failure to look even second-best just isn't good enough.
Daniil Kvyat did 75 laps on Day 1 and 84 on the second day, fewer than the average and without a race or qualifying simulation. After he stepped out of the car, his talk on the team website was of heading in the right direction—not of having reached a destination.
Daniel Ricciardo took over on Day 3, and though he cranked up the lap count, the RB11 was the slowest car of the day (albeit on medium tyres). There was little cheer on the final day either when Ricciardo ground to a halt early on with an ERS problem.
Red Bull managed to fix the issue, and the Australian returned to the track. He set a personal test-best time of 1:24.638 on the softs—but even sister team Toro Rosso went quicker.
The team's primary problem appears to once again be the Renault engine—per Sky Sports F1's Ask Crofty, it is believed to be 70 horsepower down on Mercedes.
There's work to do before Melbourne.
Ferrari continued their positive winter form with another good test in Barcelona.
Kimi Raikkonen did the team's first qualifying and race simulation on Day 3. Despite less-than-ideal, very cool track conditions, the pace was good. His flying lap was 1:23.276, almost identical to the time Felipe Massa set on the same supersoft tyres for Williams, and the race-simulation pace was promising as well.
Vettel did his own race simulation on Day 4, finishing with just five minutes to spare.
If we had to place Ferrari on what we saw in the final test, they'd be a fair way behind Mercedes and a tiny bit behind Williams—but ahead of Red Bull.
Who'd have predicted that would be the case at the start of the year?
In addition, the Scuderia appear to have excellent reliability, averaging over 122 laps per day. They'll head to Melbourne in an optimistic mood.
Lotus set the pace on three of the four days of the second test but were back to where they'd expect to be at the third.
Lap counts were broadly good as the team looked to make up for a slightly late start and ensure their new Mercedes engine was running smoothly. The times looked solidly midfield, but neither driver was able to dip below the 1:24.067 set by Romain Grosjean at the second test.
This alone wasn't enough to qualify them as losers, but on Day 4 Pastor Maldonado threw a small spanner in the works and tipped them over the line. His crash at Turn 4 was captured by a fan at the scene.
Despite the team's best efforts, they couldn't get the car repaired in time, and their final day consisted of just 36 laps.
To cap it off, on Thursday Lotus announced the signing of Carmen Jorda as a "development driver." The Spaniard has a racing record that makes Taki Inoue look like the second coming of Ayrton Senna and isn't likely to be very useful in pushing the E23 forward.
But maybe she's good at writing funny tweets?
Lap count and time data used throughout is sourced from daily reports on Formula1.com.