5 Things We Learned from Day 2 of the 2nd 2016 Formula 1 Pre-Season Test

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2016

5 Things We Learned from Day 2 of the 2nd 2016 Formula 1 Pre-Season Test

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    Valtteri Bottas and Williams topped the timesheets at the end of the second day of the final 2016 Formula One pre-season test.

    The Finn used supersoft Pirelli tyres to lap the Circuit de Catalunya in one minute, 23.261 seconds, knocking reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton down into second. However, the Mercedes man's timefour-tenths down on Bottaswas set on the slower, soft-compound rubber.

    Kevin Magnussen was third for Renault, just ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

    Twelve of the 22 drivers were in action on Day 2, with only Mercedes splitting the workload. Sergio Perez replaced Nico Hulkenberg at Force India, while Jenson Button was in for Fernando Alonso at McLaren.

    Marcus Ericsson got his hands on the new Sauber C35 for the first time, Vettel took over from Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo had his first drive of the week for Red Bull. Pascal Wehrlein and Carlos Sainz Jr. were also in their cars for the first time at the second test, stepping in at Manor and Toro Rosso, respectively.

    Elsewhere, Esteban Gutierrez, Bottas and Magnussen continued for a second day in the Haas, Williams and Renault, respectively. Unless the teams decide to change their schedules for the final two days, all three have now driven their cars for the final time before the teams pack up and head to Australia for the opening race of the season.

    Here's what we learned from Day 2.

It's Not All Sunshine and Rainbows at Mercedes

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    Lewis Hamilton ended the day second overall following Bottas' quick lap on the supersofts in the afternoon.

    The Brit did a total of 73 laps in the morning session and had his first attempt at a lower-fuel run, setting a best time of 1:23.622 on the soft-compound tyres. Though quicker than any non-Mercedes has gone so far, the lap was over half a second down on the benchmark set by team-mate Nico Rosberg the previous day.

    After finishing up at lunch timeMercedes split the running between their two driversHamilton spoke to the media assembled at the circuit. However, for a three-time world champion with what looks like the best car on the grid, he didn't sound overly pleased.

    Hamilton seemed unhappy with the new Pirelli softs, indicating they didn't work as they should with the W07. He was quoted by Autosport's Mitchell Adam, saying:

    I'm not feeling great, those tyres are not particularly good.

    I've been pounding around doing multiple laps on long runs, which is not the most exciting. To get to light fuel is always an exciting feeling, but it's always new when you get back to pushing for a single lap.

    The car is in a different ballpark, not the right one at the moment, and that's what we need to work on.

    I genuinely wish we had last year's tyres, because these ones aren't as good. Otherwise it was a good experience to get onto the softer tyre.

    Is there hope yet for the rest of the field?

    Rosberg took over the Mercedes in the afternoon, completing the team's second full race simulation of the winter so far. The German didn't get round to doing any low-fuel laps and ended up ninth-quickestbut he remains fastest for the week overall.

Haas and Esteban Gutierrez Are Running out of Time

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    Haas impressed a lot of people with their start to life in F1. The new American team clocked up a respectable 281 laps at the first testjust 71 fewer than engine supplier Ferrariand put in some more than reasonable lap times.

    At the end of the week, they looked, from the outside at least, like an established midfield outfitnot a totally new operation embarking on its first four days of testing.

    But maybe it was too good to last. On Day 1 of the second test, a fuel system problem limited Esteban Gutierrez to just 23 laps, and none of them were particularly quick.

    Despite the setback, team principal Gunther Steiner revealed he was optimistic for the second day, saying on the team website:

    Unfortunately in the morning we experienced some problems with the fuel system. We tried to fix it but we were unable to and had to stop running just before the lunch break. We will not be able to run again until tomorrow, so a little bit of a setback.

    But what makes you suffer makes you stronger. We take a step back, but we hope to make two forward tomorrow.

    Sadly for Haas, that didn't happen. Early on Wednesday, Gutierrez returned to the pits after a single lap and remained inside the garage. Soon after, the team Twitter account told fans they were dealing with a new "anomaly" discovered after their overnight work and that they hoped to be back on the track later.

    They weren't. The turbo problem wiped out the entire day for Haas, leaving them with just 16 hours of track time to finish their preparations for the first race. And for Gutierrez, the picture is bleaker still.

    He was only scheduled to drive the car for the first two days, so if the team do not change their schedule, he will head to Melbourne with fewer than 200 laps under his belt.

    However, per Motorsport.com, the Mexican hinted on Tuesday that he would be pushing to split one of the remaining days with Romain Grosjean. After another frustrating day spent staring at the garage walls, he'll be lobbying extra hard.

Ferrari's New Power Unit Isn't Putting the Laps on the Board

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    The difficulties encountered by Haas look bad in isolation, but they could be part of a larger problem. All the teams running the 2016-spec Ferrari engine have struggled to put laps on the board so far this winter, with Sauber joining the American outfit in having a tough Day 2.

    The Swiss team made a good start to their truncated winter programme. The C35 was delayed and only made its debut on the first day of the second test, but Felipe Nasr was able to put in 103 lapsthe best of them a 1:25.493, set on the soft-compound tyres.

    But Marcus Ericsson didn't fare so well on Wednesday morning, completing just seven laps before lunch due to technical difficulties. The team's Twitter account gave little away, saying only that the C35 was "a bit stubborn this morning" and needed to be convinced to go out on the track.

    The Swede had a more fruitful afternoon, despite a late drama when he lost a wheel, but he still ended the day slowest of the drivers to set a time.

    Sauber and Haas' issues came after Ferrari themselves suffered reliability trouble on the opening day of the second test. A gearbox problem limited Kimi Raikkonen to just 72 laps, and ESPN's Nate Saunders reported on Wednesday that speculation was mounting over the Scuderia's reliability.

    Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene played this down on Wednesday morning, telling Motorsport.com's Franco Nugnes that "Ferrari does not have an engine problem. I can say that officially." Sebastian Vettel's impressive 151 laps on Day 2 helpfully backed him up.

    But problem or not, the stats don't look promising.

    Toro Rosso, the only team using the 2015-spec Ferrari engine, have completed a total of 757 laps across the six days so faran average of 126.1 laps per day.

    The 2016-spec Ferrari engineused by two teams at the first test and three teams at the second, giving it 14 days of total runninghas so far done 1039 laps, averaging 74.21 laps per "day."

    Haas are new and Sauber were late to the party, but it's still a substantial gulf between the old power unit and the new one. It shouldn't come as a surprise that questions are being asked.

Kevin Magnussen Doesn't Like Being Held Up

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    Kevin Magnussen looked to be heading out of F1 as last year drew to a close. The Dane had lost his McLaren race seat at the end of the 2014 season, and after a year spent on the sidelines as the team's reserve driver, he was released from his contract.

    The only place he looked even remotely likely to turn up at was Manor, and even that appeared to be a bit of a long shot.

    But troubles with Pastor Maldonado's sponsor, PDVSA, opened the door to a drive at Renaultand Magnussen is wasting no time getting back into the swing of things.

    During a long run on Day 2, the Renault manon medium-compound tyrescame up behind Sergio Perez's Force India, which was on the hards. Magnussen was quicker, but his Renault engine is significantly down on power relative to the Force India's Mercedes, so he was unable to get past on the straights.

    Perez was in no mood to let him through, so Magnussen decided to take matters into his own hands and muscled past at Turn 5 in what Autosport's live blog described as an "extremely bold move." F1 Fanatic's Twitter account posted a photograph of the movewhich took place at the same corner as Felipe Nasr and Susie Wolff's collision during testing last season.

    Magnussen gained a reputation for being a hard racer during his single season in the sport, occasionally overstepping the mark and receiving penalties for going too far in wheel-to-wheel combat.

    But his approach was backed by then-team McLaren, and it's good to see he's sharpening up ahead of the new season.

    His best time of the day was a 1:23.933, set on the supersoft tyres during the morning session. The lap was enough to put Magnussen third on the timesheetsthe highest a Renault has been this winter.

Manor Aren't Really Looking Like Midfielders

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    Manor kicked off their winter in a similar fashion to Haas. Though they didn't set the quickest laps or cover the most kilometres, observers were nonetheless impressed with the way F1's smallest team went about their business.

    Pascal Wehrlein was the quickest Manor driver over the opening week, setting a decent-looking lap of 1:25.925 on the soft tyres on the second day.

    But with two days of the second test behind them, Manor look to be slipping back a little relative to the competition. Rio Haryanto did just 45 laps on the first day after losing track time to an oil leak, and he was a full second adrift of the rest of the field.

    Wehrlein went quicker on Day 2, but only problem-hit Sauber and Haas were slower.

    We can't read a lot into that because testing times are, as we're so fond of saying, notoriously unreliable. But Wehrlein's lap count was also disappointingagain, it was better than Haryanto's, but 79 laps doesn't stack up well when most of their rivals are doing 100-plus.

    And while times don't mean a lot, mileage often does.

    Manor have a new, far more competitive chassis for 2016, and it'll be powered by the class-leading Mercedes engines. They're definitely going to make a significant step forward from where they were last seasonbut will it be enough to make them a genuine midfield team?

    What we've seen so far at the second test suggests they still have a lot of work to do.

    Lap time and tyre data sourced from the live testing blogs of Autosport and Sky Sports F1. Data from the first test sourced from Jonathan Noble's roundup on Motorsport.com.


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