Ferrari returned to the top of the time sheets with Kimi Raikkonen at the wheel on the fourth and final day of the first pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona as McLaren-Honda's problems from day 3 continued with the team setting just three laps on the final day due to a coolant leak issue. The drivers and teams get a three-day breather before resuming the second and final pre-season test prior to the first race in Melbourne at the same venue from 1 March.
Despite the timings set by the cars being irrelevant in the first test, there were plenty of positives and negatives for all the teams. The most noticeable thing, however, was that Mercedes are again going to be the team to beat as they displayed total dominance on the field in terms of mileage accrued during the four days. The Silver Arrows team completed over 3,000 miles in the four days, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg completing 671 laps between them.
Unlike other teams, who used different tyre compounds and setting low fuel laps, the reigning world champions stuck to the medium compound tyres and heavy fuel runs during the entire duration of the test, while also revealing a radical new front wing design. Their true pace will be revealed in the second test, when all teams begin testing performance levels ahead of the first race weekend at Albert Park in Melbourne on 18 March.
Ferrari seemed to have also moved a step forward compared to last year, but it is impossible to say where they stand when compared to the Mercedes. They were quickest on three of the four days, which shows they do have the pace, but the true standings will only be seen during the final qualifying session of the first race in Australia.
The Maranello-based team have also made a number of changes to their car design, and are expecting performance to improve considerably during the second test when they experiment with different set-ups.
Red Bull, Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso are all showing good signs of reliability and speed. The former could be outgunned by the other midfield teams at the start with all of them having better power trains compared to the Austrian-owned team's Renault power unit.
McLaren-Honda's reliability issues began in the last two days of the test after showing good signs of improvement in the first couple of days. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso have praised the new car ahead of the season opener, but reliability seems to be a big question mark, with the team completing just 54 laps in the final two days of the first test.
Mercedes have been the most reliable car among the 11 teams, with everyone else facing some issue or the other during the course of the first test.
Drivers from Mercedes, Ferrari, Force India, Williams, McLaren-Honda and Red Bull give their verdict after day four of the test, as quoted by ESPN F1.
Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
"The reliability of the car this week has been just incredible. It feels strong, it feels solid, it just keeps going and going... I've never seen anything like it. The guys and girls at Brackley and Brixworth have done an unbelievable job. After two titles in a row, it would be so easy to lose focus. But it's clear that everyone is even more focused than before and have done an even better job of delivering an overall package with this car. In terms of today, the new front wing seems to be a step forward. It's small increments here and there - but that's what we're looking for."
Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari
"It was a normal test with different kind of tyres, but it is always different from what you see at the races. We have a new car here and there is always something to try, to test. So it is necessary to check everything. Testing time is painful, but it is better to do checks beforehand than having big problems during the Championship. I don't know if this is going to be a good car, no one can tell, but it seems to be a good car even if there are still many things to try out."
Felipe Massa – Williams
"I am not so happy with today - it was not really a useful day. The most important things was that we carried out our aerodynamic tests this morning, to understand the numbers and everything around the car. Unfortunately, we couldn't run much this afternoon. I had hoped to do more laps than I did."
Daniil Kvyat – Red Bull Racing
"I had two quite good test days, even though we would like to do more laps. But we have two days left next week, so it will be important to extract the maximum out of that opportunity, to figure out where we can make steps forward. Obviously it's important to develop the car for the first race in Melbourne but even beyond that I think it will continue to improve as we understand the car more and more. We'll try to get as much done as possible next week, I'm looking forward to it."
Alfonso Celis (reserve driver) – Force India
"It's been another busy day with lots of aero and procedural work. Once again the car has shown great reliability and we managed to keep to the run plan without any significant issues. In the morning I was running mainly on the medium tyres and then moved to the softs in the afternoon. Each day in the car is a massive learning experience for me and I feel more comfortable with each run. I've also been able to get to know the engineers better this week, which is very important for the work I will do for the rest of the season."
Fernando Alonso – McLaren-Honda
"Today was disappointing after starting the first couple of days of the test so positively. Still, it's good news that although the issue we had on the car meant we had to miss a lot of today's running, it's not a major problem and will be fixed in time for next week's test.
Overall, we've managed a good number of laps during this test, which means we have a lot of data to analyse and learn from. Over the weekend we'll work hard to get everything prepared for next week, with the aim of getting as much time on track as possible."