Formula 1

Barcelona gearing up for final pre-season test

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The final pre-season test gets underway this Thursday at the Circuit de Catalunya, with questions still being asked about the true pecking order ahead of the new Formula 1 season.

The Lotus F1 Team was fastest for three of the four days of the second test last week, but it was the medium Pirelli tyre run of the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS team that got more attention.

Nico Rosberg set a lap time within three-tenths of a second of Romain Grosjean’s Lotus on a tyre Pirelli estimate to be between 1.5 to 2 seconds a lap slower, indicating that Mercedes have been holding back some pace.

Williams Martini Racing are another team who have yet to show their hand, with the team having concentrated on reliability and pit stop testing up to now.

“We have some updates to come which are going to change the car behaviour, so there was not really any point to go into the fine details of the car balance because once we start putting new bits on [at the last test] and for Melbourne, everything’s going to change,” said Valtteri Bottas.

“But we know there’s nothing major wrong with the car that we can’t fix by adjusting the set-up, so that’s a good thing to know.”

Scuderia Ferrari had a low-key Barcelona test last week, but both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel feel comfortable with the car, and should make more headway with set-up this week.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing got considerable mileage on their RB11 last week, with both Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat showing some competitive lap times amongst pretty good reliability.

Sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso also had a good test last week, although it was ended early when Carlos Sainz Jr crashed on the final afternoon. The Spaniard will be hoping to make amends this week, while Max Verstappen will be adding even more practice time ahead of his own F1 race debut next month in Australia.

Various mechanical issues cost the Sauber F1 Team valuable time during the test last week, but early signs point to an improved season with their C34.

“We had to give up the morning to fix the little problems,” said Felipe Nasr, who will race for the team alongside Marcus Ericsson in 2015. “It was too many in general, all on the mechanical side.

“It was best to really do a big review of the car, take the car apart and make sure it was done correctly. Of course the more we run, the more problems we can see and solve. The problems only come when you have a lot of running of the car and go through different programmes.”

The Sahara Force India team have yet to test their 2015 machine, and are hoping to wheel it out for the first time this week. They ran their VJM07 last week, with regular drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg being joined by Mercedes test driver Pascal Wehrlein. Whatever happens with their VJM08, the team will be playing catch-up to be ready for the first race of the season next month.

Another team playing catch-up is McLaren-Honda, who have been blighted by various mechanical issues of their own. They have completed the least number of laps of any team, and last week’s test was not helped by Fernando Alonso’s turn 3 crash that sees the Spaniard still remain in hospital. McLaren must be hoping for four productive and problem-free days in Spain to be anywhere near ready for the Australian Grand Prix.

Second Barcelona Pre-Season Test Driver List

Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS: Lewis Hamilton (Thursday, Saturday); Nico Rosberg (Friday, Sunday)

Infiniti Red Bull Racing: Daniil Kvyat (Thursday, Friday); Daniel Ricciardo (Saturday, Sunday)

Williams Martini Racing: Felipe Massa (Thursday, Saturday); Valtteri Bottas (Friday, Sunday)

Scuderia Ferrari: Kimi Raikkonen (Thursday, Saturday); Sebastian Vettel (Friday, Sunday)

McLaren-Honda: Jenson Button (TBA); Fernando Alonso (TBA)

Sahara Force India: Nico Hulkenberg (TBA); Sergio Perez (TBA)

Lotus F1 Team: Romain Grosjean (Thursday, Saturday); Pastor Maldonado (Friday, Sunday)

Sauber F1 Team: Marcus Ericsson (Thursday, Saturday); Felipe Nasr (Friday, Sunday)

Scuderia Toro Rosso: Carlos Sainz Jr (Thursday, Saturday); Max Verstappen (Friday, Sunday)

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Thirty-something motorsport fanatic, covering Formula 1, Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula 3. Feel free to give him a follow on Twitter at @Paul11MSport.
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