Raikkonen fastest but Mercedes take 1,000km lead

2016 F1 season

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Ferrari were quickest for the third time in four days at the Circuit de Catalunya but rivals Mercedes continued their impressive start to the season with another high-mileage day.

Kimi Raikkonen used a set of the new ultra-soft tyres to post the day’s benchmark time of 1’23.477, six-tenths of a second off the time his team mate set on the same rubber two days earlier.

The only other driver to set their best time on the ultra-soft tyres was Daniil Kvyat. Force India test driver Alfonso Celis followed up the team’s session-topping time yesterday with the third-quickest effort on super-soft tyres.

Mercedes’ new nose. More pictures
Renault enjoyed their most productive day so far with Kevin Magnussen covering well more than two races distances in his RS16. He also set the team’s quickest lap of the test so far.

Mercedes stuck to its game plan of accruing as much mileage as possible while not chasing headline times. It two race drivers shared the car again and both continued to work exclusively on the medium compound tyre while also testing a revised nose.

Lewis Hamilton completed one-and-a-half race distances before the lunch break. By the end of the day Nico Rosberg’s contribution was enough that the team has now covered over 1,000 kilometres more ground in four days of running than any of its rivals.

McLaren were first out of the blocks in the morning, sending Fernando Alonso straight out onto the track as the lights went green. However he returned to the garage after just three laps and was never seen again – a coolant leak meant the team suffered by far its least productive day of the test.

Only Manor has covered less ground in testing so far than McLaren. Rio Haryanto, who spun the car on his debut yesterday, made it as far as a barrier today and brought out the red flags.

The other red flag was caused by Esteban Gutierrez, though Haas at least managed to continue increasing the VF-16’s mileage on each day of the test, hitting a new high of 89 laps.

Today’s fastest times

Pos.Car numberDriverTeamModelBest timeGapLapsTyres
17Kimi RaikkonenFerrariSF16-H1’23.47780Ultra-soft
226Daniil KvyatRed BullRB121’24.2930.81696Ultra-soft
334Alfonso CelisForce IndiaVJM091’24.8401.36375Super-soft
420Kevin MagnussenRenaultRS161’25.2631.786153Soft
533Max VerstappenToro RossoSTR111’25.3931.916110Medium
612Felipe NasrSauberC341’26.0532.576121Soft
76Nico RosbergMercedesW071’26.1872.71086Medium
844Lewis HamiltonMercedesW071’26.2952.81899Medium
919Felipe MassaWilliamsFW381’26.4833.00654Soft
1021Esteban GutierrezHaasVF-161’27.8024.32589Medium
1188Rio HaryantoManorMRT051’28.2664.78951Soft
1214Fernando AlonsoMcLarenMP4-313

Teams’ fastest times – full test

2Force IndiaVJM091’23.110
3Red BullRB121’23.525
6Toro RossoSTR111’25.393

2016 cars only

Teams’ mileages – full test

TeamTotal distance (km)
Toro Rosso2,080.785
Sauber2,010.96 (2015 car)
Red Bull1,717.695
Force India1,550.115

2016 and 2015 lap times context

How each team’s best time so far compares to their pre-season testing times at the Circuit de Catalunya last year and their fastest lap during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. A negative difference is quicker, positive is slower.

NB. Sauber is using its 2015 car.

2016 F1 season

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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51 comments on “Raikkonen fastest but Mercedes take 1,000km lead”

  1. A good start of the season for Haryanto.

    Apart from that almost impossible to read anything on these tests.

    1. @johnmilk: The supreme confidence of Mercedes, to not even get the Ultra Softs tyres allocated for the tests..

      1. @mulsanne
        It could be confidence or it could be stupidity. It could turn out that they are completely rubbish on the softs and can’t make them last.

  2. Yesterday’s 1’23.110 from Hulkenberg is a lap that still sticks in mind, since even in the case that it was on fumes and with an aggressive engine “strat” mode, it indicates that the VJM09 could do a mid-22 on ultra-softs. It is highly likely that Mercedes and Ferrari could get deep into the 21s on ultras, given especially that Rosberg did a 22.7 on harder tyres in the old W06 in testing last year.

    However for a team that didn’t set a lap faster than a 1’24.939 in testing last year, a lap two tenths slower than the best lap set by the 2014-spec VJM07 used by the team in the first 2015 Barcelona test, a provisional 1.8 second improvement is mightily impressive for one of F1’s perennially persecuted minnows regardless of its competitive ranking.

    1. I’m almost certain Merc built a very powerful PU, they seem very confident.

    2. Ummmm Hulkenburg said he had ‘more than a few laps’ fuel in the car when he set that lap. Gotta read between the lines when Sky reports stuff, it was one of the Sky pundits that said he ‘was on fumes’ as he only did 1 flying lap, which was just an assumption. The interview with Rachel Brooks he confirms he had ‘more than a few laps’ onboard, but only set one time then returned to pits. Sky has a habit of generalizing, like after when Eric Boullier said he wasn’t happy with how the 1st day of testing went and Sky translated that as he wasn’t happy with the car performance. Couldn’t be that they love a good headline? IMO they are getting a bit desperate searching for it though hahaha :-)

  3. I’m starting to feel the dissapointment watching Mercedes end the Australian GP on a 1-2, half a lap ahead of the rest.

    1. More specifically, a HAM-ROS. We all know that Rosberg is the continuation of Webber and Barrichello, no real competition within Mercedes.

      1. I don’t think the last two years shows that at all.

        1. Comfortably second both seasons, was even threatened by Vettel at one point last year. Rarely wins fair and square against Hamilton, unless there is some problem, he qualifies first in Monaco, or Hamilton is already champion and has relaxed. OK, maybe he’s closer than Webber was to Vettel, and there are no outright orders like with Barrichello, but I don’t see Rosberg seriously challenging Lewis for the championship, unfortunately.

          1. @ironcito
            How often do you see Rosberg getting outqualified by 8 to 9 tenths like Webber was by Vettel semi-regularly? How often do you see Rosberg finishing 30 seconds behind Hamilton? The qualifying battle between HAM and ROS is almost equal. Between VET and WEB, it was nowhere near equal.

          2. You don’t win championships by qualifying well. As I said, it’s closer than Vettel-Webber, but still no true fight for the championship. Rosberg is good, like Barrichello was good, like Coulthard was good, I’d even put Button in that category. But Hamilton is on a different level, like Alonso, Vettel, Schumacher and all the greats.

      2. @ironcito Was he at the end of last year? Was he for much of the European season in 2014 when he led the championship? Also, with the exception of Vettel and Alonso, who else on the grid do you think could have got six victories and seven pole positions past an imperious Hamilton in 2015? It is remarkable, given the quality of his reference and the ability Nico has repeatedly demonstrated to challenge Hamilton, that he is still afforded so little respect by fans and pundits alike.

        1. @william-brierty – yes, Rosberg is underestimated by many outside the Mercedes team. People forget or downplay that he consistently out-paced Schumacher before his (admittedly second) retirement. I could forgive them if we were talking about Ralf, but Michael? Nobody else ever gave him a run for his money.

          1. @tribaltalker If anything, knowing that Rosberg is on Hamilton’s pace and is an undeniable topline talent validates the job Michael did. I don’t know of another driver in their forties that could shadow and on occasion beat a driver as good as Nico Rosberg…

        2. Rosberg was leading in 2014 due to Lewis’s DNF in Australia.

          1. This.

            Ham was on pole but retired in melbourne 2014 losing 25pts to ROS. HAM then won the next 4 races consecutively but ROS finished 2nd on every occasion and then the qualy incident in Monaco GP happened and then the brake faillure in Canada where HAM lost another 15pts to ROS and 18 more in the Spa saga.

            Such things didnt happen to HAM at the start of the 2015 season. With 10 poles out of the first 11 races and I think 8 wins to 2 at that point, it was just a mathematical question of time when HAM would secure the DWC. The gap between both was more or less the same, hamilton just didnt lose points to retirements at untimely moments.

            If anything the gap between HAM and ROS was artificially close for most of the 2014 season

  4. Alonso sabbatical announcement in 3…2…1… :P

    1. He certainly took a sabbatical today!

  5. This Merc is a beast! What a bullet proof reliability!

  6. Alfonso Celis doesn’t appear to be a clown. What’s his background?

    1. Lots of money and a junior career little better than Carmen Jorda’s.

      1. @grippgoat @neilosjames I had to look him up… apparently he has only 10 podiums in his entire CV and only won races in a domestic Mexican touring car championship 5 years ago… Why is he even allowed near an F1 car…

    2. he is doing well

  7. Now with some funding settled, FI look even more promising this year.

      1. Sorry its 15 m acc to another source.

  8. The idea of bullet proof reliability and immense pace added with extreme confidence internally is scary in regards to the Mercedes.

    Hats off to these guys. They have bettered even the RBR standards from 2009-2013. Just wow!

  9. I’m not saying that STR, Sauber, Williams, and RBR will be ahead of Ferrari, let me be clear. I fully expect Ferrari to be #2. But I do think that only running half the distance of Merc will come back to bite them. Either they won’t know enough or reliability may come into play or something.

    1. is only the first week of testing, i remember that ferrari did something similar last year, they took one of the testing for pushing the car doing a decent amount of laps with good times.. and the other test week they where making lot of laps with decent times

  10. dayyuumm, this mileage factor is very exciting.

  11. My hat goes off to the engineers of all the teams. The cars all look good without any truly weird noses and the in particular the coke bottle design has been taken to the extreme. Taking into account that these engines require much more cooling, the level of tight packiging is just insane. If these cars are really reaching the 1000HP mark, we could start to appreciate that these V6s are a great base for a less limiting chassis, as will be the case next year. Going back to the 2m wide cars with bigger tires and wider wings is a truly big reason to get excited. Now just, bring the weight down, better tires, let them rev more, and for the sake of drivers, input manuals with a safeguard against overrevving and we are good to go.

  12. It’s pretty obvious that Mercedes are sandbagging and haven’t run anywhere near their maximum capabilities, but I’d like to optimistically think that the whole field has closed up significantly. I’m delighted with Manor’s giant leap away from the back and Haas looks in not too bad a shape as well.

  13. On first look, all teams improved 2-3seconds from last year?

    This cannot be right?

    And Ferrari 2.7s infront of Mercedes? Were they always running 50kg+ fuel? Medium tires always, so 1-2 seconds on tires… Rest fuel mass?

    Impossible to tell how much pace they are hiding.

    1. @jureo, the time comparison with the 2015 race is not that relevant at this point in time – quite a lot of the time, those headline times are discarded in favour of comparing long stints between teams, which are usually a far more accurate reflection of the performance of the teams.

      Asides from the fact that the best times in pre-season testing this year were set on considerably softer tyres than used in the race, the track conditions in winter testing have, for the best part of a decade or more, consistently produced faster lap times in testing than in the races themselves.

      Realistically, the only team that could potentially make lap time gains in the order of 3 seconds would be Manor, mainly due to the lack of development work on their 2015 car. Most of the other teams have probably made gains that are closer to 0.5-1.0s a lap in reality.

      In effect, the headline times that Ferrari have set are meaningless – they used the ultra soft tyres, a very grippy but short lived compound intended for use at street circuits only. The tyres will make a big difference, and the fuel mass situation – Mercedes have tended to run relatively long stints – will be further increasing the gap.

      1. Certainly keeps everyone in suspense. Is there any good quantitative analysis of underlying pace?

        Still Ferrari toping every day. Is not entierly a bad sign.

    2. @@jureo

      And Ferrari 2.7s infront of Mercedes? Were they always running 50kg+ fuel? Medium tires always, so 1-2 seconds on tires… Rest fuel mass?

      That is the kind of gap you would expect with one being on the Ultra-Soft tyres and the other on the Medium tyres, remember that these tyres are 3 steps apart.


      1. @kingshark It’s rather ridiculous that there are three types of soft tyres and only one type of hard. FIA should fix that.

  14. It might look like a Mercedes shoo-in for 2016.
    But actually what I saw the past couple of days is the making of a very exciting season. Not just that Ferrari will probably be able to match Mercedes’ speed (maybe not reliability though), but that the rest of the field seems extremely competitive.
    Haas much better than (what I) expected. Force India building on last year. RBR not as off the pace as expected, and similarly for Renault. Toro Rosso confirming the extra pace of the Ferrari engine. And I’m super happy about Manor nog being able to race among the other cars.
    Williams are their normal self by not showing their hand in practice.
    I’m just a bit more worried about McLaren than I was last week. They have found a lot of extra speed, but the reliability is still a big question mark; especially as they will have to take some risks. They still have the benefit of my doubt though.
    Sauber will probably be there or thereabout at the start of the season, but it might be ‘deja vu all over again’ with little development during the season (and maybe dead last at the end).

    1. That is indeed how it looks. Very promising.

  15. This test was very interestin, the Mercedes’s performance is very good.

  16. I’m seeing another ride Mercedes, easily winning both championships. Well for them, bad for us.

  17. I don’t see what’s wrong if 2016 has Mercedes’ name etched on it in cast iron. At least the mid field will be interesting. 2016 seems like the mid-field blood bath of the year. Red Bull, Force India and Ferrari look like they’re all on more or less equal footing.

    1. Dominance is the status quo in F1 honestly, nothing wrong with it at all…

      I know it’s a stretch but if this is Nico’s year, Hamilton will be immediately downgraded below Seb. 4-in-a-row is 4-in-a-row especially considering those 4 were during a long equalized period in F1 vs. Hamiltons new reg advantage championships.

      1. I certainly hope Roseberg challenges Hamilton this year. But he’a been bettered by hamilton many times, it is hard to see that changing.

  18. Mercedes most miles and Ferrari fastest? sounds a lot like last year so I’m worried :-(

    Mercedes never ever show full speed in preseason, they always go for reliability in testing.

  19. Midfield is going to be the highlight for sure this year. Looking forward to that! Cant really split it at the moment. Mercs will run away with it and Ferrari just biting on their heels same as last year. We will see next test where we will see the Mercedes really stretch its legs.

  20. I cant wait to see what happens in next week’s test…

  21. From an unknown source: Best times on mediums during 4 days:

    Mercedes: 1:24.8
    Ferrari: 1:24.9
    Force India: 1:25.1
    Toro Rosso: 1:25.3
    Williams: 1:25.6

    I say well done FI and STR!

  22. Sauber is using their 2015 car? I just caught on to this.

    Can someone please give me some background why?

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