2015 F1 Practice Sessions: What You Need to Know
Mercedes is still fast, Alonso is all better, and Ferrari has a chanceby Christian Moe, on
The last few weeks have been the open practice sessions for the upcoming 2015 season of Formula One, and there has been quite a bit of excitement. 2014 was a rough season for most of the competitors, thanks to the massive rule change to smaller, turbocharged engines, aerodynamic changes that reduced downforce, and new fuel restrictions.
This new season sees subtler rule changes, so teams are more prepared for what is coming next. That said, there was a huge driver mix-up at the end of last season, and this is the first chance for drivers to really test their new cars. In short, this is the first chance spectators get to see who has improved, who looks promising to win, and who is going to have new challenges to overcome.
We only have two weeks until the first race of the season, so keep reading to find out what we learned these last three weeks, and find out what you need to watch for in Melbourne.
Keep reading to learn more about the F1 2015 Pre-season testing results.
Mercedes Is Still Fast
Mercedes dominated the field last year, winning almost every first-place podium and pole position of the season. It is the team to beat coming into 2015, and everyone has been watching their lap times closely. Mercedes has consistently had a car in the top 5 at every day of testing, but their numbers were not exactly spectacular. Many believe that Mercedes was simply holding back, but some thought that the Silver Arrows had lost some of their advantage.
That all changed on day two of testing last week, when Nico Rosberg clocked a blistering lap of 1:22.792. That was more than a full second faster than the second-quickest time of Valtteri Bottas, who managed a 1:23.995. While that gap is impressive, it is only half the story. Bottas managed his time on the supersoft tire, the quickest tire in the series. Rosberg was a step down on the softs, and he still managed a gap of more than a second over a single lap. If anyone doubted Mercedes’ speed coming into 2015, I think those doubts have been eliminated.
Red Bull May Struggle Again in 2015
Red Bull has always had a very competitive car, but last year saw a Renault power unit that just couldn’t make enough power compared to the new Mercedes engines. It was estimated that there was as much as a 60-horsepower gap between the two units. Beyond the power issues, Red Bull also struggled badly with reliability issues over the 2014 season.
None of those issues seem to be fixed for 2015. Renault has promised that it has found more horsepower in its engine, but at the end of week three, Daniel Riccardo could only manage a time that landed him in 12th place. Daniil Kvyat, the replacement for World Champion Sebastian Vettel, only managed to hit 17th place. So speed is still an issue. If you use the number of laps completed in testing as a marker for reliability, Red Bull seems to be struggling yet again. Of the nine teams testing, Red Bull ended up in sixth place. The team completed nearly 400 fewer testing laps than Mercedes.
I wish this former powerhouse of the series the best, but things are looking grim.
Ferrari has a Chance in 2015
Ferrari was once the greatest name in the sport of Formula One, but recent years have seen the team fall into a rut of mediocrity. For 2015 the team has recruited former Red Bull Driver and four-time Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel to drive alongside former F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen. Together with a new car and revised power units, the team is hoping to achieve at least a few first-place podiums this season.
So far during testing, Ferrari has managed the fourth-greatest number of practice laps, pointing to solid reliability, and with both drivers posting the fifth- and sixth-fastest times during week three of practice, they appear to have some good speed on pace as well. We won’t know what will happen until they actually go racing, but if Ferrari is keeping some speed in reserve, they may very well challenge for podium positions.
McLaren Honda has Great History, but a Lot of Work to do
One of the only other names in this industry that is as powerful to hear as Ferrari is the combination of McLaren and Honda. Honda powered the great McLaren F1 cars that saw the legacy of Ayrton Senna as he rose to become one of the greatest names the sport has ever seen.
Now after years of absence, Honda has returned to the game and McLaren was hoping to challenge the front of the grid in 2015. Sadly a host of dramatic reliability problems have limited to the team to the fewest number of test laps. The team has only completed 380 laps in the 12 days of testing, placing them dead last. The next team on the list was Force India, which nearly managed to double the number of laps McLaren achieved, with 669.
Things aren’t all bad though. After suffering a pretty rough crash in week two of testing, McLaren’s star driver Fernando Alonso has been released from the hospital, is feeling great, and should be cleared to go racing when the first Grand Prix happens in Melbourne. Another glimmer of hope comes from the relative speeds McLaren was able to achieve when they could actually keep the car running.
The 12 days of testing have been unpredictable and interesting, and that bodes well for an exciting 2015 F1 season. With more races than last year, new cars, and new drivers, 2015 is shaping up to be the best season of Formula One in several years. Tune the weekend of March 12th to see the first Grand Prix of the season take place in Melbourne Australia.