Cold conditions blighted last year’s opening test. In fact, it even snowed. But this year, we’ve been treated to clear - and snow-free – conditions and the teams, aided and abetted by stunning reliability, have made the most of it by clocking up the laps. We crunch the numbers to see who had the best of it on day three…
F1 Testing: What the data tells us from Day 3
This chart, which looks at the three best sectors set by each team (not necessarily from the same lap or same driver we should add) on Day 3, does not make great reading for Williams.
The British team were woefully off the pace, but that’s because they were on a completely different programme to their rivals. While nine of the 10 teams were pushing their machines and proving reliability, Williams had to deal with simple things like system checks, after missing the first two and a half days, and therefore not even bothering about being competitive.
Providing they have a good night and parts arrive as plan this evening, they should be able to start pushing the car a bit more on Thursday, allowing them to begin their aerodynamic programme.
Up front, Toro Rosso – in the hands of Daniil Kvyat, the baseline here - were the team to beat in the first two sectors as the Russian put the softest tyre – the C5 – to good use through the mostly fast and medium speed turns.
In the final more twisting sector, it was Ferrari – who have been quickest there all week – who emerged on top. Ominously for their rivals, Sebastian Vettel was on the C3 – the medium compound – when he set his best time, suggesting there is plenty more to come from the Scuderia in that tight section.
And just look at Renault and Alfa Romeo. Closest to Toro Rosso in the middle sector, they too looked impressive in the final part of the lap.
But what of the Silver Arrows? In the middle sector, Mercedes were slower only than Williams, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas sharing driving duties. Hamilton said on Wednesday that Ferrari are “very, very strong” but stressed that Mercedes - sticking to harder rubber and way down the timesheets - aren’t chasing performance at present and are keeping their heads down and focusing on their own programme.
As ever then, mixed learnings.
Ferrari continue to clock up the miles
It was another strong day for Ferrari in terms of engine mileage, with their works team combining with customers Alfa Romeo and Haas to pump in more than 300 laps and deliver crucial engine data.
Mercedes broke the 250-lap mark, thanks in part to Williams finally joining the testing fray, with Renault swapping positions with Honda to end up with the third ranking.
While not ideal for Honda, there’s a real positive feeling inside the Japanese manufacturer’s operation, with Red Bull and Toro Rosso enjoying an incredibly reliable start to testing.
It’s Ferrari, though, who will be the most pleased. Continue at this pace and they are set to break the 1000-lap mark before the end of play on Thursday – the final day of the first test.
Mercedes surge to the top
The Silver Arrows surged to the top of the pile in terms of the speed trap stakes, having finished bottom on the previous day, with a top speed of 325.9km/h though that was some way off Renault’s table-topping 327.2km/h on Tuesday.
Honda, Renault and Ferrari – in that order – were all fairly matched, within 2km/h of each other but expect all four to turn up their units and shatter those numbers next week, when attention turns to outright performance ahead of the season-opener in Australia.
Teams push reliability
The mileage most of the teams clocked up on the opening two days of the test was impressive, which meant some of them could start to focus on mixing up their respective programmes - as shown in the stint graph above (where each block represents time on track, with green showing when the driver's quickest lap was set, and purple when the day's fastest lap was set. Tyre icons show the compound that was used).
Toro Rosso, for example, opted for a series of very short runs in the morning, followed by some longer runs in the afternoon, before closing out with some shorter, lower fuel runs – one of which was the fastest of not only the day but also the test.
But as this performance stint graph, which marks out the number of laps each driver completed in a run, shows Toro Rosso were the only team to go for quick laps (presumably on low fuel) at the end of the session.
Kimi Raikkonen and Alfa Romeo, for example, opted not to do that, and having set their fastest time – which stood for most of the day – just before lunch, they dropped to second overall as they focused on longer runs in the afternoon. They skipped the final hour or so but still ended up with the highest lap tally of the day with 138, one more than Toro Rosso.
Lewis Hamilton appeared to do a race simulation in the afternoon as did Romain Grosjean in Haas – but the latter were hampered by a couple of technical issues which Team Principal Guenther Steiner described as “annoying”.
With Thursday marking the final day of the opening test, might we see some more performance runs?