As the Formula 1 season gets ever nearer the team headed for Jerez for testing and the Finns Raikkonen and Bottas were much in evidence
There are many unanswered questions about the 2015 Formula 1 motor racing season. Caterham still don’t have drivers they’re willing to name, the Germans can’t decide which circuit they’re going to use, and no one is sure who Jensen Button’s new helmet design is supposed to be fooling. Teams aren’t sure what effect the new regulations will have, new racing rules will doubtless produce some interesting situations and the less said about the introduction of a virtual safety car the better.
Finns Up Front In Formula 1
• Kimi Raikkonen sets fastest pre-season time
• Valerri Bottas still on the pace
• Mercedes test reliability not speed
Of course since Formula 1 runs on petrol and hype like a Chinese casino runs on baccarat and pay-offs to the secret police, the flamboyant circus of posh boys and their go-karts on steroids can’t wait till the actual start of the season to waggle their gear ratios at an appreciative crowd (and the sponsors certainly can’t) so pre-season there’s a few days of testing and this year the egos and engineers of Formula 1 descended on the Jerez motor circuit more well known for being Moto-GP’s favorite race.
Some teams showed off their new cars, gambling news of the “no ugly nose” rule introduced this year to prevent the unsightly, and distinctly dildo-esque, noses sported by some cars last season, will excuse the fact that broadly speaking the cars look much as they did before. There are some technical safety changes that have modified appearance a little but overall the aesthetic of the single seaters hasn’t adapted beyond the lack of the proboscis up front. Naturally the drivers were all smiles for the cameras and said nice things about their new toys.
Indeed people fell over themselves to be nice about their teams, the track, the sponsors, the weather, in what appeared at times like a big love-in for petrol-heads. Not that the edge of competition wasn’t already there, and indeed the lap times put in by the various teams were poured over by spectators and competitors alike as everyone tried to get a feel for what the 2015 season is going to be like, but pretty much all the pre-season practice told us was that the teams were far more worried about last season than this.
Teams Battle Ghosts Of Last Season
At the other end of the riches scale the top teams were all fighting their own gremlins and bugbears, with Ferrari furiously chasing speed and Mercedes doing for reliability. That’s why come the end of day one Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari had gone fastest putting in a 1:22.620 lap during his 60 laps of testing and nearly a whole second off the pace at his best Nico Rosberg, in his Mercedes, did 157 laps. Yes, that’s not a typo, he did 157 laps.
That’s twice what anyone else did, but then no one else saw their F1 world championship challenge go up in smoke due to a lack of technical reliability from the car last season. Rosberg was making a point and the car was happy to help prove it. This left him third on the day with Marcus Ericsson of Sauber surprising everyone with the second fastest lap of the day (1:22.777) and Ricciardo for Red Bull just ahead of Valtteri Bottas who came fifth in the new Williams.
Now a popular wager amongst those who bet on sports in Finland Valtteri Bottas was perhaps allowed to step out of fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen’s shadow a little on day two and pushed the new car to a faster lap grabbing third fastest lap of the day, but once again Vettel in the Ferrari was setting the pace grabbing a blistering sub-1:21 lap leaving even second placed Sauber, piloted by Felipe Nasr, nearly a second adrift. Of course Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes was down in fourth pulling another reliability testing 91 laps.
The Fastest & Farthest
Bottas was replaced at the wheel on day three, the teams are only allowed to run one car at a time, by Felipe Massa who managed to squeeze a little faster time out of the new Williams whilst Nico Rosberg climbed back into the Mercedes and did another 151 laps. This left Sauber to take fastest lap with Felipe Nasr getting a 1:21.545, and Raikkonen just 2 hundredths behind him in a Ferrari that could well challenge the Mercedes when push comes to shove. Pastor Maldonado in the Lotus got fifth on the day with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr coming in sixth fastest.
The final day was all about Kimi Raikkonen who apparently grew up Finnish gambling laws of physics could be ignored completely in really tight corners. He set the fastest time of the day at 1:20.841 leaving Swedish Ericsson two seconds off that in second although he did do 112 laps which boded well, and Lewis Hamilton repeated Mercedes strategy doing 117 laps. Jenson Button in the McLaren and his new helmet did just 35 laps and none of them at race pace, leaving them languishing and possibly anguishing.
Overall Ferrari look to have made the most of the winter, with Raikkonen fighting for a race the season after this and Sebastian Vettel setting fast times they look to have a fighting chance against Mercedes who seem awfully worried about reliability, Red Bull put in a good showing and the new Williams car didn’t disappoint but Sauber won’t be optimistic to be up at the front of the grid down under, and as for McLaren will probably come too soon.
Strangely despite Hamilton not putting in a race pace lap of any note ComeOn! Sportsbook still have him at 1.62 with teammate Rosberg at 2.90, but Kimi Raikkonen has closed up to 6.00 and Alonso gets 10.00, Vettel a worth-a-punt 16.50 and Valerri Bottas the other fastback Finn gets 34.00 which might just close up significantly if he can pull in the lap times come qualifying in Melbourne. Whether or not Marussia or Caterham make it to the grid is still anyone’s guess and as for McLaren? Well I wouldn’t bet on it right now.