Weekend F1 debate: Who’s hot and who’s not for 2016 after F1 testing?
F1 testing, McLaren
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Mar 2016   |  6:58 pm GMT  |  182 comments

The eight days of winter F1 testing are over and the cars are being built up back at base, ready to fly to Australia at the end of the week. But who will travel out there with high hopes and who has work to do? After attending both Barcelona tests, we think we have a pretty good idea of the underlying pace of the cars and of the order at this point.

With the help of JA on F1 technical adviser Dominic Harlow, former Force India chief engineer, we can analyse the long run performance as well as the single laps and sector times to give a picture of the relative pace of the cars.

Sebastian Vettel

Overview – Mercedes vs Ferrari for wins and championship
The overview is that Mercedes continues to set the pace, but we think that the gap to Ferrari in underlying pace has roughly halved over the winter and that Mercedes is perhaps 0.2s-0.3s faster than the Maranello squad. But there are signs that the race pace is closer than that, with a couple of Kimi Raikkonen’s long runs in particular suggesting that Ferrari more or less matches Mercedes.

What we do not yet know is what the gap is when Mercedes turns up its engine to the maximum qualifying mode. Last season this was worth 0.4s. Ferrari has worked on its ultra aggressive mode too, but we won’t see that gap until both teams reach for the secret weapon on Saturday in Melbourne.

Behind the front two we have Williams, which looks very fast over one lap, Red Bull, Force India and Toro Rosso. All four squads left Barcelona feeling pretty good and certainly have set some very fast times. Red Bull appears to have excellent race pace and tyre management. Daniel Ricciardo did a long run on Wednesday afternoon with strong pace and very low tyre degradation, which suggests that in some races, where tyre life is key, he will rise to a strong result.

Further back we have Sauber, McLaren and Renault, who are struggling a little, relatively speaking. Sauber was late with its car, McLaren still has an engine deficit and Renault is basically 60hp worse off than last year after replacing a Mercedes engine with a Renault. That’s 0.8seconds at many venues.

Table 1: All teams, relative pace – Click to enlarge

F1 testing pace 2016

Vertical axis: Lap times in seconds. Horizontal axis: Number of laps covered.

This table uses the lap time data from Day 3 of the second test, which was representative as the wind was fairly low that day. The wind was high and gusty on Wednesday and Friday, depending on when you were out on track and it destabilised the cars. It looks in more detail at longer runs in general.

The way to read this is to look at the bottom of the graph to see who was setting the faster times and then look at the top for who was setting the slower times. Consistency is key as is keeping the upward curve not too steep on longer runs, which would indicate high tyre degradation. Short bursts of laps low down indicate performance runs, usually on softer tyres. But the longer strings show the comparable race pace, as they do during a Grand Prix weekend.

It’s fairly clear the overall performance order: Mclaren, Renault and Sauber are still struggling, Mercedes and Ferrari quickest, Williams looks good over one lap but we didn’t really see their race pace. Red Bull is joined by Force India and Toro Rosso in the chasing pack. Sainz looks like he has relatively low tyre degradation on his long runs.

Table 2: Mercedes vs Ferrari – Test 2- Day 2 and Day 3 combined. Click to enlarge

Mercedes vs Ferrari pace F1 testing 2016

Not a lot in it on the race runs, backing up the similar single lap pace. Perhaps Mercedes should still be slightly more confident based on Hamilton’s first and second stints. Raikkonen and Hamilton were running on Day 3 in the afternoon at the same time, so the conditions were identical. Rosberg and Vettel, who ran on Day 2 may be showing the effects of the strong winds, which caused problems with stability into Turn 10 and Turn 13 and gave a headwind on the main straight.

Another notable point is that the Ferrari is working the harder tyres more effectively than in 2015. In the Spanish GP Vettel stayed with Rosberg until lap 40 just 15secs behind, but that ballooned up to 45 seconds after the final 26 laps on hard tyres. That has been a Ferrari weakness for years, but looks like it won’t happen this year.

The improved performance is undoubtedly due to the increased downforce.

Table 3: Williams vs Red Bull vs Force India vs Toro Rosso – Test 2 – Day 2 and Day 3 combined. Click to enlarge

F1 testing pace 2016

We don’t have proper race sim data from Williams, but estimating their fuel load as 50Kg and using a long run we can predict what a middle race stint might look like. Toro Rosso and Red Bull are quite close on performance and Force India is also in that area at a circuit that is normally not especially strong for them.

The standout here is Ricciardo’s long run in the centre of the table, which rises gently as the laps tick by. That is what you want to see on a race plot, indicating low tyre degradation – barely 0.08s per lap.

Spanish GP 2016
Snapshot of Progress since 2015 Spanish GP
All the cars are faster than last season. Pole on the medium tyre for Rosberg was 1m 24.6s, which he comfortably beat by half a second on the same tyre in testing on the first lap of a nine lap run. So adjusting for fuel, he’s more like 0.8s faster and we have the impression that there is more there on full qualifying engine map. For reference Raikkonen did a 1m 23.099s on soft, which equates to 1m23.899s on medium.

Mercedes’ race pace in 2015 went from 1m31s at the start to 1m29s at the end. Here they are running 1m29 to 1m27s. The conditions are more favourable at this time of year compared to May, perhaps a second faster, but it’s still a significant improvement.

McLaren and Manor are also interesting to compare. McLaren’s best lap of the 2016 test was 1m24.714s on ultra soft. If you add on 2 seconds for the performance delta ultra soft to medium (used for qualifying at the 2015 Grand Prix), the car is one second faster.

Manor’s best lap of the test was 1m24.913s on ultrasoft. Again that reads across to 1m26.913 on mediums, which is over four seconds faster than their 2015 grid time!

Rio Haryanto

As for the new Haas team, their outright best lap time in testing was 1m25.255s on the soft tyre. Add 0.8s for the performance delta to the medium compound used last for qualifying last May in Barcelona and you get 1m26.0s. That lap time would have put the Haas 5th on the grid for last year’s Grand Prix.

Is this what you expected from testing? What are you particularly looking forward to and from which teams this year? Join the debate and leave your comment below

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Personally I would have liked to have seen more progress from McLaren, but seeing the number of laps they covered gives me a bit (not too much) of room for optimism! Now the fun starts! with the added speed and deployment the aero guys will now have to show that they can deliver a decent chassis. I heard that Honda will be delivering a new Power Unit for Australia, it will be good if we can have the same discussion again before the European season. As for the rest, expect Mercedes and Ferrari to contest the wins for the first few races. However, I have a feeling that Torro Rosso might get amongst them and spoil the party. Given the nature of the circuit in Melbourne, if their strategy is right, expect them to spoil the party with Williams and Red Bull not far behind.


The power unit isn't all the problem though... in some ways they were lucky that they could blame everything of last season on Honda and their midfield chassis goes under the radar a little.

It's been a long & slow decline at McLaren.. reminds me of what we saw happen at Williams late 90s onwards.


Where is your evidence for making wild assertions about McLaren's chassis? I don't understand your reason for sniping because when the PU is heavily down on horse power as was the case last year, the chassis is irrelevant.



Oh, yeah you're right! We never saw the last year McLaren's having major difficulties to go into corners. Nah, that was just my glasses that need to be replaced 🙂


I disagree, the chassis and aero seemed to be the bits holding it all together, as shown on twisty parts of circuits. I'm hopeful for McLaren, obviously they have made a step forward with both the car and the power unit.


Fascinating, as always.

I see Manor's fastest lap on the ultrasoft was three and a half tenths faster than Haas' fastest lap on the soft. So, assuming the former is too soft to stay together for the whole lap, who's faster?


I've never been this indifferent to start of F1 season.

I need to cheer up somehow. Ideas?


Sebee - this may cheer you up - imagine a field of these, but powered by 900 hp 18,000 rpm V-10's



Hi Seebee,

Maybe watching some Monster Truck racing will cheer you up.

But then you might start thinking, if only F1 marketed itself like this: make heroes of the drivers, get kids so involved they beg dad to take them to a race.. Loud loud noise (no hybrids here) , big, wide tyres!

Second thought, maybe this wasn't such a good idea.




Seber, if youre looking for something to cheer you up, watch the opening round of Aussie V8 Supercars. There was some incredible racing action, especially in Race 2 with JC and JW pushing all the way to the limit and past it for the entire race. I was shaking with excitement at the finish of that race, unreal stuff!! The Super Pole for race 3 was great stuff too 🙂




Post your musings on a different blog?


They already kicked me off "Ikea disassembly" blog after I mentioned F1 too often. I'm a man without hobby. A man without a home.




Sebee I suggest of box set of Ealing Comedies or

Download The Young Ones ????


Ps if that doesn't work I've heard positive scientific ????reviews of Lithium???? or ECT ????



need to cheer up...

You can choose to be happy or, as in your case, you can choose not too.

Personally I can't wait for the new season to begin 🙂


Sebee, by that logic if you drive anything other than a V10 or full electric then you are a hypocrite.



Mind boggling...

LOL - I guess your mind is boggled by different things to mine.




Of course. As I said, you're a master of keeping a foot in each camp. Mind boggling that you drive a naturally aspirated V8 and praise these PUs. That you crap on electric cars while being memorized by electrified efficiency of F1 passed off as V10 power. You truly represent the duality of man.


Watch Mad Max Fury Road...

And join in with the V8 V8 chant with the half life warriors?



There is so much about F1 that we all hate........ But I'm excited as ever. I bet I'm older than most of you - my heroes started with Stirling and have gone through many since with the really special ones being Gilles and NIgel. Now it has to be Jenson and Lewis for me. cheer up Sebee........you could be a Villa supporter.


Funny you say this. I think I may just be too closed minded to change. I admit it. Mel IS Max to me. I'm not even willing to see this reboot, because he's not in it. Fury Road just reminded me that I needed to get the trilogy on BE. When Mad Max came out I watched the original like I never saw it before. Amazing they shot it like that. It really is a master piece...the original.


I get disillusioned with F1 sometimes too. I go over to Darren Heath's F1 photography site, and it reminds me why I fell in love with it in the first place. No matter what's happening in the sport, there's still something romantic about heat coming off the tires, views of the garage, etc. 🙂 Hope it helps you too.


Oh... The tea tray


Do you find you look at classic photos more than recent ones? I see a penis nose, and it makes me laugh.


I'm with you there - I'm not sure I can even be bothered watching the Aus GP and a couple of short years ago would have been unthinkable.


You might be, but I don't watch NASCAR 😉

It's not F1 itself that is bothering me or putting me off, it's the fact that I'd effectively be watching one race a month (less over the summer AKA winter break) and it just doesn't seem worth the time. I used to count down to each race (even the dodgy ones), but now it's basically out of sight out of mind.

Honestly, as far as I'm concerned visiting this site is the best thing about F1 at the moment, otherwise I wouldn't bother with it at all.


Maybe it's not F1 at all. Maybe how we feel is our fault? I wonder if I'm investing too much care into a bunch of cars going in circles.


Will a Vettel win in Melbounre cheer you up?


Sebee, so 17 yr old = bad, 19 yr old = good?


Sebee, why would I feel different about them? Just because Mercedes were the faster car before 2 of the 3 races, doesn't mean they automatically win each race. Things happen, with Safety Cars, race starts, etc., that lead to wins for a challenging team. I don't spot a conspiracy behind every upset.


KRB, you have the benefit of hindsight now. Why don't you go back and watch those 3 Vettel wins last year and tell me how you feel about it afterwards after you see them again.


It would do me. And I don't particularly like Seb, or Ferrari (anymore).

I would get a big laugh if Manor is faster than Haas, too.


Sebee would consider it a thrown win from Mercedes, to enliven the show.


Nice try


Naah....I lost the joy. Honestly, I'm trying to find it, but I think I'm at an age where I am unable to idolize these guys anymore or what they do. What they did used to impress me, because it was impressive. But the vail has been taken off. Max ruined it for me. It was a mistake to let a kid in, but these toy cars allowed it and this youth fetish F1 seems to have didn't think of the consequences. Hybrids ruined it for me. It was a mistake to harvest F1 braking forces and try to pass it off as engine efficiency. It was a mistake to try and make F1 efficient. Now it's not just a hangover. These V6s...with their trumpets are here for good. It's all changed. I know I sound like some grumpy old man, but I can't believe any young male wants this hybrid formula over what we had just a few years ago.


Well that depends on money Sebee & how much you have! The best distraction I can think of for this time of year is Snowbaording in the Hokkaido mountains of Japan. That will take your mind off F1 ????????


Keep it quiet Luke! Otherwise it'll get crowded and exi...


Come to Colorado!


So you're saying it's time to do something else? I think you're spot on Luke.


I feel pretty indifferent too, you don't need to cheer up, F1 needs to "man up", all this contrived tinkering is like plastic surgery, the people who have too much just look increasingly silly. FOM need to tear up the current daft rules and start again from scratch with something simpler and that has real racing and a bit of freedom for innovation like in the 70's and80's. We can't go backwards so we need to start afresh otherwise i feel F1 could be in it's twilight.


As Donatella Versace has shown us, once the damage is done it's not like you can click undo. I'm not sure F1 can man up and come back from this. It's like a band that sells out, once they sell out you can't go back to a stance of moral authority and claim you won't sell out....again. F1 is a follower now, it's a "me too" series. It followed with this V6 hybrid crap, and it will not change until big displacement comes back into style. Hey Steve, remind me again what's powering Audi's flagship for 2017? Not only does Audi show a giant middle finger to F1 at every request, it does it while driving by with a V10 - so cool.


Yes, I got pay tv last year just for f1 as fta coverage here was virtually non existent.

Im not into fiction so got the sport and documentary packages. Now I'm reconsidering if 600 a year is worth it for F1 MotoGP and documentaries about Hitler.

At least I'm on streaming only which doesn't have a contract so i can cancel anytime.

Hope Vale puts in a good performance this year , that should sway it for me.


Oh and lets get rid of pay TV, people only have a certain amount of cash to spend and they clearly do not think F1,at least in it's present form, is worth paying for.


Melbourne podium will be different this year...Schwarzenegger won't be on it.


The terminator who does not terminate is called 'subverting the form'. F1 does some of that too such as cars that are driven for ecomomy not outright performance.


C63, no, no I did not see any Terminators after the 2nd one - and I have regrets watching it. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. I mean, a Terminator that's told not to terminate - they're not getting any more of my time or money after that. It can't be just me who's sick of this fakeness everywhere. This artificial flavour, now with vitamin D added. There was no confusion about the first Terminator, was there? Suddenly he is not terminating and speaking cool Spanish phrases - as lame as hybrid POOs.



He’ll be back...

I like Armie too, but have you seen his latest incarnation as the Terminator? Bit of a struggle in all honesty - he should have quit after the 2nd one.


I like Arnold. He'll be back.



You realize that most of us (you included) were MADE to race and to watch races, right?

So, in this case the verb 'have' applies just fine. 🙂


@James Clayton

LOL Wut ? You said it was horrific and yet you chose to repeat the ordeal. That makes no sense to me. You may have had to remain sober but you didn't have to watch the races - did you? If you were made to watch the races that were so horrific then please accept my apologies.



I guess English is not your first language, in which case the misinformation can be understood.

To clarify I didn't *have* to watch the races in question. I chose to do so. I did *have" to remain sober for the duration of the races in question. And it *was* horrific.

I don't see why this is surprising that this is the case. I'm sure I'm not the first person on this planet to be embarrassed when sober about doing something that felt ok after a few...


@James Clayton

had to watch....

How so ? You didn't HAVE to do anything of the sort. You chose too - which is odd if, as you claim, you dislike it so much.


Watch the highlights show and keep the fast forward button handy.



Beer has been the only thing making F1 bareable since 2011. Due to work and travel commitments, I had to watch a few races without the assistance of alcohol last year. It was horrific.


Think about NIgel in '92



Close your eyes and think of Nigel!

Reminds me of the Xavier McDaniel cameo in the movie Singles.


Could be a monsoon season heading to Europe and Canada between the months of May and September...........

Remember Montreal 2011? Hungary 2006? Silverstone 2015? Nuburgring 2007?

Bring on the rain gods............


Ahahah! Monsoon FTW 😛


@ gaz boy...are you suggesting that there may be a sighting of a 'lorenz' butterfy in rio de janeiro and the effect in central park will cross the atlantic?


This song pump me up, makes me think of V10 F1.



Sounds like a close season in store, remember Barcelona traditionally hasn't been a Ferrari favourite. The battles throughout the field are what makes F1 so endlessly fascinating for me.


Hot; Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Torro Rosso, Force India, and Manor.

Not, Williams, McLaren, Sauber, Renault and Haas.


Great analysis! Thanks for this post.

It does seem like Ferrari has closed the gap significantly, and the gap is close enough for us to enjoy some very good racing this season. Also, it seems like Kimi is much more comfortable with this year's Ferrari (probably the push rod suspension has a lot to do with it). If that is indeed the case, we may just have a 4 way battle for the WDC (at least in the first part of the season).


Mercedes have not shown their hand or turned the dial up on their engines. This is a false prophecy, but I am hoping horse a tussle just hope it involves Williams too. Wouldn't want one Ferrari to be the only competition on the slower tracks. The Speed tracks will be Mercedes engine tracks.


You're right they really do need a fight on the fast tracks. Monza was boring as Lewis had the new Merc PU, Rosbergs blew so had the old workd PU and Williams had the customer PU. Big power gap between cars even more emphasised due to the track.

Trouble could be that:

Lewis controls his engine boost dial

Nico controls his engine dial

Toto controls Bottas and Massas 'boost'


BK Farmer, while I understand that this is still testing and hence you are thinking Mercedes is sandbagging, but Ferrari could be sandbagging as well. We just don't know by how much the teams are sandbagging by. None of the teams will show their true hand, unless, they do couple of glory runs for sponsorship. I hope Williams are in the tussle as well, but, as the analysis show it's more likely that Williams will be fighting with RBR, TR, and FI in the midfield. If you are optimistic about Mclaren-Honda they might be there too.. but less likely. Don't forget we could have a tussle between Sauber, Haas and Manor as well.

Overall, it does seem like the competition have bunched up a bit more than in 2015, which is something I'm definitely looking forward too.


James, is there a feeling that Merc were running on full pace on their long runs? Or is there a feeling that they were perhaps sandbagging? Could Ferrari have been sandbagging a little as well?


I can tell for certain that I was sandbagging.



Great one!

BTW, Williams did a race sim with Massa on Day 3 in Test 1, do you have the data? Maybe they also did one with Bottas in Test 2,


2016 is shaping out to be a vintage year with the teams so close to each other in terms of pace

Yes 3 tenths gap is a gap a driver can make up through skill in qualifying because track position is everything as aerodynamics renders better race pace unusable unless of course a driver makes one less pit stop.

As for the Williams/Red Bull/Force India/Torro Rosso upper midfield battle, it seems the Mercedes customers will have a better chance as Red Bull/Torro Rosso engines need updates.

Thanks to their drivers skills, Mclaren are looking good to beat their near competitors however with Mclaren, reliability is always a worry.


We'll have one lead car without any fight. Close fight in the mid field and tail this year


@ Sasidharan

Yes all will be revealed in Melbourne


Thank you, guys - great analysis!

One team surprises me - McLaren. On one hand they said that are targeting 2,5 sec improvement and Eric said a couple of times that the data from the track collelates with windtinnel. Which would mean, they are content with 1 sec progress? Sounds weird. I was seriously taking their promise on 2,5 sec, but 1 is as good as nothing considering how bad they were.


May be they got 1.7 improvement however other teams (Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams) had a jump of .7 sec may be more that is why it looks ordinary. Nice to see that at least Fernando and Button have something to fight.


Sure,against Sauber most definitely!I am sick of Eric B!


Worth bearing in mind that Alonso did a lap on Soft tyres only 2 hundredths slower than Button's Ultra Soft lap time, so the estimate in the article based on that Ultra Soft run could be an underestimate.

On Day 1 of the 2nd test Alonso and Rosberg both did soft tyre qualifying simulations, and Alonso was only 2.06% off the pace (1.713 seconds). Being that far off the pace at Spain last year would've put him 8th on the grid. Last year at Spain he was 3.64% off the pole lap, and across the whole season McLaren were off by an average (median) of 2.94%.

That still looks like they've made a step forward of 1-1.5% relative to Mercedes, which is a lot (more than anyone managed heading into 2015), but if they were targeting 2.5 seconds then what essentially translates to 1-1.5 seconds of gain in reality is clearly below their targets.


Another long run analysis has now convinced me that McLaren still aren't that competitive.


The team hierarchy found by that article is very similar to the one James finds. Ferrari 2-5 tenths behind Mercedes. Williams, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Force India are all 1-1.5 seconds off Mercedes, giving us a very tightly packed midfield battle. Renault are just about within touching distance of the midfielders, whilst McLaren and Sauber are over 2 seconds off Mercedes and someway off the midfielders. Manor and Haas did insufficient long runs for any real conclusion to be drawn, but the author agrees with an analysis of single lap runs by Andrew Benson that places Haas and Manor within a second of McLaren and Sauber.

McLaren are closer than last year, but with the midfielders ahead of them being so tightly bunched they end up in a similar position to last year anyway.


Testing is notoriously misleading. Lets wait for second and third practice in two weeks time then we can have a better picture of how 2016 will shape up.


Dear James

If Ferrari start leading the championship please can we have daily articles about how sad Fernando Alfonso is?


Will not happen. Mercedes is still far too superior. Perhaps in 2020 they will be caught?


Even if they don't win, we will always enjoy stuff about what a nice happy place Ferrari suddenly became, how the Honda PU will never catch up and speculation about sulky sabbaticals.

Comparisons with teammates without your manager running the team for you are also a lot of fun, best of luck to JB, again !


Oh, if the PU of the Ferrari does fail, young Max could get his first podium if he is in the right place at the right time.

Shame they won't get any upgrades for their 15 spec engine; they will suffer come the second half of the season.


I am sorry to say but Ferrari won't be leading the Championship anytime soon. They are not admitting it, but there are problems with their new PU. Expect some PU failures from them and their customers during the flyaway races.

Torchwood Five

Leading the championship is nothing to Fernando.

He led it at Ferrari several times.

If Vettel gets the title, then Fernando might be sad, but five years of broken promises, I'd have left the Maranello squad too.


Excellent reply James????


James, whats the relative improvement in Kimi's lap times wrt 2015? Pascal seems to be pretty solid. Can we get a driver-centric article please. It's gonna be the dream come true for fans ( and their wars)


Pretty please James........



Interesting to see the performance of Red Bull, especially comparing to Toro Rosso and Renault. Red Bull and Renault have the same engine, so Red Bull's chassis seems even better than the Renault's than I imagined.

Toro Rosso have the Ferrari engine of 2015, yet Red Bull seems to be matching them - again surprising, I didn't expect Red Bull's chassis to be that much better than Toro Rossi's. (This is keeping in mind that claimed 0.8s gsin that Toro Rosso have from the Ferrari engine).

Force India seem to have made a good step forward too.


did anyone celebrate the fact that adrien newey won the boat race?


That is to be expected, you have the great Adrian Newey in charge of that department. But that TR chassis isn't bad at all.

Shame it will be held back by the PU in the second half of the season due to the lack

of upgrade in that area.

Renault and Red Bull are developing their engines independently, so whatever gain or not from Renault does not translate to Red Bull and vice versa.

It will be interesting what Red Bull can do with that engine. I can see TR doing better than RB in the first half of the season.


And Red Bull does get upgrades from Renault this season.


Red Bull is one of the 3, together with Mercedes and Ferrari.


@ Cee

The top 3 teams have invested £30 - 40 million in building what is termed as a "Full Car Dyno". Instead of just dyno-ing the engine, or just number crunching from their super computer with the data, they actually run the car as though they were on the track on the Full Car Dyno with the gear box, PU, and the chassis all reaction to loads put into it (from the data gather before). Like a simulator except with the real parts (PU and chassis) on a dyno.

I don't know ! Is that development ?!


I'm pretty sure Newey over sees the development of the chassis and isn't as hands on as he used to be is terms of design I think he's got more of a mentoring role.

In regards to the PU, both Renault and RB have the same spec so its impossible for RB to develop it independently according to the regs.

James Key has worked wonders for TR and would do wonders if they had the same budget as RB.

Can't wait to find out the pecking order at Melbourne.


Red Bull is developing their engine independently ? That's interesting.

I thought Renault has brought in Ilmor to help out this year, and they'll work on the engines and provide the same thing to the factory team and Red Bull.

Yeah, shame about Toro Rosso though, only progress on the chassis possible for them. Hope they maximise their potential in the first half.


I can't shake the feeling that Mercedes were holding more back than Ferrari. I suspect Mercedes may have been running on a lower engine mode, and when they turn it up, and produce a positive set up they will be further ahead than is currently evident.


Yep, there was a few occasions in testing when Mercedes did comfortably purple sectors in 1 & 2, only to "mysteriously" come through Sector 3 without even a PB by the driver let alone a purple, or they'd go into the pits.

Definitely some serious sandbagging going on there.


Yep they'll be on full beans come Australia & all this pontificating will be out the window especially when they turn up the wick on their engines.


I think they were just concentrating on race pace and reliability. I'm expecting them to lean towards the harder tyres in their choices for the race. I think Ferrari saw their weakness more in qualifying and have concentrated more on short term pace and the softer tyres.


I think so too. Their primary concern was clearly to make sure the car was bulletproof from a reliability point of view - they seem very comfortable that the pace will be there when it is needed.

Still, should be a good season. The Ferrari challenge will at least will make it interesting. But you sense it may be their last chance to get things right before the next rule changes, where they always traditionally fall behind.


It may be a cliche, but the Formula 1 season doesn't really begin until May with the start of the Euro-Canadian summer season when developments come in thick and fast.

Good to start off on a winning note, but no point in being fast in Melbourne if slow in Montreal!


When has that ever happened?



@ gaz boy...it is a cliche. there is a very good point in being fast in melbourne. it means points on the board and they are always the prime objective. why would there be any link to montreal? doesn't make any sense whatsoever. why would be, being fast in melbourne have anything to do with any following race? performances are, to a large extent, irrelevant to track specifics. ergo mercedes winning 32 races out of 38 over two seasons!!!! they are dominating everywhere.


Here is my prediction for the title.

Lewis 1st, Sebastian 2nd, Nicko 3rd, Ricardo or Valteri 4th.

Mercedes is still just to fast to make it a true competition. Moto GP now that is a real sport.



Whinch team do you think will win motogp 2016?

A Sasuki or maybe a Ducati..... (Insert alternative to Honda or Yamaha).

Double standards or what?





But I'm really looking forward to Melbourne. Were I a betting man (or lived in Las Vegas or Atlantic City), I'd put down on a shock podium - as in Massa, Vettel, Verstappen, in that order. I think Manor and Haas will both get points, just beating out the McLarens - yet another shock.

I think the "back of the grid" (Manor and Haas) present McLaren the problem of a faster than expected moving target from last year and an unexpectedly fast new competitor. I expect McLaren to get ahead over the season, but they are going to have to work harder for that than they may expect.

Sauber, McLaren, Manor, Haas, in that order, for the bottom spots in the WCC.


That's inconsistent-- if Mercedes is too fast to make it a competition, surely Rosberg will be second again?


Linear reasoning that no longer holds. Webber would not be faster than Rosberg today; wouldn't have been for the last 4 years.


My feeling is that this is the last real chance for Nico. Ferrari have pretty much caught up with Merc. and should be as fast as Merc by the European leg. With Seb and Nico in an equal car you have to favor Seb.

Hamilton has 3, like his hero, will he have the hunger for another, or will living the life distract him enough for Nico to pull of the crime of the century? Who knows, but i have to disagree with the haters, this year is going to be interesting, and we have not even touched on the epic midfield battle about to ensue.



My reasoning is based on:

Mark W was about .2s quicker than Rosberg when they were teammates at Williams and Sebastian was about the same again over Mark. So Sebastian just might overcome the car deficit and beat Nicko.


Moto GP is already a 2 tier series, full of conspiracies and frustrating conflicts between Marquez and Rossi, the champion didn't get the credit he deserves, it's a shambles.


Be great to see Casey Stoner race of a Ducati though. Should be very interesting if it's competitive.


Nico's year... Then the rest. Great analysis, lot of work put to readers' delight. Thanks


Thanks for the analysis James (and Dominic) , very interesting.

Red bull are looking good if they can get that precision swiss engineering in there rear end going.

Should be an interesting mid field battle at the start of the year , lets see who can step up mid season.


* Their


i seriously doubt that anything has really changed. mercedes will dominate, ferrari may well take a few wins simply out of 'opportunistic moves coupled with track specific strengths' and third place will be a close fought battle between any of four teams, RB, williams, force india and TR. that's about it for me.


Correction Raikkonen did a 1.23.009 on Softs not 1.23.099- (I think this was Rosbergs best). Will be an interesting season. James was it the fact that Barcelona is not suitable for the softer compunds that Mercedes avoided them & can they predict their performance & degradation without actually running them?.

The fact Ferrari were very quick over one lap and equally impressive over 25 (KR)- suggest they will be closer. Yes I think Mercedes will come to Melb & go one sec faster but I think most teams will find a bit more too.

If allowed by Ferrari I'm very certain Raikkonen can challenge for the title this year. Wild horses wont hold him back this year.- Will he get a fair go is the question.


Why not?

Carlos Marques

F1 is a simple game. 18 cars chase each other for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win - Gary Lineker, maybe


James, thank you for the analysis.

If Mercedes is faster than Ferrari by say 0.3s, come qualifying they will most often if not all the time start ahead.

Mercedes I.e Hamilton did a best of 1:27.2 in race simulation whilst Vetel did a 1:28.3 with mediums within the same number of laps (19) that's a full 1second diff.

Now, add these to their reliability and the picture is clear.

My take is; Mercedes are have a margin enough to win the championship comfortably. Nonetheless let's wait for qualifying in Melbourne.


Talking Paint, the Red Bull looks very agressive with that matt finish. Going that start calling it the "Teflon" Bull. DOes the new paint really make a performance difference, or is it really just for marketing and doesn't have a negative effect? If it does help, I think Teflon Bull would really stick (lol pun intended). 🙂


James, next time you're chewing the fat with BE, how about suggesting Phillip Island for a test next year say a week before the Australian GP? Would be a fantastic build up and testing at that track would be simply awesome. I'd travel from QLD to see that!


Test a track they have no data on, and which they cant use they data from on any other car? No point...


They did test at Maranello in 2013 which was also useless if only thinking of data, but everyone seemed to love it. And it's owned by Ferrari and does not host a GP.

Also Phillip Island would be, like all the useless(data wise)demonstrations put on throughout the world every year, a publicity event that many a fan would love to see.

It's also part of my sinister plan for when I take over the world, that I will demand an F1 GP here, or a ransom of....one million dollars! ???? (That was for the Austin Powers fans!)


Claire williams said that they voted for the new quali system as the fans wanted more excitement? what a dumb suggestion. have you ever seen/heard or read any fans demanding that quali be changed to these farcical proportions?


Think about her point of view they have one lap pace so if there would be a mess from Mercedes side they might get the pole position and 2015 shows that its very hard to follow Williams. Ever one for Himself/Herself 😀


@ neo_manoj she claims to have voted for it because the fans want more excitement!!! [Mod]. what happens if wiliams make a 'mess' then they would finish up worse off as well. let's also be realistic here. there is more chance of williams messing up that there is of mercedes!!


Claire doesn't know what she is talking about. Or she can't listen to the drivers and fans and comprehend concurrently. Another out of touch insider symptomizing the problem with the current F1 show.


@ luqa.....agree. surely it's not that hard for people to come to the same conclusions as most of the fans and followers? i must say though that i am heartened by the increased voice of the GPDA members and their wilingness to go public. for too long the sanitisation and rigidly imposed censorship of driver comment has been the order of the day. i want to hear their opinions....


It's great to see all the cars back on track,apart from the Ferrari that looked briefly like a flip flop with Kimi 's head inside it.

Mclaren Honda engine sounds so different to the others,so maybe they could get it right later this year and really turn it around.

Anyone know why it sounds so different?


James,you made no mention of Ferrari's secret weapon which they term "dieselotto."They are bragging its in their fuel system,that makes them gain 200 bhp.What do you make of that?


I think you either mis-read something or some journalist wrote something not understanding what Ferrari engine dept said... they are working on very high compression and injections pressures... but everyone else does... that implies that the fuel they are using (and everyone else) is not really a gasoline but closer to a diesel engine allowing them to work on higher air to fuel ratios getting more horse power per liter... it is all maximizing KJ per liter. Binotto said they are working on 200 bars of pressure in the chamber not as an increase of HP (I wish would be that easier).


Dieselotto is a road car technology. By varying the compression ratio using a Lancaster shaft to increase fuel economy.

In low/ medium demand, the CR is increased so do away with a spark plug to ignite the fuel (like a diesel). But in High demand situation,

it is reverted back to normal petrol engine senorio.

It is unlikely this will make it into their racing PU.


It is actually developed by Mercedes-Benz. It has never made it to production, and was installed in Mercedes-Benz F700 concept car in 2007.


which road car has such an engine?


Sounds interesting , but hard to manage. You would think they would need some control of combustion pressure to achieve this.

I can see the comments now when all the PU's start sounding like trucks :).


One thing intrigues me though, if they are using this technology in their PU in increasing the pressure of the Combustion Chamber to 300 bars to achieve a diesel like ignition of the fuel before the spark plugs fire. Why do they need the spark plug anyway ??!!

If the fuel is ignited ... it is IGNITED. Why do they need to further "ignite" by firing the spark plug ??!!

James, we seek your insights.



@ templar

Thanks for this interesting info. I must admit that I missed it. Cheers.


Sergio M is praying really really hard that there are no Hail Marys this season too.Actually,the whole of Italy are being held to ransom as to the real pace of the Silver Arrows.


Trying to read into the test lap times is a bit of a mug's game to be honest. The money talks much louder than the "thinking out loud":

Ham 4/7

Ros 11/4

Vet 4/1

Rai 40/1

Hilarious that the market says that a Raikkonen WDC is about 1/10th as likely to happen as a Vettel WDC.


Personally, I think the odds should be 1,000,000/1. Not saying Raikkonen does not have the ability, I am sure he is more than capable give the right circumstances. But this is not how Ferrari run their operation. They have a clear No. 1 driver, unfortunately he is not Raikkonen.

Let's say Mercedes has a abysmal season and Ferrari has a chance of clinching the WDC, guess who they will be backing to achieve this (Vettel, of course).

Bearing this in mind, putting money on Raikkonen is like throwing money into the ocean. Not a good move.


F1observer, remember Salo had to move over for him in Germany despite clearly being the quickest driver! The point is Irv the swerve still didn't win the championship in 99, despite the full weight of Ferrari being behind him, including having Michael as a wing man on his return.


F1Observer, 1999 really?!? Irvine was made the #1 after Schumacher broke his leg at Silverstone that year.

If Irvine had Schumacher's point total before his crash, and his own points after, then he would have been champion.


Take a look back in time at 1999. Irvine almost won the title. Did You watch Malaysia? Even Schumacher had to move over for him, despite being clearly the faster driver.


Why is that hilarious? He beat him last year so the numbers make sense.


"McLaren and Manor are also interesting to compare. McLaren’s best lap of the 2016 test was 1m24.714s on ultra soft. If you add on 2 seconds for the performance delta ultra soft to medium (used for qualifying at the 2015 Grand Prix), the car is one second faster."

They did indeed do that time on ultra softs. but they also did 1m24.735 on softs on day one of the second test. This, surely, is their fastest lap with tyre adjustment and paints a very different picture to the one you suggest. Or was that lap not done on softs?


Very much douted Manor will be fighting with McLaren. They have a good PU, but the chassis is lacking. Not to mention the drivers line up.

2 World Champions vs 2 Rookies. What do you think ?


Apologies, this was already noted above, I missed that comment.

It looks to me like on this form they are a top ten team. Given the engine updates to come in Australia and the likelihood that they did not push the aggressive qualfying mode that the PU now has (to add 30-40 HP for a short time), I think that top ten qualifying position will be cemented.


have pirelli made all the tyres a step harder this year or raised the tyre pressures alot. i find it hard to believe that merc only went 0.5 quicker than last years pole (both on mediums) especialy after 10 months development(and using pu tokens in winter). ferrari did 1.23.3 last year on softs and they did similar times this year(testing only). there might loads more factors involved but i think cars are slowed by this years tyres to some extent at least in one lap pace.


Read the article again. It's clear it's more likely over a second.


It has been mentioned elsewhere the tire pressures have been increased by about 2psi, slowing the cars down because there is now less tire surface on the road.


This season is going to be epic!

I've already put it out there to bet on Rosberg a few weeks ago. Kimi could be another good bet.

Lets see how the fair after the 1st qualifying session though.....,,

This year the history books will be re-written..... Well I'm looking forward anyway.


"I’ve already put it out there to bet on Rosberg a few weeks ago"

I hope you are not a financial advisor!


Yes!. Kimi has to make it count and dominate in the first 2 races though. He has both 1lap and & long run pace in this car- otherwise Ferrari will pull him back & his season will be over by Bahrain. This Ferrari is special for Kimi - mark my words he was instantly fast on every compound - maybe they're preparing for the new Quali


that's right kimi (and nico ) are in the same position as mark webber a few years ago they need to strike first and hard in the first few races to have any chance .


I certainly feel a lack of enthusiasm for more of the same.

It also depresses me to see that it continues to be all about the cars (performance) and not about the drivers anymore. You couldn't accuse any one of the drivers as being 'interesting'. Except in a Steve Davis sort of way.

This continuous tinkering with the rules without any benefit to the racing, the oversensitive stewards, the Tilke circuits and fuel flow metering and DRS have all combined to remove the spectacle from F1. It's been neutered.

I remember when F1 pilots were compared to fighter pilots, now they're more like Uber drivers! Or IT experts. I know this is what a modern day F1 driver has to be, but it hasn't brought anything to sport.

The whole shebang is too too technical (and too reliable) leaving me with the continuing impression that a 17 yr. old can jump from a lesser formula and be successful from day one. Oh! Hang on....

Despite all of that I will still be there at 5:00am optimistic as ever. What I won't do these days is pay to go to a live Grand Prix. No sir, not until racing becomes the be all and end all, and tiptoeing around your team mate and the sponsors is consigned to history.

Ahhh, that feels better 😉


No don't hold back...

Just be clear and tell us what you really think!



Interesting analysis. Agree with most people that I'm not feeling inspired about 2016, thinking it'll be more of the same of what we saw in 2015. But for me there are always stories to be found, and I think the new tyre rules does have the potential to put a cat among pigeons. A bit like in the early 1990s when Pirelli-shod Tyrrells and Benettons would occasionally upset Goodyear-shod title challengers. Maybe Red Bull can do the same in 2016?


If Hamilton chokes this year he will instantly be rated below Vettel - probably forever.



Cos he always chokes of course, and lacks motivation, drove badly at the of last year while partying and as for all those mistakes he makes in the races that result in him losing the lead or falling off the track...

Hold on - of course, your talking about his team mate... 🙂

As for SV - you keep telling yourself that.

While the rest of us look forward to some races.


I remember Hamilton choked at the end of 2007, again in 2008 he choked, but go help from a slowing Toyota on the final lap. he choked in 2010 in sight of the title again, remember the spin in Monza and other late season errors. if the season is close, he is susceptible to chokes, but last 2 years it has only been about beating his teammate.


Clarkie, do we know it's a rocket ship yet? No.

Lewis ever blow a lead on the last lap?

You're hoping hard that Hamilton fails. Wouldn't it be better to hope instead that another driver succeeds?


@ clarkie...very well stated. i do agree.


Maybe you just started watching F1.... Among the top drivers, Hamilton holds the crown of choking...

If anyone is capable of it, it's him, and if he doesnt win the WDC in the W07 spaceship, we will have a new definition of fail.


Despite the negativity I honestly feel 2016 will be a good year.

Engine sounds louder and cars are faster. Let's stop this slugfest and enjoy else we'll be grumpy farts.


not much faster, and not much louder - visually and audibly not better. the thing that will save it is if Ferrari can compete with Mercedes


JohnBT, Exactly! Too many moaners on this site, nice to hear some positivity for a change.


James, from the tests, is it possible to determine without a doubt whether Pirelli has managed to engineer a tyre performance “cliff” because this would somewhat spice up races given teams have a choice in choosing 10 sets of tyres especially for those who would want an aggressive strategy as opposed to a conservative one.

Please, also clarify why teams who get into Q3 must return the super soft tyres used after qualifying. This was based on the older qualifying format, not sure whether its changed.

carlos marques

Something I've been wondering. Why would a team like Mercedes or Ferrari hide their true pace until the very first race of the year? There's absolutely nothing anyone can do at this stage.

In fact, if I was Mercedes, I would unleash the cars in full-time-attack-qualify-mode on the last few days of testing to completely demoralize (and destabilize) the other teams.


Can you show us the lap charts for the same type tires, ie a lap chart for mediums for all teams, a hard compound results, soft compound results, etc. This way you can at least can some base line of comparison. There many other variables but tire compound is one of the largest.

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