The new Mercedes has widened its gap over Ferrari
Innovative Mercedes still out in front
- Pecking order similar to 2015 – Kvyat
- Arai exit was 'long-term plan' – Boullier
- Boss Key denies Toro Rosso testing 2015 car
- Renault not ruling out 'B' car in 2016
- 'Driver of the day' initiative pointless – Hamilton
- Mallya gets $75m, F1 sponsor deal, in company split
- Pirelli Tasked With Making Faster '17 F1 Tire
- Halo design not finalized
- McLaren insists it is 'ahead of last year'
- Williams frustrated by end to first test
|Ex-Ferrari designer during the Schumacher era, Aldo Costa, has made Mercedes unbeatable for the third year running just as AR1.com predicted would happen. F1 is 0.01% driver and 99.9% car. Now the only thing left for 2016 is to see if Mercedes has decided Nico Rosberg will be champion this year, also as AR1.com predicted.|
Innovative Mercedes still out in front
(GMM) Sergio Marchionne remains determined to see Ferrari win its first world championship in nearly a decade.
"We will work tirelessly to bring the championship back to Ferrari," the Maranello marque's president wrote in a letter to shareholders, "investing where necessary.
"The Ferrari racing heritage is not only the key to innovation in our road cars," Marchionne added, "it is critical to the value of our brand."
As the letter was being read, Ferrari's new red and white car was being driven to the top of the timesheets in Barcelona by Kimi Raikkonen, as the pre-season reached its mid-way point.
But that doesn't mean Ferrari's title dream is definitely on track.
"Quite certainly, Mercedes will again be the team to beat," Force India's Nico Hulkenberg said on Thursday as the first of just two four-day tests ended.
Indeed, the car that is stunning onlookers and rivals alike in Spain has been the new silver one.
Not only has the reliability – in Lewis Hamilton's words – been "incredible", the W07 is also truly innovative.
During the week, Mad Max-style bargeboards, and a new nose dubbed 'Bruce' due to its resemblance to the shark in the movie Finding Nemo, have appeared.
And yet, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are yet to even try Pirelli's new 'ultra soft' tires.
"My impression is that other teams have already laid their cards on the table," said Rosberg. "We still have our aces up our sleeves, but I am sure that we will be very fast."
No one disagrees.
"Mercedes is still in front," Ferrari insider Leo Turrini wrote on his blog. "If you take Hamilton and Rosberg's times on the medium (tire) and do a quick calculation for the ultra-soft, the situation is clear."
|Daniil Kvyat says Mercedes may have widened their gap over everyone else.|
Pecking order similar to 2015 – Kvyat
(GMM) After a full winter, and with a field full of new cars, it appears little has changed about the pecking order in F1.
"I have the impression that, over the winter, the order has not really changed," said Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat as the first half of pre-season testing ended in Barcelona.
In fact, if anything, Mercedes might even have pushed its advantage out even more, with Williams chief Pat Symonds describing the silver team's reliability in initial testing as nothing short of "amazing".
Kimi Raikkonen, however, is part of the Ferrari team that has pushed hard to produce a Mercedes-beater for 2016.
Surely, the first week of 2016 running has the red camp worried.
"Why should it worry me?" the unflappable Finn wondered.
"We are interested in what we are doing, not the others. Of course I would like to have done more laps but that is just testing."
Mercedes' pre-season, however, has gone so well so far that Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have been on duty in Barcelona all week, to share the unprecedented amount of testing laps that are being accrued.
"They're having a laugh," an insider working for a rival team said on Thursday.
For F1 – as it tries to spice things up by tweaking the qualifying format for 2016 – there is a risk that an increase in Mercedes' domination will utterly turn off the fans.
"Boredom has nothing to do with it," F1 legend Alain Prost told Welt newspaper.
"Each team, each manufacturer starts from the same position — Mercedes has just done the best job, it's as simple as that," he said. "It's always been the same in formula one.
"If someone adapts to new regulations better than everyone else, that doesn't mean you start to question everything. You just have to work hard to close the gap," said Prost.
That gap between Mercedes and the rest, however, appears to still be there for 2016.
But Williams' Felipe Massa says the season should still be exciting.
"Taking Mercedes and Ferrari out, there will be a very big fight," he told Brazil's Globo, "and I put ourselves in this fight with Red Bull and Force India."
And there will be other interesting elements to 2016: whether McLaren-Honda can make progress, the newly Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso, and the impressive new Ferrari 'B' team Haas.
"I must say that Haas is a surprise," Williams' Valtteri Bottas told Finland's MTV, referring to the early pace of the Gene Haas-founded American outfit.
Newly Mercedes-powered Manor has also been impressive in Pascal Wehrlein's hands, even if his Indonesian-funded teammate Rio Haryanto has made notable errors.
And Haryanto's pace is so far from Wehrlein's that Bild, a major German daily, concluded the Barcelona test wondering if the 23-year-old is in fact from 'Blind-onesia'.
|It was planned long ago that if Honda produced another inferior F1 engine Arai would be axed|
Arai exit was 'long-term plan' – Boullier
(GMM) The departure from Honda's F1 project of Yasuhisa Arai had tongues wagging in the Barcelona paddock this week.
Rumors have been swirling that McLaren chiefs Eric Boullier and Ron Dennis pressed for his departure, but the official version is that he is simply set to 'retire'.
"Arai-san's 60th birthday and Honda's pension policy is that when you turn 60, you retire," Boullier is quoted by Finland's MTV.
"It was a long-term plan that he would retire," the Frenchman insisted.
That statement, however, surprised some, with one paddock observer admitting: "Arai is really 60?"
And Honda's apparent 'long-term plan' also appeared not to square with comments made by Arai's successor, Yusuke Hasegawa, as he said: "I did not expect that I would be joining the team.
"Last year I followed the F1 project by watching the races on TV."
After a promising start, McLaren-Honda had a woeful day as the first Barcelona test ended on Thursday, with Fernando Alonso "disappointed" to do just 3 laps.
But the Anglo-Japanese collaboration will return to action on Friday and Saturday, having booked the Circuit de Catalunya for exclusive 'filming' runs.
|Key denies Toro Rosso's car used this week was really a 2015|
Boss Key denies Toro Rosso testing 2015 car
(GMM) James Key on Thursday clarified reports that Toro Rosso did not take its 2016 car to the first Barcelona test.
Carlos Sainz had been quoted as saying that, amid the Faenza team's rush to fit its new Ferrari engines for 2016, Toro Rosso had prepared an interim car built around the 2015 car.
The Spaniard suggested the "full" STR11 will then make its debut next week in race livery.
Technical boss Key, however, is quoted by the Spanish sports daily Marca as saying the all-blue single seater collecting laps this week "is definitely this year's car".
"There are two parts that are temporary, because the new ones will come for the next test," he added. "But they are the only two pieces from 2015 that are in this car."
Key admitted that the 2016 machine is very much based on last year's model.
"We were very happy with the chassis last year — it was a big step for us. So we wanted to keep everything that worked," he added.
But it seems that the 2016 Toro Rosso may actually be heavier, as compromises were made to accommodate the last-minute switch from Renault power.
It means Sainz, who spent some of the winter training with top triathlete Mario Mola, was asked to lose weight.
|New Renault won't be winning any races in 2016|
Renault not ruling out 'B' car in 2016
(GMM) Renault is not ruling out launching a new car later this year, team boss Frederic Vasseur has admitted.
The early promise of the newly-launched RS16 has been mixed, as the car is a hurriedly-compiled version of the one designed by Lotus last year for a Mercedes engine.
"The recovery of the Lotus project was done late," Vasseur admitted in an interview with France's L'Equipe, "and at our first meeting in Enstone, we set the first objective as being present at this test.
"We had to adapt the chassis for a Renault engine, which did not mean redoing everything from top to bottom, but not far from that," he explained.
It means that, for now at least, Renault is troubleshooting the 2016 car just so it runs respectably.
"We have no short-term goal," Vasseur revealed. "We're not going to say we want to finish seventh or eighth this year.
"But I also don't want us to take the easy route of saying 'We are in a transition year, we spend the year painting the office and we'll see you in 2017'.
"That would not be good psychologically," he insisted. "Enstone is a race team and we must keep that spirit of always getting the last hundredth.
"Are we going to introduce a more successful car during the season? First we will see where we are in Melbourne and then get an idea about what are the clear regulations for 2017.
"But even if we switch to 2017, I want to keep a total commitment to 2016," Vasseur added.
But he said it is reassuring to know that Renault has the full backing of its carmaker parent, who are willing to wait the necessary time for success.
"The advantage of having a medium-term project, which is quite rare in F1, is enormous. Carlos Ghosn has set us goals for three years and five years, which is a luxury," said Vasseur.
Also warning Renault that success may take some time is Fernando Alonso, who won his two titles for the French marque ten years ago but is now struggling to build up the new McLaren-Honda project.
"If Renault returns it is to win," he said, "but F1 these days takes a little time, money and also luck.
"It's like McLaren-Honda," Alonso added. "It's not just the name and the past that gives you success. But I'm glad they (Renault) are back."
|Hamilton in the superior Mercedes calls the driver of the day idea pointless. The Mercedes drivers will be on top every day given their car is superior|
'Driver of the day' initiative pointless – Hamilton
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton has launched another attack on the latest rule changes in formula one.
Earlier this week, the reigning triple world champion said moves to make the cars wider but also heavier in 2017 are "ridiculous".
And now, the Mercedes driver has ridiculed the decision to crown a 'Driver of the day' after each grand prix.
At Tuesday's meeting of the F1 Commission, it was decided that TV viewers would vote for the best driver during the telecast and then see him "presented with their prize" at the finish.
"Driver of the day doesn't sound good to me," Hamilton is quoted by the Sun newspaper.
"It sounds like a pointless exercise. I don't really have positive things to say about it."
He also hit out at the revamped 'musical chairs' format for qualifying, saying it would be "a waste of time" to stage a dressed rehearsal prior to Melbourne.
"I don't think it is going to make any difference," he said.
"I just don't think it's going to add to the spectacle for the fans, and that's really what we've got to do."
|Vijay Mallya always in the news for the wrong reaasons|
Mallya gets $75m, F1 sponsor deal, in company split
(GMM) Vijay Mallya, the Force India boss and co-owner, will receive $75 million to walk away from a company.
United Spirits, the flagship of the United Breweries company Mallya took over from his late father, will pay the 60-year-old US $75 million to exit after an acrimonious fight with Diageo.
Diageo, the alcohol multinational, had fought with Mallya since taking a controlling stake in United Spirits.
But Mallya will now receive EUR 40 million immediately and the rest in instalments, while Diageo has agreed to also extended Smirnoff's $15 million per season sponsorship of the Force India team for five more years.
"The time has now come for me to move on and end all the publicized allegations and uncertainties about my relationship with Diageo and United Spirits," Mallya said in a statement.
Force India's future in F1 has also been questioned recently due to problems with Subrata Roy, the jailed team co-owner and boss of title sponsor Sahara.
Mallya continued: "Having recently turned 60, I have decided to spend more time in England, closer to my children."
|The 2017 cars will be faster, and the tires will be a big part of that|
Pirelli Tasked With Making Faster '17 F1 Tire
Pirelli will be told to produce a tire "drivers can push to the limit" in '17 as Formula 1 bosses seek to "make the sport more exciting," according to Andrew Benson of the BBC.
The current tires "prevent drivers from racing flat out because they degrade quickly and need to be nursed."
Cars will be "as much as five seconds a lap faster" in '17.
Pirelli has already "indicated its willingness" to produce a racier tire next year but said that "it needs more track testing" to fulfill its work.
The FIA will instruct Pirelli to design a tire that will "allow drivers to push hard for longer."
Pirelli has been given preliminary information about the performance the cars "are expected to have" in '17 so it can start working on tire design. BBC
Halo design not finalized
In London, Alex Sharp reported the FIA confirmed that its racing cars will have "partially closed cockpits for the start of the 2017 season."
In the wake of "several recent serious and fatal accidents in the divisions of professional motor racing, concerns have grown over the safety of drivers at increasingly fast speeds but the FIA appears to be nearing an answer."
New F1 cars will not be fitted with a fully closed cockpit and will instead use a "Halo" design but the FIA "has yet to pick the specific design with testing ongoing."
In a statement, the FIA said, "Other options, such as transparent cockpit protection, will continue to be evaluated" DAILY MAIL
|Button in the new McLaren. They may be ahead of last year, but the others have pulled away leaving McLaren a backmarker|
McLaren insists it is 'ahead of last year'
McLaren-Honda has insisted that it is ahead of where it was at this stage last year, despite technical problems at the first Barcelona test.
Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button completed over 200 laps between them on Monday and Tuesday, but hit trouble over the final two days.
Button posted just 51 laps on Wednesday due to a hydraulics issue, while Alonso posted just three on Thursday amid a coolant leak.
McLaren worked on Alonso's issue, which occurred following his install lap, throughout the day, but were unable to send him back out.
However, the outfit insists that it is well ahead of where it was during the 2015 pre-season, and is hopeful that next week's test, which runs from March 1-4, will be smoother.
"Unfortunately, the coolant leak we experienced on the car today was in a tricky position, which meant it took longer than usual to locate and fix," explained engineering chief Matt Morris.
"It's always frustrating when a small issue hampers your running for much of a day, but thankfully it's relatively minor and we can now look to preparing the car for the second test on Tuesday.
"Testing is testing, and it gives us the opportunity to identify and work on reliability issues.
"Over the course of the first four days in Barcelona we've done a good amount of running and already learned a lot about our package, which should stand us in good stead for next week.
"We're definitely ahead of where we were last year in terms of system checks and integration. At the second test we'll be able to focus more on race simulations and set-up.
"We have a lot of data to go through over the weekend, and we look forward to getting back on track next Tuesday and continuing to get as much mileage under our belts as possible."
|Bottas in the new Williams – the new car appears to losing ground to Mercedes and Ferrari|
Williams frustrated by end to first test
Williams was left frustrated after completing its lowest mileage total on the final day of the opening pre-season test session at Barcelona.
Felipe Massa ended Wednesday ahead of only Manor's Rio Haryanto, who crashed, and the sidelined Fernando Alonso on the lap charts.
Massa spent the morning session focused on aerodynamic correlation work, but a systems glitch over lunch hindered his afternoon.
"Today was one of those days I'm afraid," said Chief Test & Support Engineer Rod Nelson, as he reflected on the lack of running.
"We spent most of the morning doing aerodynamic correlation work which was pretty successful. We are getting through our program day by day.
"Sadly, we had an issue with one of the car systems over lunchtime and that curtailed a lot of our running this afternoon which we had planned.
"We know what the issue is and we've got a solution."
Massa added: "It was not really a useful day.
"The most important things was that we carried out our aerodynamic tests this morning, to understand the numbers and everything around the car.
"Unfortunately, we couldn't run much this afternoon."