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F1 Testing Week 2: Barcelona

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The chilly Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was host to the second F1 pre-season test this weekend, with the teams looking to improve their pace over what they did in the first test in Jerez. And while the speeds increased from what they were two weeks ago the varied runs and times they teams were doing leaves a lot of guess-work in terms of were the cars rank this year.

Except of course for one. So here is a brief round-up of the teams and the news in the paddock after the second test.

Ferrari still look promising, but perhaps we all took too much optimism from the first preseason test. Even though Kimi and Sebastian put good runs in,  the team were still hampered by “teething problems” according to Vettel which reduced they’re running on Sunday.

Kimi posted the fifth fastest time of the test the Saturday on the soft tyres which certainly is a positive note for the team. As well as that; Ferrari had a mostly trouble-free weekend with the team completing almost a thousand miles worth of testing.

While they may not be as close to the Mercedes as they want to be, they do seem to have put themselves into an excellent position for the start of the season and for the development race beyond.

Williams again had a quietly successful test. They continued to put up laps all weekend and finished sixth on the timing screens after the weekend, with Felipe Massa’s time coming just a tenth shy of Raikkonen’s time which was set on the same day and on the same set of tyres.

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Even more encouraging for Williams is the reliability of the Mercedes power-unit which meant that only the two Red Bull teams and Mercedes did more laps than them. Also the rising star that is Valtteri Bottas and a more confident Felipe Massa at the wheel this year could lead to Williams snatching the wins that last year were claimed by Red Bull.

Red Bulls camouflage beauty is probably another team that had a quietly successful test as they pounded around all weekend. Only Max Verstappen did more mileage than the two Dans. The young pairing looks promising and while Red Bull looks to repair their relationship with Renault after a rocky last season.

This year’s engine seems to be holding up a lot better than its predecessor so far. Also we must not forget that Red Bull had a horrid test last year and then went on and won races, so that on its own should bode very well for Horner and Co. moving towards the last weekend of testing.

The two big, and contrasting, stories of the weekend are the dominant cloud of the Mercedes team which appears to shroud the whole paddock with a sense on resignation about their chances at victories this year and the abysmal reliability of the Honda-McLaren engine.

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Starting with Mercedes, who have given all of us a glimpse of just how strong their car will be this year. That first glimpse came on the second day of the test when Hamilton did his race simulation. At same time Ricciardo was doing a similar run on medium tyres and even though Hamilton was on the hard compound tyres his times were consistently a second a lap faster than the Aussie’s.

Then on the final day Rosberg’s set what would be the second fastest lap of the weekend.

Only Romain Grosjean was faster over the whole weekend, two and bit tenths faster than Rosberg, but again he set his time on the supersoft tyres and Rosberg’s time was on the mediums. The team was never going to regress this year but seeing how much they have moved forward has to be a worry for the other top teams.

The McLaren team were cautiously optimistic at the end of the first test, now they’re all hands on deck to protect their brand image from the horrors of last weekend’s test. Two MGU-K seals failed and limited the teams running over the first two days. And then Alonso hitting the wall on Sunday afternoon curtailed their running for a third day straight.

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The future from here looks grim but McLaren and their fans can hold solace in two things; firstly, a bad test does not translate into a bad season, see Red Bull last year and secondly that the next test is five days which should give the team enough time to put together a few longer runs and to begin to understand the true pace of the car.

Quickly rounding off the rest field, Force India still haven’t run with this years car which is hard to spin in a good way no matter how you look at it, Sauber fell rather quickly from topping the time sheets in Jerez to also-rans this week and the Toro Rosso team seem to have the most consistent driver/car tandem on the grid strangely enough and could be in with a shout of some very good points this year, perhaps doing what Force India did to McLaren next year.

So it looks like it’s already shaping up to be a cracking season behind Mercedes, we can only hope that Rosberg and Hamilton is as thrilling the second time around as the first.

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