Brought to you by TJ13’s track side reporter Adam Macdonald (@adamac39)
‘Start as you mean to go’ is a good motto to work by in a test, which is exactly what Mercedes did as they focused on long runs for the afternoon part of day 1 in Jerez. Clearly not pushing the car to any kind of extreme, a routine day for the German team meant they continued to set lap time after lap time, eventually ending on a final total of 157.
The headline lap time was left to Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari as he twice set the fastest lap time, once just after 13:00 with a 1:22.999, then going faster with 1:22.620. Despite reporting problems in the morning the ex-World Champion was clearly comfortable with the car, making for a relaxed press conference after.
Despite admitting, “The reference is still Mercedes so it would a surprise if they are not as strong as last year,” Vettel was clearly in a good place mentally. He continued, “I feel very motivated. Last year I was giving everything I had, but that’s why you come back and try again.”
He finished by saying, “It’s the first helmet design in 15 years without Red Bull on the side. I tried to keep it very simple,” which was much like the design of the McLaren-Honda. The new old partnership started poorly as Alonso never reemerged from his brief stint in the morning.
Sauber fared better with Marcus Ericsson managing the second fastest time of the day. The car looked far more consistent at the rear than it had done previously allowing for greater confidence out of corners. Great news for all involved with the Swiss team as they look to bounce back with a totally new blue and yellow livery.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo spoke of the positive day the team had enjoyed and the “step forward”, but in truth there is still some work to do for the Renault-RB pair. Adrian Newey agreed with this sentiment, stating to BBC Sport, “Good first day. The car is a decent step forward, but it’ll be difficult to mount a serious title challenge.” The questions over the Red Bull livery remain, although it seemed a hit with those present at the track complex.
Valtteri Bottas was only the second driver to go past 50 laps as the he continued to trundle round, sticking to the programme and not bothering with headline laps. It was a steady, if unspectacular first day in Spain.
Carlos Sainz Jr had been enjoying an impressive first showing in the STR10 before his car ground to a halt shortly before 3pm local time, causing the second of two red flags in the day. The Spanish rookie only popped back out for a short stint, meaning he will have to wait for his next meaningful run in the car, as Max Verstappen replaces him tomorrow.
Lotus did eventually arrive but did not venture out on to the circuit. They remain very tight-lipped about their activity tomorrow, even though a team member said, “we are ready” to go racing. Tomorrow will reveal all, as they will now race with Mercedes engines, ending their 20 year partnership with Renault.
It was a positive day for Ferrari, Mercedes, Sauber and the Jerez circuit. Packed grandstands witnessed the 2015 cars in action for the first time as families lined the tight and twisty track. Of course, the clear skies helped, but seeing the numbers of fans like this in for a pre-season shakedown strengthens the argument for having testing sessions over the weekends.
Furthermore, it shows that people are interested in coming to Formula One in any form if the price is right. Being charged a mere €10 or €20 depending on the track access meant a family day out was affordable. More young fans at events is what is needed, but there again so is proper social media use, a way of reducing the cost of racing, ensuring the sustainability of races, etc.
A little learnt today, but this narrative is far from told.
The running order tomorrow will be as follows:
Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton
Red Bull Racing – Daniil Kvyat
Williams – Valtteri Bottas
Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel
McLaren – Jenson Button
Toro Rosso – Max Verstappen
Lotus – Romain Grosjean
Sauber – Felipe Nasr