Formula One's teams search for vital clues in final Barcelona test

Only four days of running remain before free practice in Melbourne begins.

Time is running out for Formula One's teams to make their final test runs ahead of the season-opening Grand Prix in Melbourne, Australia.

Only four days of testing in Barcelona, which kicked off this morning, are available this week and following last week's running some of the teams are in far better shape than others.

The pecking order appears

Mercedes is clearly the fastest, once again, after world championship runner-up Nico Rosberg lapped the Spanish Grand Prix venue in 1m23.321s on medium-compound tyres.

That was just 0.254s slower than Lotus's Romain Grosjean, who set the fastest time of the test overall on super-soft rubber – two steps softer than the Mercedes, which means the German squad could have as much as a second in hand over the field again.

While Lotus satisfied itself with some sticky-tyred glory runs with its new Mercedes-powered E23, Ferrari and Red Bull logged some serious mileage and showed improved speed.

Red Bull continues to encounter some issues with its Renault engine, however, but Ferrari looks a much more competitive package than last year – especially in the engine department. And Kimi Raikkonen appears delighted with the front-end feel of the chassis, which is key for his driving style.

Also in the mix

Williams took the fight to Mercedes on many occasions last year, and its habit of running high fuel loads in testing and practice could certainly stand it in good stead again this season.

Felipe Massa set the sixth quickest time last week, and both he and teammate Valtteri Bottas have declared that the FW37 is a step forward. They should definitely be considered as title contenders.

Of the true midfielders, Toro Rosso has also shown flashes of form, but expect its rookie drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen to take a little time to truly find their feet – as Sainz's shunt on Sunday emphasized.

Sauber has also looked reasonable at times, although a few mechanical break-downs, and Felipe Nasr's unfortunate shunt with Williams reserve Susie Wolff, haven't helped.

In at the deep end

McLaren has made headlines for all the wrong reasons, after Fernando Alonso's unfortunate – and somewhat mysterious – shunt on Sunday. Its new Honda engine has been blighted by MGU-K issues, and it will hope that a temporary fix will allow it enough running to sort its promising chassis this week.

Force India's new car hasn't even turned a wheel, and its late production schedule means that the Silverstone-based team has backed itself into a corner.

There will be much crossed fingers that the machine is a) reliable and b) quick straight out of the box. Or else it will be struggling with McLaren at the rear of the field, as there is little/no chance of Marussia-Manor or Caterham being on the grid in Melbourne.

Barcelona test line-up

Team Feb 26 Feb 27 Feb 28 March 1
Mercedes Hamilton Rosberg Hamilton Rosberg
Red Bull Kvyat Kvyat Ricciardo Ricciardo
Williams Massa Bottas Massa Bottas
Ferrari Raikkonen Vettel Raikkonen Vettel
McLaren Button TBA TBA TBA
Toro Rosso Sainz Verstappen Sainz Verstappen
Lotus Grosjean Maldonado Grosjean Maldonado
Sauber Ericsson Nasr Ericsson Nasr
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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Barcelona February testing II
Track Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Drivers Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Felipe Massa , Carlos Sainz , Nico Rosberg , Susie Wolff , Romain Grosjean , Valtteri Bottas , Felipe Nasr , Max Verstappen
Article type Analysis