Formula 1 winter testing will ramp up to a final push when the second Barcelona pre-season test starts on Tuesday.
The four-day meeting will host the last on-track running before the sport reconvenes in two weeks’ time for the campaign-opening Australian GP from March 23.
F1 Testing: The conclusions
Hamilton already ready to race
Hamilton surges to fastest test time
But with Test One – which in any case usually only amounts to a ‘systems check’ as the teams debut their brand-new cars – severely undermined by cold weather, including a snowstorm which all-but wrote off the third day, the intensity and significance of the action is set to be ratcheted up this week as the teams and drivers complete their preparations for the new season.
To the relief of the teams, warm weather is forecast for next week.
And the on-track action should warm up by degrees too.
What we did we learn during Test One?
Definitive conclusions from Test One were strictly rationed after snow and freezing temperatures descended on the Circuit de Catalunya.
But as expected, Mercedes impressed with world champion Lewis Hamilton setting the fastest test of the week, three tenths clear of Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull looked strong on the opening day but by the test’s conclusion their mileage count paled alongside those of Ferrari and Mercedes, although it was Toro Rosso who completed the most laps following their switch to Honda.
McLaren were especially hard to read as the team opted to set their fastest laps on the softest tyres available whereas Hamilton’s benchmark was made on the medium compound.
But McLaren aren’t alone in having plenty of questions to answer this week.
How to follow the Barcelona Test on Sky Sports
There are a host of ways to follow the four days of action in Barcelona across Sky Sports.
For Sky Sports News viewers, Craig Slater will be providing live updates from trackside and inside the paddock while the Sky F1 Digital team will be delivering around-the-clock updates in a dawn-to-dusk blog.
The day’s action will then be wrapped up in Paddock Uncut, broadcast on Sky F1 from 9pm, and swiftly followed by Ted’s Notebook from 9.15pm.
Both programmes will then be published in full on the Sky F1 Digital platforms.
How to follow Test Two on Sky F1 Tuesday March 6 Sky F1 digital live blog, SSN updates 9pm: Paddock Uncut 9:15pm: Ted’s Notebook Wednesday March 7 Sky F1 digital live blog, SSN updates 9pm: Paddock Uncut 9:15pm: Ted’s Notebook Thursday March 8 Sky F1 digital live blog, SSN updates 9pm: Paddock Uncut 9:15pm: Ted’s Notebook Friday March 9 Sky F1 digital live blog, SSN updates 9pm: Paddock Uncut 9:15pm: Ted’s Notebook
How much can be read into Testing?
Pre-season testing has developed a reputation for being misleading and an unreliable indicator of the true pecking order heading into a new year. It’s not unheard of for teams to run light on fuel in order to set eye-catching lap times to entice fresh sponsorship. Seasoned paddock observers frequently caution that it’s the number of laps set that really matters, not the times of the laps set.
But in recent years, testing’s reputation as a guessing game has significantly softened.
A year ago, Ferrari’s victory in the season-opening Australian GP from Mercedes was foreseen in the Scuderia topping the timesheets ahead of the Silver Arrows throughout testing. So, too, were the struggles of Red Bull to keep pace with Mercedes and Ferrari, and the abject misery of McLaren-Honda.
In 2016 Ferrari were also fastest in pre-season testing before Mercedes locked out the front-row in Melbourne but 2015 provided a clear correlation between testing and the season’s commencement when Mercedes dominated both.
Back in 2014, meanwhile, Williams caused a stir by heading Mercedes in testing and made good on their promise by beating Ferrari to third place in the Constructors’ Championship.
For all the denials and smokescreens, the teams will leave Barcelona on Friday night with a very firm impression of where they stand in the pecking order ahead of the new season.
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