FEBRUARY 4, 2015
Jerez sees F1 move up a gear for 2015
As the first test of the 2015 pre-season nears its end, more questions have emerged than have been answered.
McLaren, for one, has struggled with its odd-sounding new works Honda V6, but team figures are gushing about the 'size-zero' car for its revolutionary engine.
Fernando Alonso finally managed some consecutive, if uncompetitive laps in the MP4-30 on Tuesday before it once again broke down.
But the Spaniard was quoted by Germany's DPA news agency: "I know that sooner or later we will get where we want to be."
In total contrast, the recently turmoil-struck Ferrari emerged in southern Spain with an apparently fully-competitive SF15-T.
But Germany's Auto Motor und Sport believes the new Red Bull was actually eight tenths quicker on a comparable 'long run'.
And very few paddock dwellers doubt that the team to catch remains Mercedes.
"The frightening thing," said McLaren boss Eric Boullier, "is that on the first day they were already doing pitstop practice.
"That shows how confident they are. They had a big lead in 2014 and I think the rest of us can only hope that we can reduce that gap."
Confident maybe, but Mercedes knows too well that in an environment like formula one, anything is possible.
"Formula one is an unforgivable business," said technical boss Paddy Lowe.
He said the so-called 'engine unfreeze' has given Mercedes' rivals the perfect opportunity to catch up.
"The 32 tokens are a very generous gift," said Lowe.
"If you look at it carefully, you will realise that you are able to basically build a completely new engine."
And not everything has run completely smoothly for Mercedes at Jerez, driver Nico Rosberg revealed.
"The engine is not running as smoothly as last year. We still need to find the right settings," said the German.
Making full use of the 'token' system for 2015 is Red Bull's works supplier, Renault, who have also undergone a management shakeup over the winter.
Checking out progress at Jerez on Tuesday was Dietrich Mateschitz, the usually very low-profile Red Bull team owner.
What he witnessed was a Renault engine problem, but at the same time it is rumoured that the French marque is continuing to work hard on the electronic side of the 'power unit'.
And on a parallel project works Mario Illien, the fabled former Mercedes engine guru whose updated Renault combustion engine is slated to debut in time for the European season.
Finally, it is clear that the grid as a whole has taken a big step forward in 2015, with the new Sauber for instance a whopping 8.5 seconds quicker than its predecessor was at Jerez exactly a year ago.
Toro Rosso's pace, meanwhile, has stepped up to the tune of almost 7 seconds, followed by Ferrari (4) Mercedes (2) and Williams (1.5 seconds).