Romain Grosjean could barely stay out of his own way
last year with the unloved “twin-tusk” Lotus-Renault.
But with the more conventional-looking E23 and
Mercedes power, the Frenchman is itching to stake
his claim as F1’s comeback driver of the year.
HOT GOSSIP, COLD CLIMATE
F1 pre-season testing suggests Mercedes mastery may be ebbing...or does it?
Years ago, when McLaren-Honda stood
at the pinnacle of Formula 1 but saw Ferrari
eclipse its new cars in pre-season testing,
McLaren boss Ron Dennis famously
dismissed the results by noting that Ferrari
had “won the winter world championship.”
The implication being that his team would
win the real one – which it duly did.
Out of the gate in 2015, the red cars
once again topped the timesheets, ahead
of even the Mercedes team that last year
dominated in the style of McLaren in the
late 1980s and early ’90s. Whether that
signified a real renaissance for Ferrari after
its annus horribilis, or a decline in the
fortunes of the team that won 16 of 19
races in 2014, remains to be seen.
A resurgent Kimi Raikkonen and the
Scuderia’s new signing Sebastian Vettel
were fastest on three of the four days of
the first test at Jerez. Their consistent
speed – and the equally surprising pace of
the Sauber team – prompted debate
whether it was a genuine breakthrough or
merely down to low-fuel glory runs.
“For now they [Ferrari] look good, but…
it’s still early, Jerez is a place we don’t race
at, plus we never race in [cold] conditions
like that,” noted Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Red Bull had to hope it didn’t mean
much, since its own pace was obscured by
mechanical failures in its Renault power
units, linked to a suspect part that forced all
its teams to limit their running. It was an
unsettling reminder of Renault’s dismal
2014 preseason. As for McLaren, its reborn
partnership with Honda struggled even to
get started as various issues kept star
recruit Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button
on the sidelines. Ron Dennis – back at the
helm of his F1 team once again – won’t be
celebrating any winter titles this year.
Meanwhile, Mercedes was piling up more
reliable mileage than anyone else with its
new Silver Arrows, and speed trap figures
showed Mercedes-engined cars were
consistently fastest in a straight line.
Ferrari initially led the way among F1’s
2015 cars, which do without the ugly noses
of last year. Can the SF15-T stay there?