There has been some speculation after the Barcelona tests about which team is in the best shape for the season ahead. The testing ended up with a Ferrari 1-2, with Kimi Raikkonen quickest overall with a lap of 1m22.765s, on the new ultra-soft tyres. Sebastian Vettel set a similar time (1m22.810s) on the same tyres during the first test. But this may not be as exciting as it sounds because Nico Rosberg was third quickest in his Mercedes with a 1m23.022s lap, but this was achieved on a set of soft tyres. The time gap between soft and ultra-soft tyres is reckoned to be around 1.1 seconds a lap and so, based on what we know, Nico could perhaps have got down to a high 1m21s if he had been lapping on the ultra-soft tyres. That would put him a second quicker than the Ferraris.
However, it may not even be that simple, because Vettel got close to Raikkonen’s best ultra-soft time using a set of super-soft tyres (1m22.852s) on the final day of running and so, from that, one can extrapolate that the Ferrari might be as competitive as the Mercedes. One can add that Raikkonen managed a 1m23.009s on soft tyres, which was fractionally faster than Nico’s best on the soft rubber. Thus, it could be that the two teams might both have got into the 1m21s, assuming that Nico’s lap was the best he could have done. One must add that we did not see any laps from Mercedes on the ultra-soft tyres and it is very clear that Lewis Hamilton was not going for lap times at all.
One must also take into account the fuel loads and engine modes being used, which one can only guess at, unless one has a huge amount of data and time to sift through it all. Even then, it would be largely guesswork. One thing we do know is that Mercedes completed 3,843 miles of testing in the eight days, while Ferrari managed only 2,475, which indicates that when it comes to reliability, the silver cars are a long way ahead.
Fourth fastest was Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India with a 1m23.110s on super-soft tyres (which might mean a mid 1m22s lap on ultra-softs), while Carlos Sainz Jr was fifth in his Toro Rosso with a 1m23.134s, also on ultra-softs. Toro Rosso completed the second highest mileage count with a total of 3,155 miles. Felipe Massa did try ultra-softs on his Williams but did not set a good time, but he did record a 1m23.193s on soft tyres, which suggests that the Williams might be capable of a 1m22.0s on ultra-softs.
So don’t read too much into the lap times, nor into the order, nor into some of the analysis of the order and lap times. There are simply too many variables that we do not know. The best solution is to simply wait and see what happens in Melbourne. And remember that Albert Park is quite a peculiar track, so before you start gambling your house or life savings on the outcome of the World Championship, wait for three races when we will know a great deal more. Of course, the odds will have changed by then…