ROSBERG MEANS BUSINESS: Nico Rosberg clocked 160 laps behind the wheel of his Mercedes during 2015 F1 testing at the Jerez circuit, Spain. Image: AP / Miguel Morenatti
JEREZ, Spain – Formula 1's 2015 test season kicked off on Sunday (Feb 1) amid stark contrasts as Mercedes looked set to extend its dominance into a second championship-winning campaign.
Mercedes stunned rival engineers as Nico Rosberg pounded around the Jerez circuit almost 160 times - a first-day feat perhaps unprecedented in the history of the sport. Mercedes figures could even joke about it.
Team boss Toto Wolff, on crutches as he spoke to Auto Motor and Sport after a training accident: "Today we reveal our secret. We want to do endurance racing at Le Mans as well."
‘WE WANT TO DO 180 LAPS’
Lewis Hamilton, who spent the day in contract talks with Wolff and team chairman Niki Lauda, laughed: "Tomorrow we want to do 180 laps!"
In contrast, Force India is absent from Jerez amid rumours of debt and supplier troubles; McLaren struggled to run at all amid more Honda teething troubles; the new Lotus E23 arrived at the circuit only late on Sunday (Feb 1).
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean told RMC Sport: "It was expected that we would not run on the first day. I don't know if we will be ready on Monday but we will run on the last two days. We've pushed development but parts arrived later than expected - things are looking better than in 2014."
Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, surprised the paddock by topping the times, although he conceded he might have been even happier had his new Ferrari been able to match Mercedes' stunning reliability.
Vettel said: "Mercedes is very quick. Let's just hope not quite as fast as 2014. Our aim in 2015 must be to close the gap to them."
Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport claims Ferrari might have been able to improve its engine by as much as 60kW over in 2014 which, if true, will surely guarantee a much better season than 2014.
Vettel, meanwhile, pushed back against rumours he came close to quitting F1 in 2014 as he struggled to thrive and enjoy the sport under the new V6 rules.
Vettel said: "You can pack it in or accept it. I'm still here even if it's true I would prefer a big V12."
So, for now, the paddock is expecting another year of Mercedes dominance, even if Rosberg and Hamilton are already playing down talk of more easy wins. Rosberg said: "Red Bull, not long ago, was unbeatable, and will be strong again. Williams was just a few seconds behind Lewis at the last 2014 race in Abu Dhabi and you always have to expect something from Ferrari and McLaren."
Hamilton agreed: "We've taken a step but to repeat what we did in 2014 will be difficult. It's easier for those who are behind us to make bigger steps forward."
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 F1 season – fresh reports every day.