NERVES OF YOUNG STEEL: Max Verstappen, at 17 Formula 1's youngest driver yet, didn't looked overawed as he covered 170 laps in his Toro Rosso in 2015 Jerez testing. Image: AFP / Tom Gandolfini
JEREZ, Spain - The first four days of testing ahead of the 2015 Formula 1 season are over, eight are to come in Barcelona, then things will get real at the Australian F1 GP in Melbourne on March 15.
AFP Sports, meanwhile, has done an analysis of what was learned from the Jerez... see if you agree!
Mercedes in the driving seat
The double F1 champion team had little to improve on from 2014 after winning 16 of 19 Grands Prix and were streets ahead again at Jerez when it came to clocking up kilometres.
Red Bull's team principal described Nico Rosberg's record 157-lap opening day as "taking the Mickey" and despite a couple of spins and stoppages Mercedes was literally miles ahead with 516 laps over the four days.
The hope is that improvement from the other teams will close the gap but,, even if they do, Mercedes is still the strong favourite for another double-title tilt.
Ferrari was left in Mercedes's dust in 2015 - only one podium finish. However, there were positive signs in Jerez as the SF15-T topped the time sheets on three of the four days with four-times F1 champion Sebastian Vettel now aboard.
Even on the day the red car wasn't on top, there was a silver lining as the Ferrari-powered Sauber was fastest on Tuesday (Feb 3) and showed impressive speed and reliability all week.
McLaren-Honda needs time
McLaren, having re-joined forces with Honda for the first time in 22 years, is at the embryonic stage occupied of the teams were at this time in 2015 when a series of technical rules changes led to widespread problems at Jerez.
That was reflected in time on the track as Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button logged the fewest number of laps of any team with 79.
McLaren's racing director Eric Boullier said the team had only run about 50% of the distance hoped for in Jerez and that more setbacks during the next test days in Barcelona would delay their ability to compete for points once the season proper gets under way.
Red Bull sick of Jerez
Red Bull came into Jerez in 2014 on the back of four consecutive double F1 championships and proceeded to stall and splutter its way to only 21 laps over four days. A total of 165 this time in their camouflaged RB11 wasn't quite so bad although some were done without a front wing after Daniil Kyvat damaged the only one they had on Day 2.
But given they were the best of the rest in 2014 with Daniel Ricciardo's three race wins the only non-Mercedes success, the gap remains ominously wide.
While the likes of Alonso, Button and Ricciardo failed to get the time on track they would have craved a host of new faces got plenty of much-needed experience in their new cars.
The youngest-yet driver in F1, Max Verstappen, didn't look overawed as he logged 170 laps and even went fourth-fastest on Wednesday (Feb 4). His Toro Rosso team mate Carlos Sainz, showing he has inherited his two-times World Rally champion dad's natural feel for car racing, rivalled the Mercedes with more than 100 laps the previous day.
Meanwhile Brazilian Felipe Nasr topped the time sheets in the Sauber on Tuesday.
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