Formula One: Pre-Season Testing Team Analysis

Photo Credit: USA Today - Josep Lago
Photo Credit: USA Today - Josep Lago /

Pre-season testing has already kicked off in Formula One and with it comes a preview of what might be ahead for each team in 2016.

This week Formula One teams began their 2016 campaign with pre-season testing kicking off in Barcelona.

Testing is usually filled with woe for the teams, each one of them having to deal with the problems that come with new cars, new parts, and some old problems that just won’t go away.

More racing: F1: 2016 Contenders Revealed

But what we saw over the four days at the Circuit de Catalunya was quite a surprise. Very little of the teams appeared to have no problems at all, putting in lap after lap, after lap, after lap…and on and on they went.

Reliability seemed to be a non-issue. And come Melbourne, this will no doubt provide some great racing if the cars remain dependable and don’t break down half way.

As a collective the teams seem to have improved, but individually, how did they perform?


The Scuderia’s SF16-H left the gates bolting, showing some impressive speed from day one of testing. Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time over the four days of testing, putting in a 1:22.810, a half second quicker than Force India’s, Nico Hulkenberg. Though others outran them, Ferrari put in a good amount of mileage, completing 353 laps in total.

Force India

As stated above, Force India managed to slot their VJM09 into second place in overall fastest laps. The look of the VJM09 hasn’t changed much, but it could be this consistency in design which allowed the team to complete a respectable 333 laps without issue.

Haas F1

The ‘new guys’ on the block would’ve been forgiven if they only ran a handful of laps, given the teething issues which come with a fresh and inexperienced team. Though they did encounter some problems, including a front wing failure and break issues, it didn’t stop the VF-16 from completing a full race simulation and grabbing the thirteenth fastest time overall. No doubt there’s a lot to work on, but Haas F1 should be extremely proud of their Formula One debut.


It all seemed to be going well for McLaren in the first three days of testing. They had completed 206 laps, and showed relatively good pace, their woeful 2015 season seemingly forgotten. But on day four problems hit the MP4-31. A minor coolant leak saw Fernando Alonso complete only three laps before he was forced to sit out a good portion of the final day of testing. Though the problem was only minor, that tiny issue would’ve spelled disaster had it happened during a race. Of course, this is only testing, and testing is meant to reveal these kinds of issues. Even so, McLaren will be keeping all fingers and toes crossed that ‘small’ issues like this don’t rear their head again.


The current world champions showed why they hold the title, completing a mammoth 675 laps, their W07 Hybrid in a different class of its own. Though the team only managed to post the eighth fastest lap overall, pundits were quick to use this result to point out how testing lap times are clearly not indicative of a team’s actual pace. No doubt the W07 has more speed up its sleeve, and along with its amazing reliability, Mercedes are obviously the favourites to take the title again this year.


Speaking of testing pace being not a realistic indication of true race speed, well, Manor will probably be trying hard to ignore such an opinion. Driver Pascal Wehrlein put in the sixteenth fastest lap, placing Manor ahead of teams such as Sauber, Toro Rosso, and even Williams. Though no major issues hit the MRT-05, the team only completed 254 laps.

Red Bull Racing

Red Bull showed astonishing pace and reliability compared to their performance one year ago. They nabbed fourth fastest (1:23.525) and put in a solid 369 laps. Whether their 2016 season will be any better than 2015 we’ll have to wait and see, but so far the Red Bull/Tag-Heuer partnership is off to a good start.


The new Renault factory team had warned not to expect much from them in 2016. However, early signs off good reliability and good pace seem to be promising. The former world champions went around the track 343 times, only ten less than Ferrari, and set a respectable (though there is definitely room for improvement) 1:25.263 for their fastest lap.


Sauber let loose their C35 on the Circuit de Catalunya 432 times, their 2016 challenger showing amazing reliability. Focusing more on race simulation than overall pace, their ninth place on the overall fastest lap list is just that little bit more impressive.

Toro Rosso

Though Red Bull’s sister team went into testing with a plain livery, their testing performance was anything but. The STR-11 completed 447 laps, only being beaten by Mercedes, and showed good pace throughout the four days. One has to ask, will they outperform Red Bull come Melbourne?


Though Williams’ FW38 showed good reliability, compared to the other Mercedes powered cars, its pace was off. But as we have said time and time again, this is only testing, reliability is more important than who set the fastest lap. As such Williams will be happy with the 377 laps they completed.

Testing will commence once again at the Circuit de Catalunya on the 1st of March, running until the 4th of March.