Ferrari shows promising signs to shoot down Silver Arrows

The first pre-season test of the Formula One season came to an end in Barcelona on Thursday. Here’s our lowdown on what the timesheets may mean for the championship race this year.

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland takes a curve during a Formula One pre-season testing session at the Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, outside Barcelona.

The first pre-season test of the Formula One season came to an end in Barcelona on Thursday. Here’s our lowdown on what the timesheets may mean for the championship race this year.

Reading tea leaves

Headline times don't mean a lot during pre-season testing but with Mercedes and Ferrari topping sessions on two days each, it wouldn't be a stretch to believe that the two teams are at the sharp end of the grid.

Champions sandbagging?

It was interesting to observe that while Mercedes tried the fastest tyre available, the purple-walled ultra-soft tyres, Ferrari chose to stay away from them. Ferrari’s pace on the soft tyres (two steps slower) was more or less close to what the Mercs did on the fastest compound. While this should give some optimism for tifosi, we have often seen in the past that Mercedes can turn up their engine when it matters, especially during qualifying.

Under the radar

While Ferrari and Mercedes topped the charts, it would be foolish to write away Red Bull. The former champions did not really rack up the mileage or the lap times but the team generally waits till the last few days of the final test to unleash its full arsenal. One of its biggest strength is the presence of legendary designer Adrian Newey who has on more than one occasion taken advantage of rule changes and found a way to steamroll the opposition. He is notorious for working till the last possible minute with his designs before the parts are made and thrown on the car. The Red Bull that tests next week could be really different from what has run so far.

Tough days ahead

After a troubled opening two days with issues to its Honda power units, McLaren managed to do 130 laps over the last two days. While it is no way close to what the Mercs or Ferrari managed to clock over a single day, it represents some kind of progress for the former heavyweights. On the flipside though, the times we have seen — even on the fastest tyres — are a few seconds slower than what the top two have managed to do. While it is still unclear if the team was not pushing its power unit for fear of reliability issues, things don’t look promising for McLaren. Will it get its act together before the first race on March 26? Will the team manage to keep Fernando Alonso in good spirits?