Formula 1

F1 testing: What to watch out for at Jerez

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This Sunday the Formula 1 pre-season officially begins with the opening test at Spain's Jerez circuit.

With little change in the regulations and plenty of new cars still to be unveiled it is sure to be a much more interesting first four days of testing than last year when several teams struggled to barely get out of the garage let alone complete the hundreds of laps most complete at each test.

Therefore here are the things you should remember, look out for and consider when following the events at Jerez.

It's how far not how fast

The most common mistake among fans who follow pre-season testing is how they base that year's expectations on the lap times from testing.

While it never harms to see a new car at the top of the timings it almost certainly means the team were doing something nobody else was. It could be a run of softer compound tyres, less fuel, higher engine revs any of those things but the main aim at the first test in particular is mileage.

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Last year Mercedes led the distance charts completing 309 laps of Jerez over the four days 58 more than any other team, Red Bull were bottom with a measly 21 laps as the issues with the then brand new Renault V6 turbo hybrid hit home hard.

To highlight the lack of importance lap times have to play McLaren's Kevin Magnussen led the overall standings half a second clear of Felipe Massa's Williams and 15 seconds faster than the best Red Bull time set by Sebastian Vettel.

Honda mileage will be main story

The biggest story to watch out for in Jerez therefore, is the distance Honda manage to achieve with McLaren.

Of course they are in a slightly different scenario having already participated in the post-season Abu Dhabi test where they could identify the main areas to address in winter development, so I expect the new MP4-30 to achieve roughly the same 300 laps Mercedes did last year and if that is to be the case then McLaren are in a good place going forward.

As for their rivals they will be hoping to reach the 100-lap mark on a single day as quickly as possible.

For Mercedes this shouldn't be too big of a problem though I wouldn't perhaps expect them to reach it on day one, but Ferrari and Renault could still face some early issues as they complete plenty of evaluation work based on the assumption they have been much more aggressive on the development of their power units to try and make up the gap to the leading Silver Arrow.

New cars to be revealed

A new year brings with it new cars and fans can look forward to seeing most of the 2015 cars on track in Jerez.

The exception is Force India who have already announced they are skipping the first test as work on the VJM08 continues and it's debut set for Barcelona in mid-February.

While McLaren will reveal their new car on Thursday with Ferrari and Sauber following on Friday, two of the most eagerly awaited cars will be revealed over the weekend.

Mercedes shall reveal the new W06 and despite team boss Christian Horner admitting the new Red Bull isn't completely ready, the RB11 will also be on track at Jerez as will the sister team Toro Rosso's latest creation, the STR10.

Drivers settling in

A new year also brings new faces and different faces at different teams. Eyes will likely be on Toro Rosso's young 17-year-old Max Verstappen as his preparations continue for his rookie season, while his team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. and Sauber's Felipe Nasr will also be looking to make an impression.

The other notable appearances will be Fernando Alonso back inside a McLaren as he puts the first miles on the new MP4-30 and Sebastian Vettel also making his first public appearance on track in Ferrari red.

Of course any indications of how they will fare against their respective team-mates are just as difficult to predict as the pecking order given each driver will test different things each day and the cars will likely have different set-ups as well.

Sunny Spain still not ideal

Another key reason to ignore the lap times is because of the far from ideal conditions at Jerez.

While it may be better than a wet Wednesday at Silverstone, temperatures in Spain will not be representative of a lot of circuits throughout the F1 calendar.

Current weather forecasts have a mostly dry four days expected but with highs of around 15C degrees tyre temperatures will struggle to find their optimum operating window and any issues associated with the cooling of the power units, while expected to be less compared to last year, could still be missed.

Finally there is the nature of the Jerez circuit, while the layout includes corners you would find at most circuits, the abrasive tarmac is unique to the former European Grand Prix venue and this means any work on the development of the 2015-spec Pirellis could be hindered.

Its all about progression in pre-season, fix any initial flaws, ensure everything is running as it should and complete a race distance at Jerez. If that is achieved then move on to pushing the boundaries a little more, testing the tyres improving single lap etc. at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya where the second and third tests will be held and I'll be here covering all the events with daily reports on GiveMeSport.

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