Formula 1

F1 teams head to Barcelona as testing resumes

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The Formula 1 paddock is set to regather at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the second pre-season test of 2015 which begins on Thursday.

It was Ferrari that left Jerez two weeks ago as the talk of the town, with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel leading the timing screens over the four days of action at the Andalusia track.

However, last year's champions Mercedes were perhaps the biggest story of the opening test as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg set a record completing over 500 laps without showing their pace.

At the other end of the scale McLaren endured a difficult first test as they continue to learn and overcome the early teething problems with their brand new Honda power unit. The Woking team managed less than 80 laps in total, however, did look to be reaching a stage where they could complete some reasonable running.

Also disappointing were Red Bull, as the team lost a day thanks to a rookie error from their new driver Daniil Kvyat, but issues with the highly upgraded Renault power unit and the tightly packaged RB11 saw them endure another troublesome start to pre-season.

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So now looking ahead to the next four days of action here's what to look out for and also why this test should give us a little more idea as to how the grid in 2015 might line-up.

Mercedes ready to up the ante?

While the first test was all about reliability for Mercedes we can maybe expect the W06 to just start running in the position we expect it to be in pretty much all season.

Jerez may be a good track to iron out the niggles and give a new car a good shakedown but for a more representative circuit in terms of those visited during the season, there's few better than the host venue for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Therefore we can expect the serious business of tyre testing and full race simulations to take place in Barcelona and with that we should see Mercedes move to the top of the timings.

2014 comparisons could offer form guide

Even more appropriate for those of us watching is we can draw direct comparisons between testing this year and the Grand Prix in 2014.

Of course the cars continued to get faster as the year progressed, therefore we could expect lap times to be faster than at the Catalan circuit last year. For guidance the fastest time in the race last year was a 1:28.918 by Vettel, so when following long runs any consistent stints in the 1:29-1:30 range or faster could give a better indication as to how a team is performing rather than the single lap times.

While we can expect to see softer tyres run than would normally be used in Barcelona, should you wish to base any thoughts on how single lap pace is looking compared to last year, a 1:25.232 was the pole position time in 2014 set by Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes.

Ferrari long run pace key to solidifying progress

While Ferrari's single lap times from Jerez were what caught the attention of some in the paddock it is how they do over 20 or 30 consecutive laps that will give a better indication as to how much progress the Scuderia really might have made.

Of course there will remain the likelihood of most front running teams hiding their absolute race pace, but if the average stint times are comparable to those they expect to be racing with then there will be a much more reason to believe their times from Jerez were signs of genuine progress.

Tyre degradation and fuel use will also be an interesting thing to watch for as Barcelona is famously one of the hardest circuits on the Pirelli tyres, while the Ferrari power unit was thirstiest and weakest in terms of the Energy Recovery System (ERS) last year.

Can McLaren join the 100-lap club?

While those will begin looking at performance, McLaren will be concentrating on distance. At Jerez the team did solve a lot of minor teething problems with the Honda power unit and were on the way to managing a lap tally comparative to most around them on the grid before other issues hit.

Given the team have had a few weeks back at the factory and completed a filming day in Barcelona on Monday, the team will be looking to complete a more normal pre-season testing programme when the cars return to the track.

Perhaps the main aim for McLaren is to reach the 100-lap mark over a single day, which all three rival engine suppliers had cars achieve at Jerez. If they can do so then progress is certainly being made, if not then at least we should expect some more representative lap times, with the MP4-30 still a few seconds slower than the rest two weeks ago.

Red Bull ready to run?

If you believe the comments then Red Bull achieved what they wanted at Jerez two weeks ago. 

The line being that they overcame the initial problems with the new RB11 and Renault power unit and will start testing for real in the more representative conditions in Barcelona, but in reality it's arguable that after a second rather dismal first test in as many years, the former quadruple world champions are not much further down the line than McLaren.

Therefore if we are to believe Red Bull were simply easing their way into the 2015 pre-season then what they achieve in Barcelona this week is going to be rather crucial.

Distance and lap time has to be seen as comparable to the likes of Ferrari, and even Mercedes, if we are to believe they can close that gap down this year. The issue is I do worry if inexperience is hurting them.

We know Daniel Ricciardo is a driver capable of completing the 100 or more laps and do so consistently but as Kvyat's mistake on his first day with the team suggested, when he damaged the front wing on practically his first lap, is he capable of doing the same hard miles and produce the consistent data that can help Red Bull move forward?

They will definitely be a team to watch this week.

Lotus could surprise

Lotus had to wait until day two to begin their pre-season at Jerez two weeks ago but once they did the reliability of the Mercedes power unit helped them catch up for lost time.

There is a certain expectation that the move to the Brixworth-made engine can help the Enstone team rebound from a torrid 2014 and potentially join Williams in being a thorn in the side of the top teams.

The E23 also looks a very solid car and therefore they could be one of the surprise packages this week.

Others looking to build

Sauber too made headlines at Jerez by topping day three as they completed soft tyre runs late in the day on all four days.

Whether they will use the same tactic in Barcelona is unknown but for a team who also look to have made a tidy car aerodynamically and also have the boost from the improved Ferrari engine so expect a close and competitive midfield on the timing screens.

Toro Rosso will continue to give their young rookie line-up as much track time as possible, Carlos Sainz Jr. will know the circuit from lower formulas though it may be a new circuit for Max Verstappen to get to grips with.

The STR10 ran well in Spain but the focus will only likely shift onto improving the car once the drivers are in a position to give quality feedback.

Finally, Force India will be at Barcelona after missing Jerez. The Silverstone-based team will be using an updated version of the VJM07 with Mercedes reserve Pascal Wehrlein behind the wheel for two days running.

When the new VJM08 will be ready remains uncertain with some reports now suggesting it may not get onto a racetrack properly until the first race in Australia.

It promises to be another fascinating four days of running with plenty to talk about and I'll be keeping you right upto date here on GiveMeSport as well as live updates on Twitter through my account @BenIssatt.

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