So that’s it! Pre-season testing is over for another year, and unlike previous seasons, we still don’t have much of an idea over just who is where.
One thing we can be sure about is that not a great deal has changed from the end of last season. The top four are still the top four, last season’s midfield are still the midfield and Marussia and Caterham are still bringing up the year. In what order these teams are, however, remains to be seen.
Nico Rosberg followed up Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton’s impressive lap on low fuel yesterday with the quickest time today. His time of 1:20.130 was three tenths faster than Fernando Alonso, who underlined the undoubted improvement that Ferrari have made from the end of 2012.
No other teams attempted a low fuel run today, with everyone else running more general testing programmes. While in some ways a surprise that the majority of teams have not attempted a proper qualifying simulation, it could well be they are wanting to wait until Melbourne, and when they will have their final packages with which they will start the season, before seeing exactly what they have got on minimum fuel.
Red Bull haven’t shown any true pace, but their car looks well balanced and with little regulation changes from last year, you would expect them to be right up there. Ferrari and Lotus also look to have made steps forward, despite the latter having the test slightly disrupted by Kimi Raikkonen’s illness.
One team that appears to be struggling a little bit is McLaren. Despite showing strong pace in the first two tests, there are suggestions that the team is struggling over long runs compared to the rest of their rivals, which could well leave them off the pace when we get to Melbourne.
Despite showing very strong pace over one lap, Mercedes are still lacking over the long runs. There is no doubt they have improved from the end of last season, but it is unlikely they will be able to challenge for the win at the first race. Podiums are a possibility, but that is the most they can probably hope for.
Williams have shown good pace with their new car, and with a strong line-up in Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas, look as if they may have jumped to the front of the midfield, although the gap between them, Sauber, Force India and Toro Rosso is not going to be that big.
Marussia look to have the advantage over Caterham in the battle for tenth place in the championship, although with major upgrades planned before the start of the European season, it looks like the former Lotus team are prepared to begin the championship with a slight deficit to their rivals and claw the time back later. With points likely to be hard to come by for either team, it could potentially be a clever strategy.
However, the big question of who is quickest, despite any predictions that can be made, will not definitively be known until the chequered flag drops at the end of Q3 in Melbourne.
My Predicted Pecking Order
1) Red Bull
8) Force India
9) Toro Rosso
1) Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes – 1m20.130s (131 laps)
2) Fernando Alonso (Esp) Ferrari – 1m20.494s (120 laps)
3) Jenson Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes – 1m21.444s (122 laps)
4) Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari – 1m21.541s (118 laps)
5) Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus-Renault – 1m21.658s (50 laps)
6) Paul di Resta (GB) Force India-Mercedes – 1m21.664s (112 laps)
7) Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams-Renault – 1m22.415s (42 laps)
8) Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault – 1m22.514s (100 laps)
9) Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams-Renault – 1m22.524s (31 laps)
10) Charles Pic (Fra) Caterham-Renault – 1m23.115s (116 laps)
11) Jules Bianchi (Fra) Marussia-Cosworth – 1m23.167s (62 laps)
12) Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1m23.628s (91 laps)
13) Max Chilton (GB) Marussia-Cosworth – 1m24.103s (49 laps)