Jenson Button returned to the cockpit for the final time on the last day of pre-season testing for 2016, at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Once again, we enjoyed dry, relatively warm and sunny weather, which meant track temperatures were stable, albeit affected by blustery conditions in both sessions.
To complete our testing programme, the team’s run plan today concentrated on the configuration and evaluation of a number of new aerodynamic parts on the MP4-31. In addition, attention turned to race set-up ahead of the first race in Melbourne, which involved launch practices, start procedures, and characterisation of tyres, including the new Ultrasoft compound.
The MP4-31 enjoyed another full day of running with no reliability issues, which enabled the team to conduct a thorough final day of testing and evaluations and complete the day’s scheduled run plan. Today, Jenson did 121 laps, bringing the total tally over the two pre-season tests to 710, covering 3,305km (2,053 miles).
While the package is not currently in its final specification for the Australian Grand Prix, the data gathered over the past two weeks has provided the team with invaluable information to take back to Woking, Sakura, Milton Keynes and Tokyo, in order to continue the development of both the chassis and power unit and complete final preparations.
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Friday March 4, 2016
Friday 4 March 2016
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (4.655km/2.892 miles)
“It’s positive to finish our testing programme on a good note, with 121 laps. It’s meant we’ve been able to look at a number of different aerodynamic configurations, and learn a lot about the car and how it behaves, which is really useful given that there’s only 10 days until we fly to Melbourne.
“It’s great that we’ve been able to complete a lot of mileage over the two tests, which has been really useful to get feedback on the power unit, the aerodynamics and a bit of the set-up work done as well. It’s also allowed us to do a lot more system checks and integration – which gives us a definite advantage in terms of preparation compared to last year.
“We still have a lot of work to do, and the windy conditions have made it quite difficult to really work on the set-up of the car, but it’s something we’ve all had to deal with. This afternoon, as we got more laps under our belt, we started to get to grips with the balance and handling, and evaluate different options for the first race. I still don’t feel like we’re ready – there are still a lot of changes that will be made on the car before it’s in full race trim – and you always seem to need more testing than you have, to find the balance you want for the first race, but we have the experience to do that when we get to Melbourne.
“There are still quite a few areas that we need to work on, but overall during the tests we have made improvements in many areas, and we need to keep focussed and bring new parts to every race to keep pushing our development.”
“We haven’t run the full 2016 specification yet during the tests, so it means we’ll go to Australia with more new parts on the car. But we’ve been able to do good mileage on most of the days, which is very good news, and in terms of the chassis it was important that we could go through all of the systems checks – something we couldn’t do last year – so it’s a good achievement. We seem to have a pretty reliable car now to start the season, so we are definitely more confident in that sense, too. The base package looks okay, but there should be more performance coming in the next few weeks.
“We’ve had a very ambitious manufacturing and production programme over the winter, and we are constantly working on new developments back at the factory. We have to strike a balance between that and giving the maximum time to the aerodynamicists to develop the package, which compresses the lead time on production, but this is a normal situation in our industry and we are fortunate to have the resources to constantly push our development and manufacturing. In the past, you’d put together a big package of updates for Melbourne, another one for Barcelona, but now it’s every race, and we are well-versed in bringing regular updates every race weekend, so from Melbourne onwards this will be no different.
“Overall, we’ve ticked a lot of boxes on our test programme checklist, so from that point of view I’m satisfied with the work we’ve completed. Of course, it never feels enough – we could test all day every day and still want to do more – but we’ve definitely made a good start. We will see when we turn up in Melbourne with our full specification where we are; the other teams have clearly made big gains, too. So far we have been correlating well with our factory which gives us reasonable confidence, and we’ve covered a decent amount of mileage, so we feel more comfortable and prepared thanks to the amount of data we have. Time will tell – it’s too early to set expectations, and from here our hard work will continue right the way through to Melbourne and beyond.”
“The two weeks of testing here in Barcelona have been generally good for us, as we were able to confirm the improvements in reliability, deployment and engine performance that we focused on during the off-season. Especially in the second test, the fact that we ran the power unit without any issues for four days straight is a good result for us.
“We still need to perform final checks and preparation for reliability on the dyno, and finalise the power unit data, but we have surely and steadily progressed in our preparation for Melbourne.
“It is difficult to determine the outright performance of the whole package yet with testing alone, but for Honda, it is very important to keep pushing ourselves during the season to improve our competitiveness and achieve points finishes.”
TODAY’S UNOFFICIAL TESTING TIMES
Driver position and lap times
1. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
1:22.852s 142 laps
2. Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso
1:23.134s 133 laps
3. Felipe Massa Williams
1:23.644s 129 laps
4. Sergio Perez Force India
1:23.721s 60 laps
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
1:24.133s 69 laps
6. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
1:24.427s 123 laps
7. Jenson Button McLaren
1:24.714s 121 laps
8. Jolyon Palmer Renault
1:24.859s 90 laps
9. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
1:25.031s 132 laps
10. Romain Grosjean Haas
1:25.255s 66 laps
11. Esteban Gutierrez Haas
1:25.422s 25 laps
12. Rio Haryanto Manor
1:25.899s 58 laps
13. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
1:26.140s 70 laps
The team disperses to our respective bases in Woking, Sakura, Milton Keynes and Tokyo, to analyse the data and complete the work on the final specification of our package, before we head to Melbourne for the first grand prix of the season in just 10 short days.