@Mick, Haha, we love a way-too-early prediction on ESPN. Sadly, it all looks somewhat familiar. Mercedes clearly has reliability and good pace, but we have yet to see what the Red Bull can do (because of reliability issues on the car). I only saw the Mercedes, Ferrari, Force India, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Williams when I was watching trackside yesterday and the Merc looked like the class of the field. The Ferrari is definitely up there, but the Mercedes just looked sooo planted to the track. Force India looked a bit ragged and had a tendency to step out on Perez through Turns 1, 2 and three. Based on all that, I'd put Mercedes top with Ferrari closer than last year but not close enough to win. My gut feeling (based on no actual evidence) is that the Red Bull will be very quick on non-power dependent circuits and could challenge Mercedes. Toro Rosso will be a dark horse, Force India and Williams will struggle to fight for fourth and McLaren will come strong as long as the Honda power unit allows. That could all be proven wrong by the end of this week!
Hamilton has set a 1:21.766, which is 0.001s slower than yesterday's time! Impressive stuff after 1 hour and 45 mins.
@By Cin, I think Haas will be fairly competitive. I fear Sauber will be at the back by themselves.
@manoj It's very similar to the Mercedes! (which is usually a good thing). The nose and front suspension seem to follow a very similar philosophy, which is different to all the others. I think most of the excitement is that it looks amazing and has a new livery that works really well with shape of the car.
Sorry about the lack of updates, we are experiencing some connection issues here at the track.
Basically, Ferrari wrote to the FIA asking for clarification on systems pioneered by Mercedes and Red Bull last year. The Italian team wants to know whether it would contravene F1 regulations by adopting a similar hydraulic suspension system or whether it strays to close to active suspension systems that are banned by the FIA. The suspension essentially helps maintain the car's ride height under braking and under load, to help the effectiveness of the aerodynamics. Red Bull and Mercedes claim they are not worried about the responses they have had from the FIA about their suspension this year, but the question is whether Ferrari protest it at the first race of the season.
@motormouth The teams do a pretty good job at guarding them. They are definitely a big deal and we'll do our best to get pictures from our agencies.
Raikkonen, Ocon and Magnussen are all on track right now. They've been joined by Hamilton.
... for those wondering where the Renault is today.
@JasonArellano: I am taking over comms now as Laurence is heading over as we speak. His destination? Turn 9, so we will feed back what he says as soon as he lets us know.
@JasonArellano: It's a tough one! I'm doing a track run later this evening and can confirm that's always the toughest part...
The Mercedes mileage-fest continues as Hamilton flashes past the media centre window for his 45th lap of the morning. Raikkonen not having quite the same success Vettel had yesterday in getting out and compiling a lot of laps straight away.
@Harvey: Danny Ric is not in the car today, Red Bull is alternating days between drivers, so this is Max Verstappen's session.
@JohnK: Magnussen has been out for a while now, he's just come back in for medium tyres and gone out again. He's climbed up to fifth in the order with his last lap. Times to be updated imminently.
Times have been updated, and you will notice a new name at third - Ocon moved up as I was typing, the Force India showing some good pace with the Frenchman. The team is making up for lost time after an exhaust issue cost an entire afternoon of running yesterday.
@SaiKancharla: Could be for a number of reasons, mainly that Mercedes rarely turns its engine up fully at these tests and is likely doing heavier fuel runs. Times really not that important at this stage of testing.
Verstappen goes green in the first two sectors and improves to a 1:23.627, but he stays fourth.
@F1fan: I think so - these cars are supposed to shave about five seconds off last year's times. Pole here last year was a 1:22.000 flat. I doubt we'll see all five of those seconds disappear from lap times in the next two weeks as there's so much data to be gathered on tyres, the new cars, etc, but they'll keep dropping as the week goes on for sure.