Four conclusions from first test

Mercedes still miles ahead

They did not post flashy times and refused to put on any of the faster soft tyres, but pounding out 675 laps in four days was a statement of intent from the double world champions. Lewis Hamilton claimed to have "never had a week like this" as he prepared for a tilt at a third straight title.

Ferrari speed encouragng

Ferrari posted the fastest time on three of the four days to boost hopes that four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel could post a stronger challenge this season. However, at the first test last season, they also topped the timesheets in three of the first four days, but were eventually left well behind once Mercedes began to flex their muscles.

Much to do for McLaren-Honda

Hopes for a fresh start for the McLaren-Honda partnership were quashed in the final day and a half in Barcelona, as the MP4-31 barely made it out the garage due to hydraulic and cooling problems. Reliability issues and a lack of engine power hampered them last season, and there is little evidence they have the tools to propel themselves back to the front of the grid.

Force India to be third force?

Arguably the most eye-catching time of the week was Nico Huelkenberg's in the Force India that topped the chart on Wednesday. Most notably, the second-best time of the week from the German came on super-soft tyres, while the other three of the top four times came on the faster ultra-soft. Sergio Perez also had the fastest time of anyone on soft tyres. Force India certainly seem well set to challenge the likes of Williams and Red Bull to be the third force.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2016, with the headline 'Four conclusions from first test'. Print Edition | Subscribe