In two weeks time the teams will be in Bahrain for the first grand prix of the year and today they began the first day of a the final 4-day testing session at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona. After completing 3 tests, the teams will be trying out their latest developments and making sure they are ready for the first race. The gloves are not quite off but this will be our best indicator of the relative pace of the different teams and thankfully it was dry today.
The headline is that Webber in the Red Bull was nearly a second quicker than anyone else. However, hold your horses as he was the only one, with the possible except of Hulkenberg (Williams), to do a low fuel run. After doing their normal engine and system checks in the morning, most drivers concentrated on doing longer runs in the afternoon.
Norbert Haug from Mercedes clarified how difficult it is for the teams, let alone the fans, to determine the comparative pace of the cars. He told Autosport.com, “It’s just impossible to judge – it’s guesswork. If you have a 37-lap run for example, then you have a minimum fuel load – maybe 74 kilos. But that doesn’t tell you the whole story because one guy could do the same run with 160.”
He added, “A difference of around 80 kilos could mean about three seconds per lap, but that’s assuming the heavier guy can make the car work when they take the fuel out. … With one set-up you have to deliver a low-fuel run and an absolutely maximum fuel run. That’s a wide range, and it’s very different to anything we’ve ever had in Formula 1. So you will probably find a car that is at the top of the times on low fuel, but is not so quick in race trim. That will make things pretty exciting.”
So when assessing the pace of the cars, we have all been looking at 3 main areas essentially:
1) The fastest lap produced (with a view on whether low fuel or not)
2) Lap times produced when car is extremely heavy (i.e. slow times on a run that is not installation or systems check)
3) Consistency on long runs – can the car maintain competitive times over many laps without performance drop off.
Here are the fastest laps from today’s action:
|1||Mark Webber||Red Bull (Renault)||1m21.487s||109|
|2||Nico Hülkenberg||Williams (Cosworth)||1m22.407s||81||+ 0.920|
|3||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||1m22.514s||107||+ 1.027|
|4||Pedro de la Rosa||BMW Sauber (Ferrari )||1m23.144s||73||+ 1.657|
|5||Jenson Button||McLaren (Mercedes)||1m23.452s||100||+ 1.965|
|6||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India (Mercedes)||1m24.064s||64||+ 2.577|
|7||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||1m24.170s||74||+ 2.683|
|8||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||1m24.173s||73||+ 2.686|
|9||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso (Ferrari)||1m24.869s||111||+ 3.382|
|10||Lucas di Grassi||Virgin (Cosworth)||1m27.057s||31||+ 5.570|
|11||Fairuz Fauzy||Lotus (Cosworth)||1m28.002s||76||+ 6.515|
*The official lap record at Barcelona is 1m 21.670s by Raikkonen in a 2008 Ferrari, but Barrichello did a 1m 19.954s in qualifying for the 2009 Spanish Grand Prix as well as doing a 1m 18.926s lap during final testing in March last year.
Things to know and consider about today’s testing:
- the quick time of Webber was not that quick and will likely be bettered by some margin over the next 3 days. However Webber felt very confident about the performance, he told the BBC, “This time is one of the best if not the best in the pit-lane in terms of what we’ve done last year and what we’re doing this year.” When he went out in the afternoon for a long run on heavy fuel, he began with 1m29s and 8 laps later was doing 1m27s (that’s a good 6-7secs difference from his fast lap)
- Williams do not appear to have low fuel pace, but seem competitive on heavier fuel loads
- Virgin seem quicker than Lotus, but less likely to finish the race
- Ferrari are not indestructible and Alonso missed out a lot of the morning after causing a red flag with an electrical problem. They had a quiet day but Alonso showed the Ferrari still has great consistency and in a 14-lap stint in the afternoon produced the following times: 24.771, 24.551, 25.522, 24.394, 24.373, 24.564, 25.126, 24.766, 24.486, 24.730, 27.549, 25.273, 30.872, 35.622 (as reported by Jon Noble from Autosport.
- Rosberg had a very consistent run in the afternoon, with 24 laps in his Mercedes averaging 1m24.6s. Mercedes have a very significant update for Bahrain so their performance at this test is not a strong indicator and they say they are not concentrating on fine details at this test because the change coming is so big.
- Button in the McLaren had a quiet day and there were no low fuel glory runs. He did a long run, clearly heavy with fuel, of 20 laps averaging in the 1m27s and 28s. Then later, after Rosberg caused a red flag, he was completing consistent 1m23s laps. The McLaren looks quietly impressive, but Button did cause a red flag right at the very end of the day, stopping at Turn 10.
- Di Grassi in the Virgin had an off and damaged the back end of the car so they were not able to get many laps in, they will not return to the track until tomorrow lunchtime/afternoon when new parts arrive
Here’s an onboard qualifying lap with Button in his Brawn from last year’s Spanish Grand Prix:
Here are some photos from today’s action: