Today was the final day of pre-season testing and the next time the cars will appear on a race track, it will be for real at the first Grand Prix of the season at Bahrain in 2 weeks’ time. This was the last chance for the teams to fine tune their cars and simulate race conditions.
It also provided perhaps the clearest comparison of the performance of the teams we’ve had over the whole of the 4 pre-season tests. The majority of teams, especially the top teams, all simulated low fuel qualifying runs and several, notably Mercedes and McLaren, completed heavy fuel race-length ones.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton went quickest today (and for the entire 4-day test) with a 1min 20.472secs lap. This was achieved on the 4th lap of a 4-lap run (1m24.451s; 1m21.469s; 1m30.535s (traffic); 1m20.472s) and clearly demonstrates that the McLaren has very good low fuel pace.
|1||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren (Mercedes)||1m20.472||134|
|2||Mark Webber||Red Bull (Renault)||1m20.496||+0.024||59|
|4||Adrian Sutil||Force India (Mercedes)||1m20.611||+0.139||99|
|5||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull (Renault)||1m20.667||+0.195||76|
|7||Rubens Barrichello||Williams (Cosworth)||1m20.870||+0.398||83|
|8||Kamui Kobayashi||BMW Sauber (Ferrari)||1m20.911||+0.439||67|
|9||Sebastian Buemi||Toro Rosso (Ferrari)||1m22.135||+0.941||87|
|11||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus (Cosworth)||1m25.251||+4.779||65|
|12||Lucas Di Grassi||Virgin (Cosworth)||1m26.160||+5.688||47|
As the times show, the different teams are very closely matched, with the top 5 times separated by less than two-tenths of a second and the top 9 times separated by less than a second. That’s really really close. A comparison of the fastest times across the 4 days at Barcelona confirms this with the top 13 times produced by 7 different teams using the 4 different engine suppliers (currently operating in F1) and separated by less than 0.6secs.
This means we are in for one hell of a close season and as we head to Bahrain no team appears to be dominant.
- McLaren will leave Barcelona with a lot of confidence. Their new aero package is clearly working and Hamilton completed 134 laps today without any technical problems.
- Massa showed he can pilot the Ferrari as quickly as Alonso and was only 67/1000ths off Hamilton’s time and completed 113 laps today. Ferrari leave Barcelona as favourites, but only just, as they seem to have right combination of quick low and heavy fuel pace and consistency in long runs.
- Mercedes have become more optimistic about their pace and although they have stated they are not where they want to be pace-wise, their analysis of their performance in Barcelona has lead them to believe they will be able to compete strongly at Bahrain. Schumacher said he was impressed by McLaren’s pace today but also said Mercedes have a new update for Bahrain which Ross Brawn has described as largely an “efficiency update” which should translate into a performance update.
- Red Bull has improved and have good low fuel pace (only 0.02secs slower than McLaren), but their quick times were produced on shorter runs than were achieved by McLaren and Ferrari. Both Vettel and Webber got to drive today (as Vettel did not get much running in the wet yesterday) and the two drivers completed a combined total of 135 laps today.
- Adrian Sutil in the Force India was 4th fastest today only just over a tenth slower than Hamilton. Their long run pace seemed competitive too so they could be a surprise team for 2010.
- Not a good day for Virgin, again, as Di Grassi only completed 47 laps as they encountered more technical gremlins.
- Lotus were slightly quicker than Virgin and have proved themselves to be more reliable. They believe they are 4 seconds off the pace of the top teams, but will be the best of the new teams entering F1 this year.
- Hamilton’s race distance simulation saw him start with 1m27s laps, quickly move down to 1m25s laps and 26 laps into his run (and 6 laps after his first pits stop) he was lapping in the 1m23s region. He maintained good consistency, completing many laps in a low 1m23s pace and finished his final stint on that pace. He made 2 pits stops for new tyres during the whole simulation.
- Schumacher also completed a race simulation and started on a similar pace to Hamilton but 36 laps in (and 15 laps after his first pits top) he was doing high 1m24s pace, whereas Hamilton was doing 1m23s laps. However, at the end of the simulation he got down to very high 1m22s pace which was quicker than the McLaren driver.
- On race distance simulations the top teams seem very close. Here is a very interesting article that directly compares Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes lap times on Day 3 at Barcelona during their race simulations.
Here are some photos from today’s action: