After the first 4 ‘fly away races’ (Bahrain, Australia, Malaysia & China), the teams have been adding new bits and pieces to their cars to improve performance for the 2010 Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona (circuit de catalunya). But how much have they improved, if at all?
This is rather hard to judge as there is no real baseline to compare. However, the teams all visited the Barcelona track at the final pre-season test at the end of February.
Comparing the fastest lap times from that 4-day test with their qualifying lap times at the Grand Prix shows some rather interesting results. Obviously the track conditions were not exactly the same in February, but their relative performance differences between the two times are somewhat revealing and also quite confusing.
You would expect that the times at the Grand Prix with dry and warm conditions when the drivers are really pushing it as much as they can in the new improved cars that their times would be a lot faster?
|Driver||Team||Spanish GP Qualifying Time||Pre-Season Best Time||Change|
|Mark Webber||Red Bull||1m19.995s||1m20.479s||-0.484s|
|Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1m20.101s||1m20.667s||-0.566s|
|Adrian Sutil||Force India||1m21.985s||1m20.611s||+1.374s|
|Pedro de la Rosa||Sauber||1m22.026s||1m20.973s||+1.053s|
|Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||1m22.191s||1m21.413s||+0.778s|
|Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||1m22.207s||1m21.571s||+0.636s|
|Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India||1m22.854s||1m21.056s||+1.798s|
|Lucas di Grassi||Virgin||1m25.556s||1m26.160s||-0.604s|
Surprisingly only 4 teams (Redbull, Renault, Lotus and Virgin) had improved times at Barcelona this weekend. All other teams had slower times (Jenson Button being the only exception).
Redbull’s improvement is very impressive, with both drivers able to deliver times half a second quicker than they went at the end of February. Lotus and Virgin both show half a second improvement which suggests that Lotus’s new changes are not as advanced as they hoped for.
The biggest change is Robert Kubica’s Renualt with a nearly 2 second improvement, whereas his teammate Petrov was only able to achieve a 0.4secs improvement.
Williams have a lot to be concerned about as Hulkenberg was a massive 1.5secs slower and Barrichello a horrendous 2.255secs slower. The Force India cars were 1.5secs slower on average, Sauber about one second slower , Toro Rosso 0.7secs slower and Mercedes just over half a second slower. The Ferrari of Alonso and Hamilton’s McLaren were at least three tenths slower.
So does this mean the team’s improvements have actually made their cars worse? Well, track conditions have to be factored in, but certainly don’t explain all the difference. It could also be speculated that during the pre-season test some teams ran low fuel using a lower ride height (i.e. not also being set up for a full tank of fuel as they do in qualifying).
Whatever the reason, one thing is very clear, Red Bull are simply doing a better job at developing their car than anyone else.