Monday, February 11, 2013


Watch me and weep Alonso!
It's been a long winter. Almost 4 months of no F1 action is really tough on the faithful. But we survived the cold, boring winter. We made it to the car launches and finally to the first test of the season. The testing sessions, as short as they are, will tell us more of what we want to know. Who will be fast? Which car will be strong? Who will win this year's championship?

So we all want to see all the answers that we possibly can from the first test. Anything that happens at the first test is taken either as a good or bad omen. Red Bull doing plenty of laps without any trouble means we'll have another year of the "finger". Mercedes toasting their car on the first day and shoving it in the barriers on the second is giving second thoughts to Lewis supporters.

But what we've learnt over the years is that even though testing is fun, it rarely is the final word on form. The tests are there to well err...test. All the hard work put in through last year and the winter gets tested on a real track in real conditions. Not on some wind tunnel or simulator with ideal conditions. A test will usually show up weaknesses that needs fixing like what Mercedes found out. Or a strength that can be exploited, like what Red Bull found out with consistent lap times.

Crap! 10% more downforce??
But the problem is we cannot really compare teams as we don't know what fuel levels they ran or what setup was on with which tyre, etc. So even the drivers don't really know..but then again, we know they know. They've been out there so long they can tell. Just like engineers and designers. BBC analyst, former Jordan technical director Gary Anderson went out onto the circuit to watch the cars on Day Four and had this to say:
"I'm out on the track watching the cars and it looks like the Red Bull (Vettel) has 10% more downforce than anything else. The McLaren (Perez) still has constant understeer through the corners, the Mercedes (Hamilton) has understeer on entry and then the rear snaps on exit, while the Lotus (Raikkonen) looks well balanced."
It's never good to hear Red Bull having 10% more downforce than everybody else. They had so much downforce since last year and now they have 10% more? Good thing this is just the first test.


Day 1

1. Jenson Button, McLaren 1:18.861 37 laps
2. Mark Webber, Red Bull 1:19.709 73 laps
3. Romain Grosjean, Lotus 1:19.796 54 laps
4. Paul di Resta, Force India 1:20.343 89 laps
5. Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso 1:20.401 70 laps
6. Felipe Massa, Ferrari 1:20.536 64 laps
7. Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber 1:20.699 79 laps
8. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 1:20.846 14 laps
9. Pastor Maldonado, Williams 1:20.864 84 laps
10. Giedo van der Garde, Caterham 1:21.915 64 laps
11. Max Chilton, Marussia 1:24.176 29 laps

Day 2

1. Romain Grosjean, Lotus 1:18.218 95 laps
2. Paul di Resta, Force India 1:19.003 95 laps
3. Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso 1:19.134 83 laps
4. Mark Webber, Red Bull 1:19.338 101 laps
5. Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber 1:19.502 99 laps
6. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1:19.519 15 laps
7. Sergio Perez, McLaren 1:19.572 81 laps
8. Felipe Massa, Ferrari 1:19.914 78 laps
9. Pastor Maldonado, Williams 1:20.693 71 laps
10. James Rossiter, Force India 1:21.273 19 laps
11. Giedo van der Garde, Caterham 1:21.311 88 laps
12. Luiz Razia, Marussia 1:23.537 31 laps

Day 3

1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari 1:17.879 85 laps
2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 1:18.766 148 laps
3. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull 1:19.052 102 laps
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus 1:19.200 40 laps
5. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso 1:19.247 85 laps
6. James Rossiter, Force India 1:19.303 42 laps
7. Jenson Button, McLaren 1:19.603 83 laps
8. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber 1:19.934 110 laps
9. Max Chilton, Marussia 1:21.269 78 laps
10. Valtteri Bottas, Williams 1:21.575 86 laps
11. Charles Pic, Caterham 1:22.352 57 laps
12. Paul di Resta, Force India 1:23.729 7 laps

Day 4

1. Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus 1:18.148 83 laps
2. Jules Bianchi, Force India 1:18.175 56 laps
3. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull 1:18.565 96 laps
4. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber 1:18.669 142 laps
5. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso 1:18.760 92 laps
6. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1:18.905 145 laps
7. Sergio Perez, McLaren 1:18.944 98 laps
8. Valtteri Bottas, Williams 1:19.851 92 laps
9. Pedro de la Rosa, Ferrari 1:20.316 51 laps
10. Charles Pic, Caterham 1:21.105 109 laps
11. Luiz Razia, Marussia 1:21.226 82 laps
12. Paul di Resta, Force India 1:23.435 49 laps

Combined Times

1. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1.17.879 227 laps Soft
2. Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 1.18.148 123 laps Soft
3. Jules Bianchi Force India 1.18.175 56 laps Soft
4. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1.18.218 149 laps Soft
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1.18.565 198 laps Hard
6. Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber 1.18.669 252 laps Soft
7. Jean-Éric Vergne Toro Rosso 1.18.760 177 laps Soft
8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1.18.766 162 laps Medium
9. Jenson Button McLaren 1.18.861 120 laps Hard
10. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.18.905 160 laps Medium
11. Sergio Pérez McLaren 1.18.944 179 laps Medium
12. Paul di Resta Force India 1.19.003 240 laps Soft
13.Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1.19.134 153 laps Medium
14. James Rossiter Force India 1.19.303 61 laps Soft
15. Mark Webber Red Bull 1.19.338 174 laps Medium
16. Nico Hülkenberg Sauber 1.19.502 178 laps Medium
17. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1.19.851 178 laps Soft
18. Pedro de la Rosa Ferrari 1.20.316 51 laps Medium
19. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1.20.693 155 laps Medium
20. Charles Pic Caterham 1.21.105 166 laps Soft
21. Luiz Razia Marussia 1.21.226 113 laps Medium
22. Max Chilton Marussia 1.21.269 107 laps Soft
23. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1.21.311 152 laps Medium


So what is the verdict so far then? It looks like another close season between Red Bull and McLaren as Button set his best time on the first day when the track was cold and had minimum rubber while Vettel set his time on the same hard tire on a warming and rubbered in day 4. And there's only about 3/10s between them. The interesting thing is Button may have another second up his sleeve if he had been able to drive on day 4. Mark Webber certainly believes so:
"It's a strong lap time. I don't know what tyre he was on or what was going on, but that is certainly not a slow lap around here - a 1m18.8s at Jerez, on Pirellis, is pretty handy."
Next up is the Mercedes. Seems like they were the fastest on the mediums around Jerez. Without their problems on day 1 and 2, they might have been able to put more laps and who knows, might have been able to show something on the hard tires. It may be a blessing in disguide, we'll see. Interesting if expected is to see Perez in the other McLaren just behind the Mercedes, setting his best time on the Medium tire. We might see Perez battling it out with the McLarens this season.

Is something burning??
Lotus and Ferrari seem to be coming after Mercedes, if this testing result is to be believed. Although Massa set a headline time and the only one to do it below 1.18, his times were set on soft tires and on day 3 with lots of rubber already laid. It does bode well for Ferrari though in qualifying.

Ya! Ya! I know what I'm doing!
James Allen has a very interesting piece of information that we fans don't usually get to know about, especially in testing.
"F1 Teams are very regimented, they run 4 fuel levels: 20kg, 60kg, 80kg and 140kg. Most of the running you see at tests is done in 60-80kg loads. The only time they will do 140kg full tank runs is when they do a race simulation. The only time they will do less than 20kg, is when they simulate qualifying prior to the race simulation run."
At the end of the day, all our predictions could just go up in flames and the form book will be re-written again next week at Barcelona. As Mark Webber puts it:
"There are a lot of quick cars out there, and we're mindful of that. Last year we had some very quick cars here in Jerez and they didn't do much in the championship, so let's see."
Barcelona is a more representative track to see the real pecking order and where the power lies. Barcelona is a track used in the championship and the teams have been using it to test there for years. Also the weather is more stable and it can get pretty hot sometimes, thereby simulating real world racing conditions.

Alonso might have a crystal ball tucked somewhere at home for missing Jerez and concentrating on his training. In total, Alonso is scheduled to be in action for just five of the 12 allotted days of winter testing which he believes will pay a long-term dividend as he seeks to avoid burnout from his hectic recent schedule.

As for the last 2 teams at the back of the grid, that is even more a challenge to predict. Caterham and Marussia both now have ERS (previously KERS) but their driver lineups are pretty hard to predict. Only Pic has 1 season's worth of experience. I feel they will fall further behind, that 107% time will be interesting to watch.

Bring on Barcelona!!

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