The Formula 1 test season starts next week in Valencia, the first of four official F1 tests before the opening Grand Prix in Bahrain on 14 March.
The tests are open to the public and it’s a very good value way of seeing plenty of F1 action.
The Valencia test runs from February 1-3 at the Riccardo Tormo circuit, which is not the same as the street circuit used for the F1 Grand Prix. A one day pass for the grandstands is only €10.
Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg will drive the new Mercedes car and there will also be the new car from McLaren, with Gary Paffett driving on the first day, Lewis Hamilton the second day and Jenson Button on Day 3. Ferrari will be there with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, as will BMW Sauber with Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi.
Williams will be there from the start of the test with Rubens Barrichello, who will drive days one and two and Nico Hulkenberg, who will drive on day three. This will be a return to the track for Cosworth engines after a three year absence.
The new Renault car will be launched on Sunday and should be out on track next week, with Robert Kubica at the wheel and it looks increasingly likely that Vitaly Petrov will be the other driver. Kubica is likely to be given the lion’s share of the testing time, to maximise performance development. Meanwhile Toro Rosso launch their car on 1 February and will have Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari on track in Valencia.
However the Red Bull team will not be in Valencia, they are taking the extra time in the wind-tunnel and will launch their car on 10 February in Jerez. The second official test at Jerez runs from 10-13 February. Entry is a mere €5 per person.
Also making their debut in the second test are Force India. This is planned, the team has confidence in the reliability of the car, thanks to the engine and gearbox package from McLaren and Mercedes, so they too are going for the extra time in the wind tunnel and restricting themselves to 12 days of testing. Along with Red Bull, Force India are one of the teams with the greatest continuity from last year to this in terms of management, drivers and technical package. Having come good in the second half of 2009, they could be worth keeping an eye on this season.
This test should see the debut of Virgin Racing, with Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi.
A week later the cars will be running in the third test, again at Jerez and this time Lotus will join in with Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen. At present the Campos team has yet to confirm its presence at any tests. It has been reported by AP that the team may miss the tests altogether and run for the first time in Bahrain. A shortage of funding appears to be the problem here and it seems that until more funding is found, progress is going to be difficult. “Bahrain is a test for us, ” a team official is quoted as saying.
The fourth and final official test takes place at Barcelona on 25-28 February, making a maximum available total of 15 days testing before the season starts. This very limited programme is the reason why most of the top teams have worked hard to ensure that their car is out on day one in Valencia.
USF1 will carry out its testing at Barber Motorsport park in Alabama, on dates to be confirmed in February. Argentine Jose Maria Lopez will drive the car; he was announced today as the team’s first driver.