Today the 11 teams who have got their cars ready for the start of the new season were on track for the first day of the final official test at Barcelona.
Mark Webber set the fastest time, but the headline lap times are not really important at this stage, that will come in the later stages of the test when we start to get the low fuel qualifying specials.
What was interesting today was that the teams were working hard on the adjustable front wings which have become a crucial device on the long runs with heavy fuel loads.
Since last season, the rules have permitted an adjustable front wing flap. Last year people didn’t really use them much, except perhaps when following another car closely so as not to lose downforce.
But this year they are a useful weapon to prolong tyre life as the driver can trim the car during the course of the long 45 to 50 lap stints we are seeing. Ferrari has this really worked out well already, as we saw in Jerez last week. McLaren was working on it today as were Renault and others.
In these colder conditions the tyres are graining more than one would expect them to in Bahrain, so it’s hard for the teams to know exactly where they stand, but they can only work with what’s in front of them.
Today the rear tyres were going off and drivers were trying to minimise that with the front wing flaps. When the rears started to go, I’m told it was very noticeable in the high speed corners, like Turn 3, that the cars were very twitchy, the Sauber being the most extreme example.
Most drivers worked on the soft Bridgestone tyre today, with only Webber and Hulkenberg trying the super soft. Webber did not go any faster on his short run on super soft than he had on the soft. He stopped at one point for a precautionary gearbox change.
“Obviously we put some new parts on the car which helped a lot – and of course the car wasn’t in its heaviest form in terms of fuel,” Webber said. “Ok, we used a lot of performance today to get the lap time, but we’re still looking to improve before Bahrain. “We still have problems, so we are not going on holiday tonight. We have more work to do, and we’re still improving this car.”
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg did 107 laps and afterwards said that the team would not make a leap in performance this week, but more likely in Bahrain where it will have a significant upgrade,
“It’s difficult to say exactly where we are,” Rosberg said. “I think it’s very close at the front, but that could all change again for Bahrain because the update we have is such a big step.”
Teams practiced pit stops and it looks like we will see stops of around 3 seconds this year, now that there is no refuelling. Pit crews have been doing a lot of fitness training in preparation for the season and now the serious drills start. It will be crucial as there is an advantage to be gained by pitting first in a straight race this year and every second will count.
There are plenty of new aerodynamic parts being bolted onto the cars. I’m told Williams took delivery of a new floor this evening which they will try tomorrow.
Ferrari has a new chassis, the third, on duty this week.
Be sure to follow all the action tomorrow, with Tweets, photos and insights on our Twitter aggregator JA on F1 Tweets Live from Barcelona
Headline Lap Times – Barcelona Day 1
1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:21.487 109
2. Nico Hulkenberg Williams 1:22.407 82
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:22.514 107
4. Pedro De La Rosa BMW Sauber 1:23.144 73
5. Jenson Button Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 1:23.452 101
6. Tonio Liuzzi Force India 1:24.064 65
7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:24.170 74
8. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:24.173 74
9. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1:24.869 111
10. Lucas Di Grassi Virgin Racing 1:27.057 31
11. Fairuz Fauzy Lotus 1:28.002 76