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Barcelona Day 3 – Mercedes faster than it looked
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Barcelona Day 3 – Mercedes faster than it looked
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Feb 2010   |  10:03 am GMT  |  49 comments

The penultimate day of testing at Barcelona was affected by rain, which fell during the morning and again in the early afternoon, forcing some teams to change their plans for the day and focus on what they most needed to achieve in the limited running time. The track temperature was ten degrees colder than the day before, which also affects the way the tyres work.

Picture 19
For several drivers, like Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button, it was the last day of testing.

Getting the tyres warmed up for a single lap is something Button needs to get absolutely right if he is to challenge Lewis Hamilton and others this season. He did a couple of short runs at the end of the day, which he said were on low fuel, but they were a second slower than the Mercedes, so the fuel loads cannot have been comparable. So we have yet to see the outright pace of the McLaren.

Rosberg set the fastest time of the day a 1m 20.686, but if you look carefully you see that this not a representative time either, the Mercedes was actually faster than that. On his hot lap, the second lap on a three lap run, Rosberg set his fastest time in only the second sector, the lap before was 2/10ths quicker in Sector 1 and on a later lap he was two tenths quicker in Sector 3, so in fact the Mercedes’ ideal fastest lap yesterday was a 1m 20.2, which is pretty quick.

This caused Michael Schumacher to revise his rather gloomy prediction about the first race and say that in fact the car was in better shape to challenge than he had thought. Rosberg has already said that the team has another significant upgrade package for Bahrain, more significant than the update they brought to Barcelona. Schumacher will drive today and all eyes will be on his outright fast lap, as they will with Hamilton. Will the front running teams show their hand today and go for maximum performance or will they carry an extra 10kg of fuel to mask true speed?

Button seemed happy with the new parts he had tested on the McLaren, including new floor and top body, but as always, was left wanting more time. “Out of the box, with a new package, to be as consistent as we are and the pace we have, I am happy,” he said. “I don’t think we are at our maximum yet, but we will do our best tomorrow (with Hamilton driving) to get the maximum out of the car. I think it is just more time with this car – with this update on the car.”

For Toro Rosso, Buemi did a race simulation and set the second fastest time of the day on the fourth lap of a six lap run in the morning. It is hard to judge the long run pace because of the changing track conditions, but Buemi found it a useful exercise, “It was particularly interesting to see how the tyre behaviour changed depending on the fuel load. In the races, it will be important to drive smoothly, as on full tanks it is very easy to damage the tyres if you slide too much,” he said.

Meanwhile Ferrari worked mainly on long runs yesterday. Massa did a race simulation and the first stint was a marathon 53 laps! The lap times were very consistent, in the 1m 26s mainly. When he pitted he was immediately four seconds a lap faster than before, lapping in the low 1m 22s, showing what a new set of tyres is worth. Interestingly the Ferrari’s lap times didn’t really come down much in that long first stint as the fuel burned off.

Today, when it is expected to be dry, it will be interesting to see whether Massa does a really hot lap, possibly in the high 1m 19s or whether Ferrari keep their powder dry for Bahrain.

Red Bull only managed 51 laps on Saturday, with a “planned rebuild” taking much of the morning. It wasn’t until 3pm that Vettel went out to do some meaningful lap times. Today, unusually, the team is sharing the driving duties between Vettel and Mark Webber, to give both a final read on the car before Bahrain. This must mean that there are some significant upgrades which they want both drivers to evaluate.

While the established teams are working on performance, new teams Lotus and Virgin are both still chasing reliability. Lotus managed 102 laps yesterday with Jarno Trulli, bringing the total for the team this week to 248 laps, which is 1,153 kilometres. Virgin lost time with gearbox issues, a control system problem and then a fuel seal problem. The have only managed 114 laps over three days, well under half Lotus’ mileage. Lotus’ long run pace in the afternoon was in the 1m 30s range.

Headline Lap Times – Barcelona Day 3
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:20.686 128
2. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:21.413 106
3. Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 1:21.450 105
4. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:21.975 101
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:22.344 115
6. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:22.523 68
7. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:22.606 61
8. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:23.123 51
9. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1:25.059 102
10. Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber 1:26.216 105
11. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1:26.305 31

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49 Comments
  1. Dale says:

    So many variables to consider, it’s all but impossible to know what’s really going on and as James says will McLaren and Ferrari show their hand today putting in their hottest laps with minimum fuel?

  2. markolive says:

    Great analysis James, i was also wondering where Rosberg had found the 1.20.86.. time from as merc has not shown that pace at all. to hera that he could have gne even faster is good news to a die hard schumi fan.

    1. Paul E. says:

      I agree, markolive. I’m really hoping the track won’t be too green after yesterday’s rain. I’d love to see Schumi string up three perfect sectors and break the 1:19 barrier on his qualifying simulation. Cheers.

  3. James Punt says:

    Mixed weather conditions, big fuel load discrepancies, three different tyre compounds and more new parts to come for the first race. How do these people expect a betting man to make a living with a form guide like this? Oh to be in 2009 again, with the bountiful fruits that were the odds on Brawn winning the first race.

    1. Scribe says:

      Well, I reckon there is a pretty good bet for the race winner in Bahrain. His cars could be best and it’s one of the tracks with Felipe written into the bends.

      Hamilton in Auz?

  4. Zami from Melbourne, Australia says:

    I have just read the reports about the first hour of the last day of testing. It’s just a consumption looking at the lap times that Felipe posted 1:21:849. So judging by the character of the F10 this year he might still be pretty heavy on fuel. At the same time Schumi has posted 1:24:384. So I’m guessing the Merc has the full tank. It is incredibly unpredictable this year!!!

    Anyway, based on the story of the Penultimate day of testing it does seem like some teams are still sandbagging. The Merc was so fast yesterday that I’m more confused now than before. Every team will have more updates for their cars on the 1st free practice I assume. Not sure how much of that is going to affect the lap times for the race weekend. So far the only problem the Mercedes is having I guess is to find the right set up for the car. Schumacher made an interesting comment to his interview on formula1.com saying that he always has something up his sleeves. I wonder what that might be!!!

    I recall last season Jenson struggling to warm the tyres up in damp conditions. This year the fuel load is surely going to have massive impacts on the behaviour of the tyres as you mentioned in this article James. Has Mercedes been able to solve that problem this year?

  5. Adrian Harris says:

    All very facinating stuff. Won’t it be so interesting if we get a Sauber doing a Brawn and maybe even a Williams blowing the field away. I can’t wait :)

  6. Andy C says:

    James,

    are you at the last day of the test? You expecting some real Quali type runs today.

    I’m pretty sure you have said this, but I assume that the tanks are topped off before the race, so quali should be a genuine shoot out for who is quickest?

    But they do start on the same tyres as they finish Q3 on?

    1. James Allen says:

      NO same, tyres the set the time on

      1. Stu says:

        So we may never see the true hot lap potential of the top teams. Not just in testing but over the race weekends too.

        The top teams will want to have a balanced set up between qualifying and the race. So it’ll be the other teams who may go one way or the other to try and get the upper hand in either qualifying or the race.

  7. Nick Hipkin says:

    Great article James, hope you read this.

    Maybe this is a non issue but ive just thought there could be a safety issue that no one has noticed so far.
    with the development of the anvil engine cover/shark fin, in the event of a rear end accident when the rear wing is removed and a car rides up onto the other i fear there is a danger even if small that a driver could be impaled by the long sharp object that is a shark fin. What do you think?
    Just for such a needless piece of bodywork is it worth the risk?

    1. Ross Dixon says:

      It would crumple when the rear wing gets struck . Not even an issue!

  8. Adrian Harris says:

    I am also interested to see that the first half of the race could be slow with the tyre fuel trade off keeping times quite constant. I am hoping that this will give JB a bonus but I am still concerned for him a little bit in quali. As for looking at the sector times it does add quite an interesting slant on things. Mercedes could be the car to beat if the big Bahrain upgrade slots in perfectly!!!

  9. Henry says:

    James, does the fact that Massa’s times did not fall during that long 53 lap stint show that the fuel weight and tyre degradation cancel each other out, or that he was aiming for consistency? Or possibly that the Ferrari is just very light on its tyres? Great insights as always, thank you.

    1. James Allen says:

      Times should drop a little more ideally if you are looking after tyres well

      1. Clyde says:

        I heard the Ferrari were on the same tires for the 53 lap stint. Can anyone confirm this?
        Oh, this a great site James “Nuff Respect” to you James as we say back in Antigua. Great Site.

      2. it wasnt me, it was my sister says:

        when alonso was driving on friday. Did he get the same drop in lap times, or was better. If so, could this mean that alonso was better on managing the tyres? Or may be other thing, like the outside temp, or the race track.?

  10. Tom says:

    Could it just be that Rosberg’s in better shape to challenge than Schumacher?

    1. Pat M says:

      It would be a great irony if Schumacher’s revised opinion that the car was in better shape to challenge based on how quickly Rosberg could drive it did in fact turn out to be that Rosberg was in better shape to challenge than he was. I hope Rosberg doesn’t turn out to be Schumacher’s wing man in the races as i am curious to see how Schumacher reacts to not being in the fastest car with a team-mate designated to slow down the chasing pack. He hasn’t reacted well to young drivers not showing him proper respect in the past (the nerve of JPM not pulling over to let him by) and I wonder how he will react if it turns out he is just another driver on the track in just another car, rather than the number one driver in the fastest car. Especially if it turns out his team-mate is outpacing him….

      1. Stu says:

        He says he’s back to have fun. And if he needed to be Rosbergs #2 then I’m sure he would do whatever Ross Brawn asked him, he owes him that much.

        What happens though if it’s his mate Vettel V Hamilton for the title. Or Ferrari against another team. What would he do then if he could intervene?

  11. Yannick says:

    Very detailed information!
    Well for me thats a surprise to see Nico on top, as it looks I think that Michael Schumacher will be up there with Nico as he’s shown real pace.
    I do have to say that the times are very spread out compared to last season where it was just a few tenths.
    Nice to see Force India coming up again!

  12. machista says:

    interesting entry full of insight. But we need more…

    “Meanwhile Ferrari worked mainly on long runs yesterday. Massa did a race simulation and the first stint was a marathon 53 laps! The lap times were very consistent, in the 1m 26s mainly. When he pitted he was immediately four seconds a lap faster than before, lapping in the low 1m 22s, showing what a new set of tyres is worth. Interestingly the Ferrari’s lap times didn’t really come down much in that long first stint as the fuel burned off.”

    James can you disclose wich tyres did he use and the lenght of each stint?

  13. Jason Petler says:

    Dear James

    I seem to recall Toyota spending a huge sum of money following the F1 circuit in a shadow season prior to joinning the grid and was allowed to do so as it had not reaced yet. So why are the new teams not allowed unlimited mileage prior to beginning this season.

    Cool Site.

    Regards Jason.

    1. James Allen says:

      Not once the year has started. If they’d got their act together last year, they could have. But that shows the difference between a Toyota sized operation and a Virgin/Lotus sized one.

  14. Scorf says:

    Hi James, I notice no mention or analysis of Rubens performance, are you still of the opinion that Williams are a team ‘on the up’? Pace looks good again today…

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, they look good. It’s not an exhaustive list this, just some observations.

  15. JohnBt says:

    Wow, today’s testing sessions seems like Q3 for Bahrain. The pecking order is unfolding, with the top four as predicted. Williams, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Renault could be on the podiums too. So looks like the refuelling ban is looking good.
    Blink of an eye and we’ll be in Bahrain, wonderful!

  16. JohnBt says:

    Shucks I missed out, Force India could be on the podium too.

  17. pbyrne says:

    I know we’re largely in the dark re fuel loads, programmes etc but Massa’s lack of improvement during the 53 lap stint doesn’t auger well I fear…(?)

    How does this compare to how Alonso fared on longer stints James?

  18. Indy says:

    Agreed I think force India are sandbanging, haven’t seen them do a quali lap. I think they will be the surprise package this season!! The force is with them
    lol

    1. Stu says:

      I think you should keep your money in your pocket and hope they can challenge for 5th.

  19. Carl says:

    Can anyone tell why there are so many red flags?

    When car stops in a race or in qualifying it very rarely produces a red flag, so does ever breakdown in testing result in a flag?

    1. Pat M says:

      For most of testing there isn’t as much safety equipment on hand to immediately crane a car off the track, nor is there the pressure to do it quickly to minimize impact on the race outcome. Usually they just red flag the session and send a truck out to get the car. This also gets the car back to the pits faster than just plunking it down on the wrong side of the wall.

  20. ant0ine says:

    So, “weight distribution problems” are solved i suppose….??

    1. it wasnt me, it was my sister says:

      beware of the germans.

  21. Jasper says:

    Am I right to assume that these quali style runs the teams are doing may not be on an absolute low fuel load, considering at the same track last year Barrichello’s Q2 time was in the high 1:19s ?

    1. Irish conor says:

      Lower revs plus minimum weight is higher this year and narrower front tyres slows them down abit

    2. Carl says:

      the cars are slower though this year, narrower tyres and more weight(due to a longer car), regardless of the fuel level

  22. Philip W says:

    I’m going a little of topic here but can anyone tell me what the little air scoop at the front of the McLaren is for? Is it for the driver or for Mclaren to monitor the air flow?

    I’m glad to see Williams showing some pace again i hope they can pose more of a threat for podiums in 2010.

  23. Silverstoned says:

    Rosberg is setting so much store by this awaited upgrade…

    It’s bound to contain something controversial, and maybe explain WHY Schumacher has decided to put his high reputation on the line and enter the fray once more.

    James, do you have any early clues as to what this upgrade may include?

    1. AlexD says:

      Diffusor

  24. David Smith says:

    James.

    What do you make of this? Some Ferrari mechanics clearly not happy here!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPqm7RjgtVY

    Look at the mclaren mechanic with the camera..

    Dave

    1. Martin Collyer says:

      Looks like it’s the short fair-haired guy that Ferrari are worried about.

      Does anyone recognise him?

    2. TM says:

      LOL thanks Dave so much for putting this up – absolutely hilarious!! Ferrari are so pathetic!

  25. Indy says:

    Really? Sutil lap only .125 secs off Hamilton! I think podiums will come this season,

  26. bill says:

    Hi James, do you mean renault are off the race pace by 0.7 s a lap average or is it qualifying pace they are off? thanx for the analysis, smashing!

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