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Barcelona day 4 – End of testing shows how close it is
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Barcelona day 4 – End of testing shows how close it is
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Feb 2010   |  10:00 pm GMT  |  157 comments

The official pre -season testing ended with a frantic day at Barcelona as the 11 F1 teams who have a working car got their final runs in before the freight gets sent of to Bahrain and a new season of F1 begins. Whether they will be joined there by Campos, USF1 and/or Stefan GP we will probably learn in the next week.

Picture 20
As expected it looks like the closest season for many years with four teams fighting for the overall victory and several others only a few tenths of a second behind. The rule changes outlawing refuelling seem to have brought the field closer together, if anything, and McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes can all expect to fight for victory in the early part of the season. With those four teams stuffed with superstar drivers with a point to prove, including four world champions it should be a vintage season of F1.

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the test today, with a 1m 20.472 in the McLaren, which seems to be very strong on the single qualifying lap. Hamilton set the time on new soft tyres in a qualifying simulation. He was just 2/100ths faster than the Red Bull of Mark Webber and 6/100ths faster than the Ferrari of Felipe Massa. Adrian Sutil showed that Force India have good pace with a time just 13/100ths off Hamilton and Michael Schumacher was 3/10ths off the McLaren time. The track conditions were different from yesterday with a gusty wind troubling the teams in the morning.

Barrichello was only a tenth behind Schumacher with Kobahashi hard on his heels for Sauber, which makes it seven teams within four tenths of each other. The Toro Rosso was just behind, but you have to bear in mind that this is the first car the team has designed and built itself, having been a customer of Red Bull Technologies these past few years, so to be doing this well this soon is very impressive. The Renault confirmed predictions from last week that it is around 7/10ths off the pace, despite running a new front wing today.

The Lotus, with Hamilton’s former McLaren team mate Heikki Kovalainen at the wheel, ended up 4.8 secs off the pace after it’s second test session, almost a second clear of the Virgin, which was again hampered by hydraulic problems.

There was some theatre during the day, with Hamilton and Schumacher running close to each other during their race simulations, taking a good look at each other ahead of their first encounter in Grand Prix racing.

It’s a very different feeling for McLaren from 12 months ago when they left Barcelona test with long faces and a 2.5 second deficit to the Brawn car, despite using the same engine. McLaren had a significant update this week with new floor, engine cover, top body and after Jenson Button found a direction with it yesterday, Hamilton and his engineers dialled the car in today. There have been some mixed messages around about McLaren in recent weeks, but they are clearly as fast as anything else out there and this will mean that qualifying, tyre choice and race strategy will be crucial deciders in the early races.

After a strange 2009 season when neither of the traditional front runners was able to fight for the title, both McLaren and Ferrari are clearly back in business. Ferrari have been strong and reliable all through these tests and were the pace setters going into this final week. Things can still change, Mercedes are a tenth or two behind but have a significant upgrade coming for Bahrain and it will change from circuit to circuit depending on handling characteristics and upgrades. It looks like teams will bring upgrades in large steps, rather than chip away at it with something at every race.

Felipe Massa, who is also fully back in business, signed off the testing with a positive message, “We wanted a competitive car and I think we’ve achieved our goal. It’s difficult to say who worked best. Today the time sheet says Hamilton, but we’re all very close together, it’s just tenths of a second. I think that we’re part of the group. I don’t agree at all with those who say we’re the strongest: I think we’re there, together with some other teams. I can’t say that we’re going to Bahrain to win, but I know that we’ll fight for it.”

Headline Lap Times – Barcelona Day 4
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes 1:20.472 134
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:20.496 61
3. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:20.539 114
4. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:20.611 100
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:20.667 76
6. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:20.745 123
7. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:20.870 84
8. Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber 1:20.911 67
9. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:22.135 88
10. Robert Kubica Renault 1:23.175 107
11. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:25.251 65
12. Lucas Di Grassi Virgin Racing 1:26.160 49

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157 Comments
  1. Freespeech says:

    Today’s testing was brilliant, if only F1 would realise they show they could put on for the fans and then show it.

    The times were very interesting and I am wondering whether McLaren being at the top of the leader board was more to do with Hamilton than the pace of the car?

    Looking at the full Barcelona test times & comparing team-mates the biggest gap between team-mates by far is between Hamilton 1 and Button 15 whereas the Redbull drivers were 2 & 7, Ferrari drivers 3 & 6 & the Mercedes drivers 8 & 9 (times taken from Autosport’s timing table http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/81781).

    Are we starting to see the true class of Hamilton in doing to his team-mate what Senna always did to his?

    Could you pass an honest opinion on the James?

    1. James Allen says:

      Let’s get some way into the season before we rush to judgement on this. I think Button has settled in really well at McLaren, but Hamilton went up a gear last season and is really on it now

    2. Alex says:

      I think that Jenson’s best time came on slightly damp track, so it’s really unfair to Jenson to judge him like this.

    3. Pat says:

      I think Jenson v Hamilton is going to be a lot closer than people think – my monies on Jenson :)

      1. iceman says:

        You might be on to a good thing there, especially if you got 14/1 as some bookies are offering… Definitely a good value each-way bet I would say.

    4. m77t says:

      but if you looked at the final Jerez test it was almost an exact opposite, with Button quickest and Hamilton lying in the mid-teens, proof that comparisons between days is pretty meaningless

  2. TM says:

    James – re. the theatre you mention of Hamilton and Schumacher running together – I read an interesting snippet of a Schum interview where he said it’d been fun to drive alongside Hamilton. Do you think Schumacher could be as excited about running with Hamilton as vice-versa?

    1. James Allen says:

      It will be interesting for him, a major threat, of course. More interesting for Hamilton to measure himself against the very best

      1. kristian says:

        Monaco qualifying will be better than half the races this year.

      2. TM says:

        If nobody crashes ‘by mistake’ lol!

      3. Sam says:

        I am a huge schumi fan but i doubt Lewis will get the best of him.

        I am just not getting the impression that he still has that.

        Imagine if he does something like Luca Boder?
        That would be very sad for the sport.
        I am losing sleep about it haha.

        I hope I am wrong.

      4. alk says:

        Haha. I had same question last year. But now it’s obvious, that he’s ok. Will be interesting to see his competition with Rosberg. Exciting season ahead!

      5. Henry Manney says:

        “More interesting for Hamilton to measure himself against the very best”

        James Allen, I think that’s some pretty obvious
        pro-Schumacher bias. You seem to have overlooked that
        Schumacher’s record is not due to the work of Schumacher
        alone.

        When Schumacher can win without cheating or using dirty tricks, THEN he might be “the very best”. Until then, he’s
        just a driver who won a lot of races.

        You cannot call your self unbiased when you write this sort of cr*p, Mr. Allen.

      6. James Allen says:

        I think that is a little harsh. The point is that Hamilton hasn’t had an opportunity to race against Schumacher in F1. The record books will tell you Schumacher is the best and, for all his “dirty tricks” as you put it, anyone who has worked in the sport will tell you that his driving and competitive spirit are of the highest level. There is no bias in that. I think your response shows significant bias, if I may say so.

      7. Paul E. says:

        You must’ve lost a lot of money betting against him through the years to be that upset about MS. :)

  3. A Wyatt says:

    James

    It all looks extremely close for the top 6 teams actually. Who do you think has the edge between Button and Hamilton?

    1. AlexD says:

      Nobody knows.

  4. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    James, I heard that Schumacher’s final long run ws messed up by a red flag.

    Did this deny him a last gasp qualifying type lap? Are we yet to see the true pace of the Mercedes?

    1. dren says:

      He ran his qualifying simulation early in the morning as did some of the others. A few cars ahead of him in the times ran theirs later in the day when the track was probably a bit quicker.

    2. Patrickl says:

      They all did their qualifying in the morning. Part of a race simulation, you do the qualifying simulation first and then the race. Especially this year wehn you need to start the race with your qualifying tyres and setup.

  5. Smokey says:

    This really could be a cracker of a season. All the elements are in place. James, you seem convinced that these time gaps are realistic which bodes well. I do have a feeling though that someone is not showing their hand yet…presumably its more than possible to simulate a qualifying run but just carry an extra 15 kilo’s of gas in the tank? Red Bull and Ferrari would be my choice as possible ‘ sandbagger’s ‘ Your thoughts?

  6. Chris Bird says:

    I am constantly amazed that the teams in F1 can build a car to a set of rules and then be so close in performance. This year really bodes well with perhaps up to five teams and ten drivers all seemingly capable of being there or thereabouts. Over the course of the season I think that the following drivers will standout (not by much) from their respective teamates:-

    Mclaren – Hamilton
    Ferrari – Alonso
    Mercedes – Schumacher
    Red Bull – Vettel
    Williams – The Hulk

    I cannot remember being so excited about a F1 season since 1991 when early season testing indicated Senna and Mansell would be very close. My only concern is that the races will turn into follow-the-leader affairs where the current regulations make overtaking almost non existent (I hope I am wrong)

    P.S – Shame on you Ferrari for the recent comments re the new teams. It’s behavior like this and seemingly zero understanding of the fans view point (plus Austria, plus Indianapolis) that make you, as a team, so hard to support…

    1. Banjo says:

      I agree entirely with your comments on Ferrari.

    2. Flintelli says:

      Ferrari are F1 – F1 is Ferrari….

      1. LT says:

        That is the view of red fanbioys only

    3. American_F1_Fan says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I’ve never much cared for Ferrari and these kinds of things are a big part of the reason why. Ferrari never had much chance of having me as a fan, but after these latest tirades that chance has gone from “highly unlikely” to “when hell freezes over”.

    4. lola says:

      Both Austria and Indianapolis were cmpletely Barichello fault.
      Austria was handled as any other team would have done, it is just that Barrichello did not follow the instructions. As Coultard and others did many times for thy respective teams.

      Indianapolis was one of the lowest point reached by a racing driver. Barrichello pipped on the finishing line Michael Schumacher, who was slowing down just to make a parade finish.

      1. Chris Bird says:

        I think you are missing my point on this:

        1- Barrichello was ordered, by Ferrari, to give up the win in Austria in only the sixth race of the season. He had been informed, after the same thing happened the year before for 2nd place, that this would never happen if he was leading. Bad call and Ferrari made it.

        2- Indianapolis – Ferrari were dominant. Schumacher tried to stage a dead heat, after clearing it with Ferrari. What a shambles and the crowd, quite rightly, were appalled. Bad call and Ferrari made it

        My comments were all about the arrogance of Ferrari

  7. jose arellano says:

    the red bull and toro rosso look prety much the same… are the just saying they built it but using red bull design???

    1. George says:

      It’s an evolution of last year’s design, so it’s bound to look somewhat similar, I imagine their designers are following the same train of thought too.

  8. M__E says:

    James,

    Didn’t the Mercedes have the upper hand in testing on the McLarens before the McLarens got their major update this week in Barcelona, and the Mercedes are only 3/10′s off the pace with their MAJOR update still to come in Bahrain?

    In all probability Merc will be right with them in Bahrain or even slightly ahead when they start the racing, of course a little fly in the ointment to that theory is that if McLaren bring updates to Bahrain too, then that might keep things similar to how they are now post barcelona.

    So do McLaren have updates coming in time for Bahrain?

    1. dren says:

      With as big of updates Mclaren just brought to the car, I don’t see them bringing anything that will give them as big of a step to Bahrain.

  9. Owen.C says:

    Looking forward to seeing how the races play out with no-refueling. I really have no idea and hope you could write a quick overview of what to expect James? Now we know how tyres dergade and pit stop strategies.

    Oh I also hear that the fastest pit stop so far was 5.5 seconds, a little way off the targeted 3 seconds, do you have any info on this James?

  10. Mattw says:

    With the times so close, do you think the teams may decide to split strategies for the first few races, with one car set up for quali, and the other car set-up for the race?

    1. dren says:

      I think tire strategy may play a big part, which then results in needed pit stops.

  11. Adam Taylor says:

    James,

    Thank you for your indepth knowledge of testing over the past few weeks, it has been very interesting to hear stories, new parts, fuel levels etc. But from testing alone would you be able to classify the teams which you think are the quickest in order?

  12. Nevsky says:

    I voted, but it’s too close to call.

  13. Ian Blackwell says:

    Great news for F1, terrible news if you are a punter. This season is a nightmare to bet on. If I was to ask you to pick a driver right now for the 2010 WDC who would you go for? Many thanks.

    1. Banjo says:

      Personally, my heart says Hamilton, my head says Alonso.

      1. Zobra Wambleska says:

        I can’t bring any part of my body to say Alonso.

    2. Francis says:

      Hamilton

  14. Femi says:

    Massa looks really on it, he’s driven the most of any driver and is out to grab that title.

    Forza Massa.

  15. adam says:

    The blue line is a race engineers dream !

    [IMG]http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/m444uk/f12010testbarcelona.png[/IMG]

    (chart compiled by ZooL)

    1. dren says:

      It’s odd how flat the Ferrari line is. I was looking at that graph the other day.

    2. Patrickl says:

      Yeah, I made a chart like that too. So how people can claim that it’s “close” is beyond me. Only for people who only look at the fastest lap but miss the complete story behind it.

      Add up those laptimes for Hamilton and for Schumacher (who were racing together) and Hamilton was a minute faster in his race simulation.Not sure what was up with Massa, but he was a whole lot slower than Hamilton too.

      Don’t just look at the fastest time of the day. It says virtually nothing.

      1. Dan says:

        Hamilton must be well over a minute ahead of Button then, if Hamilton is a lap ahead of Schumacher.

    3. Pawel says:

      Hamilton looks to be the quickest, indeed. Thanks for that graph. Do you have other drivers’ lines?

    4. alk says:

      Yes. I too noticed that both ferraris had flat graphs with huge jumps after tyre change. Alonso graph is lower only because Friday’s track was faster.

      Now do you still honestly believe that Lewis cannot look after the tires ?

  16. F1 Kitteh says:

    Can we have a non shark fin car win in Bahrain? They just don’t looks very sleek somehow…

    1. rooks says:

      According to the Internet fairy tales, the sharkfin might be the real deal on the car, so I wouldn’t expect to see it go. Rumours are that it channels air from the overhead intake to a thin slit along the rear wing, increasing straight line efficiency.

  17. DGen says:

    James,

    Previously you provided some information from the paddock engineers as to what the general consensus of performance was between the teams. What feedback have you received from these individuals after the last day of testing?

  18. Nadeem Zreikat says:

    Other years the champion has one 6+ races. This year it looks to go back to 20+ years ago where the champs would win only win a few races. I see whoever wins probably wont win more than 4 races unless someone finds a big advantage.

    1. Phil C says:

      Hamilton only won 5 races in 2008 :-D
      Seriously though I think you’re right and I really hope so too. This could be the most competitive season of F1 for years

    2. Dale says:

      Or of course they have friends at the FIA! No surely not?

  19. Milton says:

    The difference between the 1st and the 8th is less than half a second… This season looks very, very promising.

  20. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    James, very interesting to note your comment on the importance of strategy for 2010.

    A few weeks ago I read from some observers that strategy would probably become less important and that Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn would particularly suffer as a result.

    I am more inclined to buy into your conclusion. Previously, when we had the typically 2 pit-stop/3 sprint-stage races it was mainly about calculating what the fastest way to finish the race was and factoring in the likelyhood of the safety car. Now it’s all about tyre drop-off.

    Three questions for you:

    1) Do you think that strategy will be much more on-the-hoof for the early stage of this season and dependent about the relative tyre drop-off between a team’s main competitors?

    2) How conservative do you think that the teams will be regarding filling the fuel tank in the early races?

    3) Does ambient temperature have a significant effect on the fuel burn rate?

    Best wishes and thanks for all the great coverage during testing.

  21. Ridwan says:

    Very good summary James, thank you.

    Another surprising result.
    Can’t wait Bahrain race coming.
    Hopefully the progress of 2 (or 3) teams in waiting won’t spoil our excitement at this stage.

  22. JohnBt says:

    I wished the testing revealed which tyre compound (unless all were for the glory runs) was used in the simulated quali stage. Other than that with 8 teams within 0.439 seconds was amazingly close. It’s tough figuring which team is 100% at the top. Come next weekend the first race begins. BAHRAIN BAHRAIN BAHRAIN…lol.

  23. Stu says:

    So we’re finally under the two weeks to go mark and I haven’t been this excited about a new season for a long time.

    I had to vote Ferrari because their two drivers have done so well in Bahrain in the past.

    But for me it’s anyone but Mclaren :)

  24. krampa says:

    It isn’t that close. McLaren has been very ‘quiet’ these past weeks. Clearly, they are holding something back. What has happened to the previously talked about triple diffuser? Will it make a ‘hidden’ appearance in Bahrain?

    1. alex m says:

      Well, there was talk of Ferrari protesting the clever back end of the McLaren, if it is that radical and fast we may well still see that happen. There is no point in showing it off too early so it can be copied and/or protested, if indeed it does exist.

      From what I understand, teams are really testing the chassis, and it’s systems, adding aero tweaks here and there does not mess up the fundamental chassis work.

  25. ARVI says:

    Hi James

    is it true that M Schumacher is struggling to get up to the limit this year?

    i have a small fear

  26. the speed gods says:

    In italy they say that the ferrai would have to start with 15 kilos worth, of extra fuel. Have tou heard anything lately james.

  27. Ali Unal says:

    Is it just me or is it the silence before the storm? We haven’t heard so much from teams or drivers yet. I think everyone is now studying the times before saying anything which would make them silly. It must be tense out there. Teams are very very close to each other.

    1. Luca & Flav says:

      It’s you

  28. Adrian says:

    With only 13 days to go before the first race, I can’t remember a year when I’ve been this excited about the new season or have scrutinised testing as much!!

    James, thank you as always for your insights which make it a lot easier to understand the testing. Still a shame you’re not in the commentary box alongside Martin, any plans to return there for any medium other than TV? (I’d love to think you could run a live streamed race audio commentary over the site, but I don’t expect that would be feasible…)

    Anyway, hopefully these 2 weeks will be full of enough news to make them fly past!!

    What are your thoughts on Campos/USF1/StephanGP…will be see any/all of them line up in Bahrain?

  29. AlexD says:

    I am watching F1 because of Ferrari and and it was always the case. I think for 12-13 years already I am supporting Ferrari, but I need to say I am getting a bit tired lately with the comments from the team.

    The whole “Horse Whisperer” column is a terrible thing that Ferrari should have not done. Comments from Alonso on how great the car is are not ideal either.

    In my view, the team of a Ferrari caliber should simply and silently focus on getting the job done – no comments, no critique.

    We are about to experience probably the most intense battle in F1 and if Ferrari wants to win, they should work and behave differently.

    1. dren says:

      With a season almost guaranteed to be close, expect some whining from the Ferrari camp if they are in the mix.

      1. Tony Vigna says:

        Or more whining from McLaren playing the victim in spite of dodgey practices. You know. Lying, spying, that sought of thing.

    2. Banjo says:

      Well said.

  30. Luca & Flav says:

    Actually, Virgin are fairly “Horned Up” & ready to go!

  31. Paul A M says:

    Hi Ian,
    WDC Alonso ( he’s one of the most complete drivers on the grid)
    WCC Ferrari
    Rookie of the year Nico Hulk

    As much as I would like to see the Rainmaster Schumacher win another WDC I don’t think he’ll do it this year but I back him to win a couple of races.

  32. Ashley Edwards says:

    Teams can not make the mistakes they have done before now as 1 mistake could put you way down the grid.

  33. Dale says:

    Well not long before the 1st race now.
    I think we’ll see the best of both Alonso and Hamilton this year as they will both go all out to prove they are the best and will race rally hard.
    The danger is that they could take each other out and let a lesser driver through.
    I hope most of all that we see some real sportsmanship which sows the world that if it wasn’t for the constant FIA politics and result meddling that F1 could be one of the best sports in the world rather than the great (to F1 fans) it is.
    It’ll be interesting to see whether Schumacher will moderate his driving and not weave like he did in the past where his mates at the FIA let it pass without so much as a mention – this will be a test for both Schumacher, Mercedes and the FIA!

    1. alex m says:

      The Weaving/Blocking issue was something I posted about a few days ago, seeing how fresh tyres gives 3 or 4 seconds a lap difference, I can see the first real arguments of 2010 being about blocking and the legality.

      In recent years, the enforcement of the rules has been a farce, drivers let off unnoticed for blocking or even hitting others, while some others, often in Silver cars seem to get penalties for the daftest of reasons.

      1. Banjo says:

        Silver cars do seem to have been unlucky in the past… where as Red seems to have been a rather lucky colour, when it comes to the FIA that is. Of course, this is just my opinion. I would like to see some consistency in the FIA’s judgement though.

      2. Dale says:

        Could not agree more, the decisions that have gone against McLaren, especially Hamilton’s penalty at Spa in 08, have spoiled F1.
        All I, as both a McLaren and F1 fan is fair racing with rules properly applied no mater who’s behind the wheel or which team built the car.

  34. Andy C says:

    Can’t wait for the season to start. It’s clear there is no one dominant team at the start point.

    I am still amazed at everyone writing button off before he has started the season.

    I think lewis has the edge, and he is outstanding, but I don’t subscribe to the theory that lewis is going to blow him away.

    Give him a good car and he’ll be right in the mix.

    James
    previously when you mentioned the Toyota design was an A3 diffuser. Is that the size, or am I showing my lacking knowledge again :-)

    thanks!

    1. Banjo says:

      In my view, Hamilton will have the edge in Quali, Button will have the edge in the race due to tyre management. Who will come out on top is anybody’s guess. I’m a massive Hamilton fan, his driving style is great to watch – but being a Somerset Boy like Jenson i’ll always support him to do well too.

      The impression i’ve got is that the diffuser is A3 sized, but i stand to be corrected.

  35. Trent says:

    Is there no chance that Williams will run KERS this year?

    1. JamesF1 says:

      The teams all agreed not to use it this year.

      1. James W says:

        It was only a gentleman’s agreement though, nothing set in paper or stone.

        I did read in November that William’s were planning to run their version of KERS this year…

      2. Trent says:

        Yeah I read the same – suddenly it has gone quiet. I wonder…

  36. Alistair Blevins says:

    I wonder how early in the season we’ll see teams favouring one driver over another?

    Given the strength of the driver line-ups and the closeness of pace shown in testing, intra-team battles could decide the championship in favour of another team.

    I guess only time will tell.

    Whilst the struggle at the top will be a fascinating 4-way battle I’m particularly looking forward to Williams and Sauber throwing the odd spanner in the works.

    Rubens and the Hulk will be a formidable pair in the Williams, whilst the exuberance of Kobahashi allied to the development expertise of Pedro de la Rosa mean that Sauber should be able to haul in some good points.

    Then there’s Force India with another extremely slippery car.

    A cracker of a season awaits. Can’t wait.

  37. Silas Denyer says:

    Excellent analysis; thank you.

    I’m intrigued by the apparent disagreement between Alonso and Massa as to the state of the team. Massa is emphatic: “I don’t agree at all with those who say we’re the strongest”, yet – it seems, from here – Alonso is the chief architect of that point of view.

    At the expense of over-analysing the situation, do you think we see a difference in belief between the drivers here, or am I simply missing something?

  38. S2K says:

    Virgin and Lotus as light years behind… Thank you FIA for reminding us the Andrea Moda and 1997 Lola episodes!

    1. Tim says:

      The best Lola managed in 1997 was 11.6 seconds off the pace in qualifying for the Australian GP.

      Andrea Moda qualified just once, at the 1992 Monaco GP. That year, Moreno was 22 seconds off pole in Brazil, 16.9 seconds off in Spain, 7.1 seconds off in San Marino, 23 seconds in Canada, 11.6 seconds in Great Britain, 10.9 seconds off in Germany and 14.5 seconds off in Belgium.

      To compare either team with Virgin and Lotus is just plain daft. Both have had teething problems, but neither are in the same league of awfulness as Andrea Moda in 1992 or Lola in 1997.

      1. the speed gods says:

        agree. they are in gp2 league.

      2. Tim says:

        The vast majority of F1 teams currently on the grid have their roots in categories below F1 – Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Sauber, Williams, Renault, Force India, Toro Rosso and Virgin by my count. Ferrari was around before F1 started so Lotus is the only entirely new outfit around.

        The alternative to teams “in the GP2 league”, as you put it, are the giant car manufacturers lavishing enormous amounts of money to buy success. But their boards and marketing budgets tend to demand success or withdrawal, regardless of whether it leaves the sport in the lurch.

        Given a choice between a full grid propped up with a couple of GP2 teams or an F1 that’s the plaything of the manufacturers I know what I’d go for.

    2. Phil C says:

      I don’t think so…

      Andrea Moda made the grid, and out performed a few other cars along the way, they were just a poor example of how a Formula 1 team should be run (more USF1)

      Lola were rushed into competing, and had to build a car in two months – were around 13 seconds off the pace (not the 4 or 5 that Virgin and Lotus are), and folded due to financial constraints and their sponsor not supplying funds.

      These two new teams applied and were selected by the FIA, have built a car in the allotted time and made no secret they’d struggle at the start of the season. This is a new era, it can’t be compared to history

      1. Banjo says:

        On the budget and time frame they have had, Virgin and Lotus are doing exceptional jobs. Even if they’re 7 seconds off the pace in Bahrain, to be just that in the five months Lotus have had is impressive. I remember reading about USF1 long before any of the other new teams – yet USF1 have made a mockery of themselves.

  39. yos says:

    Hello james if i am not wrong in barcelona a two stops strategy is better than one stopper as the times go down from 1.26s to 1.23s for new tires, which contradicts the arguements of some who say that those who look after their tires will win.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes and the race sims were three stints, in many cases

      1. ahlapski says:

        That’s very interesting, James, if youu are right, then this actually play into the hands of LH. It means he doesn’t have to look after his tyres as much as he anticipated.

        I voted for McLaren to win the first race; and in fact I am going to stick my neck out and say LH will win the first race; bar any hiccups.

        There is no odds for this at the moment, but I will put the money where my mouth is and place a bet.

        I think it’s only fair, James, that you should do the same and tell us your opinion on this.

        Those who’s in favour of James to tell us please say so in reply to this comment, THX.

      2. S Hughes says:

        Yes, would love it if James stuck his neck out. Even if he turns out to be wrong as there are so many variables and unknowns.

      3. iceman says:

        James gave us quite a few “how the … Grand Prix will play out” prediction posts last year… I predict we will have to wait until a week Saturday before we can get a prediction out of him though :)

  40. F1ART says:

    My money is on the Renault engine in the red bull and its fuel consumption making the difference.
    Can’t wait for Bahrain should be a cracker!

    James thanks’
    for the brilliant insight over the winter months I hope someone takes the golden opportunity to sponsor this site soon; it is the leading portal in F1 without doubt.

    1. Banjo says:

      My belief was that the Mercedes engine was very close to the Renault in fuel consumption last year, and no doubt they have worked on this over the Winter, as much as the rules permit anyway. The Mercedes engine does however boast a performance advantage other it’s rivals, so could well be the better engine to have?

      Renault can’t be too pleased that a customer car is by far out performing the works car?

      1. ahlapski says:

        That’s right… you can have a Clio engine in the back if you like like. But it won’t win any races …. LOL.

  41. cube says:

    The Renault is not more than a half second far from the best. How can you say that ?

    I looked at all the long runs and the Renault seems to be not bad at all, maybe even better than the Mercedes.

    Mclaren tested a new front wing, new deflectors, new bodywork, a new diffuser and many lttle modifications…
    Renault and Mercedes tested new front wings…

  42. Patrickl says:

    Look at the laptimes of the drivers as a whole. Don’t just pick out one fastest lap to base an analysis on.

    Overall Hamilton was a huge amount faster than Schumacher and Massa.

    “It’s a very different feeling for McLaren from 12 months ago when they left Barcelona test with long faces and a 2.5 second deficit to the Brawn car, despite using the same engine”

    They might have been 2s slower than Brawn at the end of that Barcelone test, but in the following Jerez test they were “only” a second off the pace.

    The last 2 days at Jerez, when McLaren “privately” tried out their double diffuser, Kovalainen was actually only 0.1s off of Button’s earlier fastest time.

    In the end they went even a second faster than the fastest time they set on Jerez this year …

    Oddly enough they didn’t have the guts to actually race that double diffuser and decided to close it up for the first few races.

  43. Flintelli says:

    James, There are rumours that Mercedes are looking to indroduce a new ‘super diffuser’ for the 1st race…..?

    If true, could be the start of 2009 all over again!

    Do you know anything about this….?

    Cheers

  44. Dan says:

    Have there been any coding changes to the site? It no longer works on my symbian mobile browser (N85) :(

    1. James Allen says:

      Some upgrades have been going on this week, but it should all work the same way.

      1. Banjo says:

        I’ve been having a lot of problems getting onto the site the past 24 hours too. Hopefully they’ll disappear again soon!

      2. Paul E. says:

        Same here. I’ve finally been able to get through this morning (here in Manila, Philippines) but I’m getting a string of weird characters on my Opera browser. Though it lacks the speed and bells and whistles of Firefox or Chrome, its easy interface makes it my favorite surf and blog tool. Hope your tech dept. finds a fix, James. – Thanks!

  45. Jomy John says:

    I wonder why people seem so interested in the fastest lap times this year? Its no indication of how the car will perform during the race. The Mercedes looks just as good as any other team out there on low fuel but I feel Schumacher seems to be feelin a bit down concerning race pace. Maybe that is what Michael alluded to in the earlier statement he gave?

    I can only hope the new diffuser and the big update that is due for Bahrain can address the race-pace issues as the car seems to eat out its tyres faster than the rest.

  46. Thalasa says:

    Let me go a little bit off the topic for a second. I desperately need your help. Here in Spain we spend half of each race watching commercials. This season is going to be even worse because our favourite commentator, namely Pedro Martínez de la Rosa, will be comfortably driving a certain Sauber car. Does any one know of any web site were we could watch F1 on the Internet.
    My other option is to commit suicide. :)

    I also have a dish but it doesn’t point to the right satellite.

    1. James Allen says:

      You can follow my Twitter commentary of the qualifying and race

      1. Thalasa says:

        And I will. Like others, I discovered your site a few weeks ago and I think you are a master. I didn’t tell you before because I hate to sound like the teacher’s pet (you say “teacher’s pet”, right?)

        But I would also like to watch it on tv if possible.

        I need to keep proving that my predictions are always wrong.

      2. James Allen says:

        Thanks. Please spread the word about the site

      3. SplinterBoy says:

        James,

        Will you be doing the fom/world feed press conference questions this year?

      4. James Allen says:

        Yes I will, at most of the races

      5. PaulL says:

        Peter Windsor might have some free time for it if you know what I mean!

    2. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

      James, the commentary here in Colombia is atrocious. It comes from Fox Sports.

      They turn the sound of the cars right down and have three heavy-accented Argentinians barking commentary at you from the studio. It’s all like a very badly dubbed movie.

      One of the commentators has a horrible gravel-voice like Max the manservant from Heart-to-Heart (the 80s US mystery drama starring Robert Wagner). Another has a horrible command of pronouncing English words….e.g., Lowees Khamilton and Weeleeams.

      There is no insight into fuel loads or strategy and they have this horrible trumpet music that comes on during ad breaks.

      If you were to set up your own live commentary channel on the internet, I for one would happily pay a subsriciption.

      1. James Allen says:

        You are not allowed to do that from the race circuits. It’s against FOM rules and I have too many other things to do during the sessions anyway!

    3. yos says:

      use a proxy to watch f1 on the BBC, i ususaly do that as i live in France and they don’t mind to put a commercial break whenever they feel about it, I remeber going myself going crazy when they put an ad when Hamilton and Raikonen were batteling it out at spa 2008.

      1. Davexxx says:

        I’m a Brit in USA; Speed TV F1 coverage is good, but to save $$$ I had to downgrade our cable TV package, so no longer get Speed TV. I’d like to learn more about how to watch F1 qualifying & races – even if recorded and shown later – via the internet. Could someone help explain just how one can do this please? Any useful links to user-friendly sites? And at what costs? Otherwise I’ll just have to watch clips and read all that I missed on this FANTASTIC JA website – THANKS James for such a great job! (And people – please stop pestering James Allen for Predictions, give the guy a break!! Thanks)

      2. Casey says:

        Davexxx, am also in US without SpeedTV. Here’s a couple. First is for fee, second is free: http://www.watchf1.net/
        And http://www.channelsurfing.net/
        Have only used them some in past year, quality can be so so at times—on my pc anyway. A sports bar is my preference. Hopefully others will chime in with tips/opinions.

      3. Casey says:

        Davexxx, here’s a third I forgot to mention:
        http://www.watchliveformula1.com/
        No experience with them.

      4. Davexxx says:

        I’m a Brit in USA; Speed TV F1 coverage is good, but to save $$$ I had to downgrade our cable TV package, so no longer get Speed TV. I’d like to learn more about how to watch F1 qualifying & races – even if recorded and shown later – via the internet. Could someone help explain just how one can do this please? Any useful links to user-friendly sites? And at what costs? Otherwise I’ll just have to watch clips and read all that I missed, on this FANTASTIC JA website – THANKS James for such a great job! (And people – please stop pestering James Allen for Predictions, give the guy a break!! Thanks)

    4. alex m says:

      I used to watch F1 on Speed TV on the internet using TVU Player or Sopcast, both peer to peer streaming programs that show F1 races, from Spain, for the same reason….

      The best site for fans, pre James’ new project, I found was the FIA Formula 1 site http://www.formula1.com/ this gives all the lap times, sectors, etc. live and is an invaluable insight to what is really happening out there, often before the commentators have noticed or bothered to report it.

      Could be time to buy a second PC screen :-)

    5. Toni says:

      I don’t know where you are in Spain but if you can get either TV3 or Canal 9 from Catalonia and Valencia respectively the you’ll be able to watch the Grand Prix with only 3 commercial breaks. That’s not bad when you consider that La Sexta with the main deal are really gonna go all out with adverts!

  47. Phil C says:

    James, here’s a question…

    Were the teams who ran race simulations really able to gain a representative view of tyre performance when they were stopped by red flags?

    What I mean in, surely they would have had to come into the pits, and the tyres would have cooled. then they’d have had to work them hard to get them up to the temperature they were at prior to the red flag.

    I’m guessing they may have put the tyres in blankets, but still wouldn’t there have been a drop off of temperature?

    Just wondering!

  48. Gabe says:

    James,
    Great job sifting through the jungle of laps for us. How does McLaren compare to Ferrari and redbull on the Long run sims?
    So curious– and so are my friends here in Sweden. You are a life saver!
    Cheers

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s close. Ferrari had a tenth over Red Bull in Barcelona on long runs, but that can change with updates to cars etc very quickly. Ferrari need to keep the developments coming, while I think Red Bull haven’t fully unlocked the potential in the car yet. Qualifying at the front will be critical.

      1. Gabe says:

        And McLaren? where do they fall on the long runs vis a viz Ferrari and redbull? Thanks so much!

      2. Gabe says:

        And McLaren?

      3. Gabe says:

        ps. apologies for double sending that one. your website (at least from sweden) seems to be acting up a little since last evening.

  49. Paul A M says:

    James just wanted to congratulate you on your book The Edge of Greatness. I can’t help thinking you will be relishing the prospect of all the new material that the German Genius is about to create for a second book?
    Any ideas for the title yet maybe Greatness to Genius?

    1. James Allen says:

      Let’s see what he does first!

      1. Flintelli says:

        I’d be amazed if he didn’t achieve one more championship in the 3 years at Merc!

  50. Paul A M says:

    KERS is no longer allowed..

  51. R.B. says:

    As a McLaren fan, I don’t think the VMM has the best car yet. They do have the fastest driver though that makes up for certain performance lack.

  52. S Hughes says:

    BTW, I wish the BBC had brought you over from the ITV commentating team. I find Legard really not up to standard. I think you were a victim of being enthusiastic about a British driver who had some very vocal haters, but they weren’t in the majority. Real shame. Your rapport with Brundle was brilliant. Same cannot be said for Legard.

  53. Yannick says:

    Jees this is really close between the top 8.
    Interesting to see Kamui Kobayashi and Adrian Sutil up there. Looks like force India are in good shape! Its really nice to see privately owned teams coming up.

    Im a Schumacher fan and i believe that Michael will be top soon, but give him a break, hes been out of the sport for 3-4 years!

  54. James W says:

    I dectect a high amount of patriotism in the poll there. But in all honesty, and as a Brit myself, I expect a Ferrari to be the winner with the likely winner being Alonso. Second and third are very much open at this stage.

    1. Andy C says:

      James w
      I think the user stats on ja s user population are that the spread is much more global than than 75% Brits. I think mclaren are really well placed. But we’ll find out in 2 weeks :-)

      James,
      isn’t it only about 40% uk based? What are the latest user stats on number of people contributing and where them come from?

      1. James Allen says:

        Yes about 45% UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Australia and pretty much everywhere else. Lot of Finns… even Kazakhstan!

  55. Jonny says:

    Where’s the option for “none of the above”? ;)

  56. James Alias says:

    I think this year’s regulations will suit a driver like Schumacher. With all that experience he’s had since the days of his endurance racing in Sportscars (early 90s) where they almost nursed cars to the finish, his consistency and his very low proneness to make mistakes, I can see him probably being very slow and lackluster for almost 75% percent of the race, and then all of a sudden at the end you’d wonder how he got there?

    Rosberg I think is fresher and has more race practice than Schumacher (in the last three and a half years at least). I don’t think Rosberg is faster, at most they’re probably equal, its AMAZING that Schumacher could even match him straight from day one – and this guy will only go quicker and quicker. Moreover, Rosberg is not as consistent.

    I have my money however, on Alonso winning the Bahrain GP. I don’t know who’s gonna be WDC though. Your Bahrain GP (driver) winner, anyone – Everyone??

    (its not fair to only have a selection of only four team) ;)

  57. TURU says:

    James, I don’t know how can You assume that Renault is 0.7 sec off the pace. They didn’t do any quali simulations during Barcelona test (limited running due to technical issues). Their pace on Sunday, with new front wing, on race simulation was really good (I w’d say that they were somewhere near Mercedes, and far better than FI, Sauber and Williams). In addition they are planning to bring 40% new parts to the car for Bahrain; including new “extreme” diffuser (and new nose, I guess, because the one used in tests seems not to fit to the rest of the car). I think that Renault may suprise many people in Bahrain, including You, James ;D

    Regards, Peter.

    1. James Allen says:

      Maybe you are right, but I’m not assuming anything, It’s from engineers of other teams whose calculations suggest that this is where Renault are. Let’s hope they are wrong and Kubica will be in the thick of it, as you say

  58. Morris Mao says:

    Did anyone report the excitement in the circuit when Alonso passed Hamilton during the test on Friday?

    It seems like a moving past Schumi by Hamilton have give English media quite an exciting, which must gave them some comfort, after saw Alonso passing Hamilton at least two times on the track on Last Friday.

    Take it easy, it´s just in test.

    Anyway, I do not think Schumi is still that very best Schumi, just like 41 years old can never be as same as 31 years old, Even Brown has come to realise that, Schumi is not the one in his memory yet.
    However, in such a labouring work, for him, can still have a place in one of the best teams is already a great victory. For other driver, if still regards passing Schumi a great victory, such a feeling could be regarded as a shame.

    1. K miles says:

      what?! what language are you speaking?!? have u used google transalation to make your point?! james sort this lot out!

      1. Morris Mao says:

        Sorry, my Mother tongue is Chinese. I never use google to make my points.

        My main points are:

        I read several reports from some English media, which making some funny description about Hamilton’s movement on the Shumi, I wonder why they did not mention what happened on Friday, the real excitement happened in the circuit.

        I do not think such kind of description has much gravity.

        I do not think Shumi is still the very best driver on the track, although he is worthy of my full respect.

        Sorry for the confusing caused by my written English ability.

  59. JohnsonsEvilTwin says:

    Hi James

    Any “insider” info on Mercedes upgades for Bahrain?

  60. Toni says:

    Fantastic reports all the way since Cheste in Valencia to Montmeló in Barcelona. I’ve really enjoyed the thorough analisis and enthusiasm that you’ve showed from the star James. You’re journalism shows that you really love this sport, not that it was ever in question hahaha…

    As you’ve stated in today’s final report. On today’s testin. We’re really gonna be in for a great start to the season with the top teams all so close and all with fantastic drivers.

    I just heard on the Spanish radio ‘Cadena SER’ that Campos Meta is now going to be called Hispania or something like that. Unbelievable this merrygoround with chops ans chnges all over the place. I only hope we get some sort of stability at the rear end of the field because it could make the whole thing a shambles and in my opinion the FIA are the ones to blame because they’re the ones responsible for the decision making.

    What do you think about those changes James?

    Anyway… Thanks for everything uptill now James and I for one can’t wait to keep upto date with your F1 diaries!

    Cheers

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s a shame, but not altogether unpredictable.

  61. chris green says:

    No one has commented on the possibility of DNF’s playing a large role in the championship outcome.

    Schui has always gained the upper hand by intimidating other drivers. The newer young guys like Vettel and Hamilton will need to resist this intimidation. Could all end up in tears on occasions. Villeneuve and Hakkinen weren’t intimidated by Schui. I think Schui had Damon Hill psyched out for a few seasons.

    Cheap points will be available toward the end of races when there will be a long line of drivers on shot tyres.

  62. RocK says:

    Hi James, Any top speed data? Thanks.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes. Hamilton fastest through the speed trap at 313km/h. Massa 308km/h, Barrichello 308, Schumacher, Kubica, Sutil 307, Buemi 305, Di Grassi 302, Vettel 301, Kobayashi 300, Kovalainen 298

      1. Green&Gold says:

        James any fastest Sector times. Great blog, keep it up.

      2. James Allen says:

        Hamilton S1 22.356; S2 30.305; S3 27.645

  63. Martin Collyer says:

    James, sorry to go off topic somewhat but…

    What do the rules allow the FIA to do in terms of preventing teams running that are deemed to be, for example, too slow or too unreliable and causing too many red flags?

  64. Femi says:

    A bit out of topic james, but how long is nico rosbergs contract at mercedes??

  65. abu says:

    I think alonso could have been in the high 19′s if he had supersoft tyres on friday

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