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Final test at Barcelona should give form guide for season
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Final test at Barcelona should give form guide for season
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Feb 2010   |  10:39 am GMT  |  72 comments

The final official test starts this morning in Barcelona, with 11 teams out on track – all the teams competing this season except for USF1 and Campos.

The four day test is the final chance for the teams to test out new developments before the first race in Bahrain on 14 March.

The first two tests were largely about proving reliability, while the more advanced teams started to push the performance side a lot more in Jerez last week.

For this week a wide range of new aerodynamic upgrades is expected. Teams like McLaren and Ferrari have produced significant packages of top body, floor, engine cover and so on, primarily aerodynamic steps as it seems from talking to the engineers that aero is still the big area of growth potential, despite all the cut backs. These steps should be worth significant chunks of lap time.

This will inevitably mean that the pecking order, which started to appear last week in Jerez, might get reshuffled a bit. We saw very little low fuel running last week, most teams set their fastest time with around 50 kilos of fuel in the car. This week we will see a mixture of high fuel running, ie the full 150/160 kilos they will start the race with and some very obvious low fuel qualifying runs, where the headline lap times will come.

From this we should see who has the best long run performance for the races and who has the best qualifying performance. This year a car is required to have both and this is a difficult balance to strike, because you are asking your car to be hard on the tyres for a single lap in qualifying and then without being able to change the set up, be gentle on the tyres for the race.
Picture 2

It will be particularly interesting to look at McLaren, where Lewis Hamilton’s style naturally leans on a tyre, which will be good for qualifying, whereas Jenson Button is more smooth, so switching the tyre on for qualifying will be his challenge.

Both are high quality experienced drivers so they should be able to adapt, but there may be a difference between them in this area at this stage. It will not be easy to compare as they will be running on different days and track conditions change a lot at Barcelona from day to day.

Most engineers I have spoken to agree that prioritising qualifying is the right thing to do this year, but if you go too far down that line you may end up wrecking your tyres in the race and get overtaken in the closing stages. Being able to trim the car as the race unfolds, using the front win adjusters, will be important for maintaining tyre performance and that is something we will see a lot of this week.

You can follow all the action from Barcelona live on our Twitter aggregator, which pulls in the best of the Tweets from teams, drivers and journalists at the test JA on F1 Tweets Live from Barcelona

Or if you are on a work intranet which blocks Twitter, use our new service JA on F1 Tweets Live from Barcelona – Intranet

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72 Comments
  1. Joe Szpara says:

    Hi James,

    Do you know what the planned upgrades for renault are and how do you rate there chances against the top 4 (Mclaren,Ferrari,Merc,Redbull).

    Great Website Too.

    1. Stu says:

      Their one strength is the apparent fuel economy that was highlighted on here last season (along with their engine being the least powerful). But the other manufacturers will have worked hard over the winter on improving theirs so that may have vanished.

      I can see Renault fighting it out with Williams, Sauber, STR and FI as being the best of the rest. The cosworth in the Williams will probably let them down so they should realistically target 5th. But Kubica will have his work cut out scoring all the teams points.

  2. GLM says:

    Anyone know the score on chilling the fuel – is this allowed? in order to cram more in the tank, like in superbikes etc… I bet Ferrari have been getting some tips from Ducati

    1. Ross Dixon says:

      It’s illegal. remember williams nearly lost their points in Brazil 07 for this offence. This would have resulted in Hamilton winning the championship but nothing came of it anyway.

    2. Banjo says:

      If anybody has the answer to this i’d be interested to hear it also.

    3. rpaco says:

      No it’s not.

      1. Eric Weinraub says:

        Well… what about insulating the fuel tank to maintain ambient temp and thus preventing fuel expansion?

      2. Martin says:

        Chilling the fuel doesn’t help much as the mass is the same and there is no tank capacity constraint. With refueling there would be an advantage as the time would be reduced, but that’s home now. MotoGP and Superbikes are capacity limited, hence the refrigeration of fuel. Back in 1984 when refueling was last banned there were issues with frozen fuel, but then there was a 240 or 220 litre tank limit. The teams had to consider the expansion of the tank depending on expected temperature.

  3. Henry says:

    Any bets on RBR having a stormer? I really want them to be showing that they capitalized on their potential from the end of last year. Yes I know they are in contention but I was hoping that they would be in ferrari’s position as it seems to be; marginally in front!

    1. Henry says:

      yes yes yes so far so good, Webber has gone fastest in the test today, even beating the previously set track record apparently! Any bets on a red bull pole and second on the grid in Bahrain? If Webber can do that imagine what vettel will do!

      1. gil dogon says:

        Well, It is very fastm but Buttons pole from last year was 1:20:52 about a second faster, though it compares with 2008 and 2007 pole times.

      2. Henry says:

        Ok, thanks for that I only read it on some dubious twitter so i wasn’t sure! and that tells me alot cheers!

    2. Segedunum says:

      Ferrari are not in front. They’re masking.

  4. Alchemy says:

    James,

    I read earlier your comment that Fernando Alonso was expertly trimming the car and you have mentioned this again in this blog post.

    Would you mind clarifying what you mean by ‘Trimming’ please?

    Keep up the great work.

    Best regards,

    A

    1. James Allen says:

      Working the front wing to adjust the downforce

      1. rpaco says:

        Ah but they have a new wing and have to start all over again

      2. henry says:

        Am I right in saying the only change to the front wing trimming is that now they can adjust it from the cockpit whereas before it was done mechanically during pit stops? or have they changed the angles etc? thank you.

      3. James Allen says:

        Yes since last year the cars have adjustable front wings from the cockpit

  5. rpaco says:

    I still think that Ferrari have sussed the tyres out for this season. Presumably they have computer simulations of different wear rates for different tracks in comparison with all the test tracks.

  6. F1-Fan says:

    What’s Red Bull bringing?

    1. gives you wings says:

      a small high. With pretty bad taste. I recommend monster…

    2. JamesF1 says:

      Wings :o)

  7. Peter Brito says:

    Great article James;
    Thanks for keeping in touch with the engineers for us.

    1. red bull tastes like crap says:

      your welcome.

  8. Terry says:

    An interesting analysis of low-fuel vs. high-fuel qualifying, James. However, with the current uncertainty regarding F1 teams, I’m wondering how much of this will actually pan out. (As well, I’m wondering how qualifying will work out this year, with maybe 22 cars one race, 24 the next, then maybe 26.) Q1 might just be a time for the big teams to put in banker laps with used tyres while the many teams at the lower end ensure a large pool of potential drop-outs. Then for Q2, I’m not sure that F1 will have eight quality teams to make this an exciting session all season long; my guess is that some teams will be pretenders rather than contenders and will rarely make it to Q3 (think BMW and Renault last year). In which case some big teams might not put that much attention on low-fuel trim, which may mean that the strategic gamble is made on Friday evening about the Saturday program and the need to spend much time on low-fuel on Saturday morning. Especially with the very limited testing away from races, which will make it difficult for mid-level teams to make themselves into qualifying specialists, like Toyota which often shone on Saturday and then set up the Trulli Train on Sunday.

  9. j. potocki (canada) says:

    i believe this seasons championship winning car/driver combo will be the one who manages their tires the best. look for alonso & button to be the ones to beat.

    1. Banjo says:

      I have a feeling Alonso will be the one to watch, even though it pains me to say it. I’m rooting for Hamilton but Button does look after his tyres well. Hamilton will have the edge of Qualifying, where as Button will have the edge in the race so it’s all to play for at McLaren. I’d be chuffed if either of them won the championship though.

    2. dren says:

      I think the car has to also be designed around the tires. Button may be good on the tires, but if his car is not, what can he do?

  10. Rob Gallagher says:

    Great idea about the intranets blocking twitter, unfortunatly my school block your website aswell.

      1. Scribe says:

        Because, any school, will viciously crush anything on the internet which could possibly be entertaining.

        My school blocks the BBC.

      2. Richard Mee says:

        Criminal it may be… but I suspect you’re not on the national curriculum James!

        Yet ; )

      3. Rob Gallagher says:

        No, and it’s not technically my school who block it, it’s Leeds Learning Network. You should take it as a compliment as they block all the good websites.

      4. Rob Gallagher says:

        It’s strange aswell because they allow all the other main F1 websites…

      5. Martin P says:

        If they allow other sites then there’s something in the classification details of this one that they’re picking up (i.e. adult content markers). Get one of the techies to tell you what it is… they can do it as a mini-project in class to see who can spot it! Then you can either ask them to change the filter or ask James to change the classification because you can bet there’s a small and simple mistake at one end or the other.

        Alternatively of course they might just block all the other sites too. Oops!

  11. R.B. says:

    “anticipation is brutal”

  12. Mouse_Nightshirt says:

    “Being able to trim the car as the race unfolds, using the front win adjusters”

    Typo James, but an awesome idea, imaging if “Win adjusters” really did exist!

    1. Brace says:

      Maybe Ross overrides Rosberg’s win adjuster and adjusts it to Shumi :)

    2. Banjo says:

      Some might say Renault had a win adjuster at the Singapore race two years back!

    3. monktonnik says:

      Bernie is looking into this as we speak.

    4. rpaco says:

      They are usually set to the maximum win position.

    5. rpaco says:

      Is the front wing flap driver control really that finely adjustable?
      A great pity that the rules did not increase the permitted flap movement this year, there is room for a great deal of development in movable aero features.
      For the future I think many agree that aero influence or at least total available downforce must be reduced, however whilst cutting this by say 50% we should allow what is left to include movable sections both front and rear wiht up to say 15 degrees movement. Why not air brakes too? A whole new set of driver skills would then need to be developed, maybe qualified driver/pilots would benefit.

    6. TheGreatCornholio says:

      You could describe Flav and Piquet jr as “win adjusters”! Lol

    7. john NZ says:

      win adjusters, more commonly referred to as piquet jr

      1. Pat M says:

        Why is it that when a midfield driver (Piquet) crashes his car into a WALL to affect the outcome of a RACE that is the worst scandal in F1 history, but when a front runner (Prost, Senna, Schumacher) crashes into ANOTHER DRIVER to affect the outcome of the CHAMPIONSHIP that is just competative spirit. Enough with the hypocracy guys.
        And just so you know, I never liked Piquet.

      2. Martin P says:

        Because one of them did it with style and panache while he other one skulked off like kiddy who’d nicked a fizzy cola bottle from Woolworths’ Pick ‘n’ Mix, before cracking up and sobbing to papa.

        As for the other one….. we ignore that because for every black mark there are a dozen gold stars. Being an F1 fan makes you fickle I guess. What can we say?!

      3. Paul Kirk says:

        I agree with you Pat, absolutely, and then what about all the other teams/drivers who’ve done things to influence the outcome of races in the past decades, it’s been going on since racing started, and not just car racing either. Of course now we have more journalists looking for scoops, more red tape, more cameras, more critics, more “experts”, better comunication, etc.
        I’d actually like to see Nelson jr. succseed in racing, he comes accross to me as a reasonably normal guy, (unlike his old man, poking his tongue out, etc., when he was currant).
        Regards,
        PK. (nz).

      4. john NZ says:

        dude, i was making a joke, relax a little.

    8. American_F1_Fan says:

      “Win adjusters” do exist, you just know them by their common name, “FIA Steward”. :D

      1. Paul Kirk says:

        Yes, you’re absolutely correct, American F1 Fan, well said! Incidently I hope USF1 manage to make it to the grid.
        PK. (nz)

  13. Frank Dernie says:

    I am sure the teams will keep their “powder dry” until Bahrain. People may be surprised to find that it is not that unusual for a team with a quick car to not run in qualifying trim until the first race.
    It is the nature of the business that keeping secrets from the dozen other teams involves keeping the fans ignorant too, however keen they are to know the facts. OTOH it is equally true that the facts are often disbelieved anyway if they do not align with the opinion or bias of the fan in question…
    I have been doing this for 30+ years and I do not have enough data to make a useful evaluation. We usually really only know after 2 or 3 races.

  14. Steve Simes says:

    We need to change the rules and let the teams have their cars back after qualifying. Not being able to change the set up between qualifying and the race is no longer a good idea since the car has to be more different between the two than ever before (since the park ferme rule was introduced). The FIA can still limit certain major changes, but let’s allow the teams to make set up changes.

    1. Paul Kirk says:

      I agree totally!!!
      PK.

  15. Shabballa says:

    I may be being slightly silly here…

    But however did you get a pic of Lewis and Jenson on track together in this year’s car?

  16. Armando R. says:

    James –

    You mentioned again that teams are not permitted to adjust the cars between qualifying and the race. The Park Ferme concept has been in place for years now, but I’m not sure that understand WHY that is a good idea in today’s F1. Mind you, I am not suggesting a return to qually engines/tires etc., but can you shed some light on the rational for continuing to prohibit adjustments to existing aero components (wings) and mechanical setup (camber, toe etc.).

    Thanks as always for a fantastic website.

    Armando

  17. Mr Spindles says:

    Hi James…can you give us an idea of the range of downforce the adjustable front wing gives…ie from max downforce can you go to for instance 80% of max?

  18. vet4snak says:

    Hi James,

    I think most fans would agree that in 2010, pit stops’ efficiency is key to winning races.

    Do you have any idea about the tyre change times for the top teams? (i.e. Ferrari, RedBull, Mclaren, MGP…etc…etc) I think pit times are as important as lap times.

    1. James Allen says:

      They are talking about sub 4 seconds.

      1. vet4snak says:

        Do you know which 2 or 3 teams are the fastest in the pit thus far?

        If I remember correctly, I think Williams has the fastest pit record…but i think that was years ago

  19. Freespeech says:

    Looking at the headline times today I’m not sure it tells us anything worthwhile.
    Webber fastest but is there ANYONE who really believes that the Redbull driver is 2.7 seconds faster than Alonso’s Ferrari?
    I don’t think so.
    It’s clear to me that REdbull were on a different program to both Ferrari and McLaren so it’s impossible to compare the two with any real accuracy.
    Those in F1 should realise that F1 is a show and the interest is huge and they should structure their testing to provide a show and get more people interested, I’d like to see a session in the morning and one in the afternoon where low fuel was a requirement, just give me a show :)

    1. Frank Dernie says:

      With the reduction in testing it is impossible to get all the work done now, particularly with proving a 4 race gearbox! Making testing a show, rather than testing, would defeat the object, which is to both prove the car is safe and reliable and learn a bit about its setup -before- the show.
      The show is the race, messing up testing more would risk ruining the races which are televised in front of millions.
      The best teams may well not run qually fuel at all before Bahrain.
      A car which is good on high fuel will be fast in qually, a car set up for the best lap in qually will be undriveable in race conditions, so only the daft or under-sponsored do it.

  20. HUGO says:

    mercedes are getting new diffuser for 1st race.
    Good or bad?
    Would that make them get closer to the front??

    1. James Allen says:

      Well it shouldn’t make them slower..

  21. sandy says:

    Comprehensive lap times from today’s test for Alonso, Rosberg, Webber and Button.
    As always it’s difficult to know the fuel loads and which tyres the drivers were on, but very interesting reading nonetheless:
    http://www.vivaf1.com/blog/?p=2724

  22. Pawel says:

    James, are you McLaren fan? A picture added to this article is like picture attributed to “Decoding Jerez – Button tops times, but it’s all to play for”. Perhaps more other teams pictures?

  23. Pierre says:

    James any informations about the new “wheel cover” seen on the Ferrari? What is it supposed to do? Is it legal? I thought these devices were banned?
    By the way the new wheel gun system to make pist stop faster? Heard McLaren was working on something similar, true ?

    1. iceman says:

      My understanding of the new rules is that the Ferrari “wheel covers” will be legal if:
      1) they are an integral part of the wheel and not a separate component; and
      2) they are recessed at least 25mm in from the outer face of the wheel.

      1. Pierre says:

        Thanks.
        Do not know if it provides anything, but what they have designed looks very clever.

  24. Carlos says:

    I’m disappointed to hear that insiders recommend setting up the car for qualifying. I think that means that overtaking isn’t going to happen a whole lot.

    1. James Allen says:

      Well it will if it leads to worn out tyres in the final laps!

      1. Frank Dernie says:

        Spot on James. This is a good move for overtaking in the race, like 1 set of tyres for the whole race was. IMHO this was only thing which helped overtaking in recent years.
        Let us not forget that no overtaking is due to qualifying. In order for the enthusiasts to see who is quickest the grid lines up in performance order. That means, come the race, everybody in front of you is faster than you, and everybody behind slower, so all things being equal there is no reason why there should be any overtaking. If a quicker car qualifies out of position, or has a pit problem or it rains there can be a mixup resulting in overtaking.

      2. Paul Kirk says:

        Yeah Frank, it dose seem prety silly to have the fastest cars at the front for the start of the race, the result is a forgone conclusion, and confirms my opinion that the real race is qualifying!
        Wouldn’t reverse grid races be exciting!!!!
        PK.

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