It rained on Friday in Jerez, in the afternoon it rained hard enough for the track to be empty for stretches of time. So two of the three days so far have been washed out. Saturday is forecast to be dry however.
The same happened last year in the pre season tests, but this year it’s even more critical because there is so little track time available.
For Virgin, Red Bull and Force India, who are running their cars for the first time it’s a frustrating week. Frustrating also for Nico Rosberg who somehow seems to have ended up getting the wet days this week, while team mate Michael Schumacher slotted in for the dry day on Thursday.
Looking at the times from the dry running on Thursday, it’s still tricky to say with any certainty who is on top, because what is becoming clearer from talking to the engineers is that the field is pretty competitive at the front with only very small gaps in performance between the teams. They have a pretty good idea how much fuel each other is carrying and say that only a small variation in fuel loads would be enough to distort the true picture.
It is beginning to look like we might be in for the season everyone is hoping for, with several teams capable of winning. At this stage there is no team which looks to be a step ahead of the others. Beyond that, until they all go for a low fuel new tyre qualifying simulation it is hard to discern who is a tenth ahead or a tenth behind.
All the front runners are managing expectations too; not wanting to be branded the pace setter at this stage of the game. Observers tell me it was fascinating to see Alonso, Schumacher and Button all sizing each other up out on the track. Throw in Hamilton, Massa, Vettel, Rosberg and Webber to that mix and we really are in for a treat this season.
Alonso’s 46 lap long run yesterday was interesting. He started out on new tyres with at least 120 kilos of fuel in the car and was quick initially, with a lap in the 1m 23s, then the pace dropped off for a few laps, but then the final part of the run was very fast. His final lap was 1.9 secs faster than his first but he had burned off 120 kilos of fuel worth around 3 seconds par lap.
Schumacher did a 32 lap run on a new set of the same tyres, which started out in the low 1m25s and came down through the 1m 24s steadily. His final lap was 1.9 secs faster than his first. So he had burned off approximately 80 kilos of fuel, which is worth around 2.4 seconds per lap.
Most of the Friday running was on wet and intermediate tyres. However the dry running has been on the new soft and medium Bridgestone compounds.
Williams have had a few reliability issues with its car, but the engine so far has been fine. I understand that this is the same engine they have been using since the start of testing in Valencia and it is now well beyond its normal life and they are seeing how far it will go.
There are some positive noises coming out of Cosworth. They believe that they have as good a combination of power and fuel efficiency as any other engine out there. Time will tell.
Virgin received the spare parts they needed to get the car mobile again after the front wing failure on Thursday. The car managed just four laps on Friday.
“It was so wet this afternoon that we and all the other teams lost a lot of running later in the session when we were finally able to get going, “said Nick Wirth. “This was particularly annoying given the great efforts by Wirth Research who, rather than just dispatching existing parts from our Bicester base, designed and manufactured new parts.”
Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel had his first run in the new Red Bull car, the last of the front running drivers to get his hands on 2010 machinery.