The second official test ended today in Jerez with Lewis Hamilton and McLaren setting the benchmark time. But we have still to see any of the runners going for outright pace in low fuel qualifying mode. This will come at the final test in Barcelona and possibly for some teams next week in Jerez.
It was a day of two parts, after a damp start there was dry meaningful running in the afternoon and it brought some positive news for the Virgin Racing team, who managed 63 laps and got close to the pace of the established teams. After a difficult week in which they suffered a worrying front wing failure, they bounced back.
McLaren have been doing a lot of aerodynamic measurement this week with a variety of devices to measure things like the wake behind the new narrow front wheels. After last year’s dramas this has given rise to rumours that they are again struggling with the aerodynamics, but this does not appear to be the case as most engineers are agreed the car looks very competitive. Hamilton has once again been the faster of the two McLaren drivers, but it was a better week for Jenson Button who now feels comfortable in the car. Barcelona test in two weeks will give a good idea of where they are relative to each other.
Michael Schumacher again had the benefit of dry track time, unlike Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg who seems to have copped for the two fully wet days this week. Formula 1 is always about making things happen for yourself!
The suspicion doing the rounds is that Mercedes has miscalculated the weight distribution slightly, with the weight too far forward. They are working to solve this with new suspension solutions. But Schumacher has been very upbeat this week, “The old Michael is back and he has all his speed, ” he said. “I’m convinced that I have a good car and a good relationship with Rosberg. It’s great to be able to express myself to a team mate in my own language. ”
Red Bull continued to work on their car below the radar, not setting any eye catching times. They lost time in the afternoon with a fuel pump failure, a second bout of unreliability this week. Sebastian Vettel nevertheless seemed positive about the new car, “This car is not just a step forward on the ‘numbers’ but also in driveability, ” he said. “The balance is as it was last year, but the grip in the high speed corners is better.”
An interested spectator trackside at the Jerez test was former BAR Honda and Red Bull technical boss Geoff Willis, who delivered a clear verdict on how things stand as he sees them, “Of the new cars the one that has impressed me the most is the McLaren, ” he said. ” It will be the front runner for the title battle along with the Red Bull. Just behind are the Ferrari and the Mercedes.
Ferrari covered a whopping 160 laps today, twice as many as Mercedes. Felipe Massa was again at the wheel. “The car is well balanced,” said Massa. The Ferrari has been very consistent so far in long run testing and has proved very reliable, something Fernando Alonso paid tribute to on Thursday. Between them they covered 449 laps this week. We will learn its outright pace at the final test in Barcelona when they bolt on the definitive Bahrain aerodynamic package.
I’ve posted before that the new head of aerodynamics was recruited from Toyota in December and brought with him a clever idea for a very large hole in the double diffuser. It will be interesting to see whether this is part of the Barcelona aero package.
It’s been a good week for Force India, who were running their new car for the first time. It has covered plenty of laps and been consistent and reliable. “We’ve got some efficient downforce, we’ve kept the speed in the straight line, so we will be really strong on particular circuits again but hopefully also on slower speed circuits where you require a little more downforce, ” said Adrian Sutil.
Williams finished the test early after a gearbox problem stopped the car. It’s been a mixed week for the team, who have had some reliability issues particularly with the transmission. Nevertheless the car looks pretty good and Nico Hulkenberg has caught the eye, he looks pretty quick.
The testing resumes at Jerez next Wednesday.
HEADLINE LAP TIMES – JEREZ DAY 4
1. Lewis Hamilton Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 1:19.583 113 Laps
2. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:20.180 84
3. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:20.341 90
4. Robert Kubica Renault 1:20.358 85
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:20.613 84
6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:21.203 90
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:21.485 160
8. Pedro De La Rosa BMW Sauber 1:22.134 105
9. Lucas Di Grassi Virgin Racing 1:22.912 63
10. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1:24.072 98