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Barcelona test, Day 1 – Vettel and Red Bull start on top
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Barcelona test, Day 1 – Vettel and Red Bull start on top
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Feb 2011   |  8:06 pm GMT  |  60 comments

World Champion Sebastian Vettel set the pace on day one of what could turn out to be a defining test in the build up to the new season. Unlike the permanent Valencia track and Jerez, Barcelona is an F1 race venue and is still considered one of the best circuits for showing up a good car. It’s combination of corners and short and long straights is a great test for a car’s aerodynamic efficiency and a quick car around Barcelona is always a contender.

With the political situation in Bahrain still volatile, the F1 teams met to discuss the final test which was due to start there next week. An alternative venue in Spain looks a distinct possibility. One of the reasons is because emergency medical staff who would work at the circuit are needed in Manama’s hospitals tending to the injured from the riots. The chances of the first race being called off seem to be mounting. Although Bernie Ecclestone has said that he will make a decision next week, he sounds more pessimistic now and the Foreign Office advice to British nationals is firmly not to travel.


Although he set the pace, Vettel covered just 37 laps today. He had a couple of off track excursions and the team lost time checking the car over.

The German popped in a 1m27.241s with ten minutes to go to finish 1.111 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who has spent much of the day at the top of the timesheets.

Alonso and Ferrari put in another faultless day of running with 101 laps as the Spaniard focused on runs of between eight and 17 laps. This is the second Ferrari chassis to be tested, after the first one did the Valencia and Jerez tests.

Heavy rain in Barcelona on Thursday meant that the session started on a damp track but gloriously sunny weather saw the track dry throughout the morning and the teams were able to get some clear running after lunch.

Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari finished third fastest ahead of Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, but those times were set on short runs. The duo encountered problems too, both stopping out on circuit and forcing the session to be stopped.

Jenson Button was fifth in his McLaren ahead of Force India’s Paul di Resta. The Scot didn’t get out on track until the afternoon and thus only managed 24 laps of running.

Williams’ Rubens Barrichello was seventh after the team lost time making a precautionary engine change while Michael Schumacher completed a 65-lap race simulation, which included pitstops, lapping in the late 1m29s before seeing his times drop off by about three seconds.

Hispania’s Narain Karthikeyan and Virgin Jerome D’Ambrosio completed a good day’s running completing 114 and 115 laps respectively.

Nick Heidfeld received plenty of attention at his first media briefing since joining the team as the Robert Kubica’s replacement and completed five pitstop simulations and 27 laps early in the morning. He then handed the car over to teammate Vitaly Petrov, however, a glitch with the KERS meant the Russian completed just 20 laps and was 10 seconds off the pace.

In other news, Mercedes announced that Bob Bell will take over as Technical Director in April, six months after he left the renault team. Bell is a veteran of McLaren, Jordan and Renault and has been hand picked by Mercedes boss Ross Brawn to provide technical leadership on the chassis side. He’s a first class engineer, very pragmatic and has a great all round grasp on all aspects of how an F1 team operates, not just the engineering side, after being an interim managing director of Renault following the departure of Flavio Briatore in 2009.

Meanwhile Tonio Liuzzi is to test for the last remaining seat on the 2011 F1 grid tomorrow, when he tries out for Hispania Racing. The Italian was dropped by Force India despite having a year to run on his contract and rumours linking him with this seat have been circulating in Italy since January.

“Tonio is a strong contender for the second seat given that he has a lot of experience in Formula One,” said team principal Colin Kolles. “We hope his comments and feedback will help the team to progress in the right direction”.

Hiring Liuzzi would be a step in the right direction for the team. The Italian has experience and will feel he has a lot to prove, after failing to hold onto opportunities which might have led to greater things, with Toro Rosso and Force India.

Williams has announced that it will launch its livery for 2011 online on Thursday 24th. This will be a telecast of an event I plan to attend at Williams HQ where Sam Michael will also explain the design of the new car and talk us through its radical back end.

BARCELONA TEST, Day 1
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m24.374s 37 laps
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m25.485s + 1.111s 101 laps
3. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m25.638s + 1.264s 57 laps
4. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m25.641s + 1.267s 78 laps
5. Jenson Button McLaren 1m26.365s + 1.991s 77 laps
6. Paul di Resta Force India 1m26.575s + 2.201s 26 laps
7. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m26.912s + 2.538s 52 laps
8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m27.512s + 3.138s 90 laps
9. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m28.393s + 4.019s 116 laps
10. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m30.065s + 5.691s 54 laps
11. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m30.950s + 6.576s 116 laps
12. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m35.174s + 10.800s 20 laps
13. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m44.324s + 19.950s 27 laps

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60 Comments
  1. Blade Runner says:

    Unless Red Bull were running last years car, the 1+ second gap to Alonso looks a bit bad for us fans, as far as excitement goes, this season.

    Hope this year is not a disappointment.

    1. F1_Dave says:

      not necisarily, even if red bull have a big advantage it doesnt mean things will not be exciting behind them.

      everyone says 1988 was boring because of mclarens complete domination of the season, however there was plenty off great racing behind them.

      its the same in 1992/1993, williams had a dominant package yet there was some great racing behind them.

      even in the ferrari dominated years of 2002 and 2004 we saw some great racing yet all people remember is that 1 team had a dominant package.

      i always felt it was a bit stupid that everyone starts complaining when there isnt much racing for the win (because one team dominates a season or 1 team has a better package on a specific weekend) and completely ignore the great racing going on behind that team.

      1. JJ MUPPET says:

        I do not agree, nothing like the 1st places being up for grabs. The thing about the Senna Prost battles was that the 1st drivers places were up for grabs. VETTEL IS GOOD UP FRONT, BUT NOT A SEASON I RELISH. The best I can hope for is Webber challenging strongly, but for a whole year? We need the Mclarens and Alonso to bring the pressure.

    2. Thomas says:

      Alonso set his time before lunch when the track was pretty much dried out.

      Vettel set his time at the end of the test when the track was at its best.

    3. sender says:

      It is not testing that says/proves that Red Bull will be the quickest but pure logic.
      Testing times as such does not mean anything. The long runs are more comparable and even those are under big question marks.
      Look where Sauber and Toro Rosso are…
      Those final times mean nothing…It is the details and context which means, but unfortunately we know too little to get a complete picture.
      I agree with others who say here that Ferrari will probably be second quickest and Mclaren will be in about the same position as last year.
      The strangest thing is that they tried that innovative concept and still may find themselves in the same position as last year.
      Of course, nobody can tell 100% what the pecking order will be.
      I would also hesitate to say that Newey all alone is responsible for the success of Red Bull. They have other good people and the team in general is pretty good.
      The question is – can others challenge them? We also have to remember the reduction of staff in the teams.

  2. Galapago555 says:

    James, may I ask 2 questions re HRT:
    - are they already using their 2011 car on today’s test, or it’s still the 2010 one?
    - is Tonio Liuzzi bringing some sponsors / money to the team? If not, I’m afraid they will run out of money soon on the season… [Btw, Antonio Lobato of Spanish telly LaSexta twitted this morning that Liuzzi is almost 100% driving for HRT].

    1. Lilla My says:

      Hello,

      from what I know, HRT are still using last year’s F110. They only presented the studio pictures of the F111, but I remember them announcing that the car would be ready only for the Bahrain race. I recall them saying that they might be ready earlier with the new car, but they haven’t presented it yet (apart from the pictures). And I don’t know anything about Liuzzi and sponsors ;-), though I do believe he deserves a better drive than HRT.

    2. Olivier says:

      It could be that HRT does not have to pay Tonio’s salary as he is still having a contract with Force India?!

      If so, it would be a win win to HRT. They get an experienced driver for free which will give their team more credibility (and more sponsors).

      1. James Allen says:

        I’m looking into it

  3. Rich says:

    A bit quiet on the McLaren front. Any idea if its a contender or not?

    1. Tripod Ape says:

      In comparison to Red Bull and Ferrari, the McLaren seems woefully lacking pace and reliability. I’d suggest top of Hamilton’s to do list must be getting a manager and pointing them in the direction of the Red Bull motorhome to see if there’s a 2012 seat going spare.

    2. DC says:

      I’ve noticed this too, hardly any journalists are posting about McLaren.

      Maybe because McLaren are not giving them much to write about. But I would argue the lack of running is very news worthy. As I write this Button is in the pits having done just 7 laps….what is going on?

      1. Tripod Ape says:

        Indeed, only 7 installation laps. According to Autosport ‘hydraulic’ problems. Isn’t that the sort of issue that usually hits novice teams?

    3. Richard M says:

      I think Mclaren are still running with their 2010 spec front wing, I don’t know it James can confirm this, but if so they might be holding something back.

      1. DC says:

        Sandbagging at this stage is pointless. People thought they were holding back in 2009 and that was a dog of a car.

        I’m a lifelong McLaren fan and they really need to build the Damn car and test it already! They act like this is 1998 and they have all the testing time in the world!

  4. F1 Grid Slot says:

    Any whispers or rumours on whether the Williams livery will be something new or just a variation of what they’ve had for the last few years?

    1. Please not be Blue and white…Canon William s was great, Rothmans was class…the red whitfeild was OK-ish then the rest went down hill….Come on William, give us something dynamic, mean biz and give us a car that can make us brits proud, you well deserve it

      1. Rich C says:

        El Predicto says it’ll be some permutation of the Venezuelan national flag – red, blue with stars, and yellow.

    2. Michael Grievson says:

      It will be new. They’ve lost RBS and Phillips as sponsors.

      I think it’s Venezuelan money they have now

      1. so what;s the thinking then, the onyl colour I hated williams in was that red colour when they had Alex Zanardi…. AWFUL colour scheme

    3. Andy C says:

      They confirmed it will be a retro colour scheme.

      I imagine the rothmans colour scheme might be it.

      Or the saudi scheme.

  5. Johnny Mol says:

    James, or anyone else who might happen to know;

    I know it’s impossible to pain an accurate picture of how good or bad the cars are, but does this tell us anything at all? Vettel’s time was quite a margin in comparison.

    Cheers

    1. Lilla My says:

      He set the time at the end of the session though, when the conditions were best, while the rest (e.g. Alonso, who was second) set their times much earlier. I don’t know if the track was still damp when Alonso set his time, but I guess it was better at the end of the day. And we don’t know much about the fuel loads (some predictions maybe, but nothing certain) and the tires. Plus, Vettel is, IMHO, a kind of a driver who wants to set the best time every time, no matter what (fastest laps in races, best results in practices etc.), so maybe he was also pushing harder than the rest – tests are tests and they have various purposes, not necessarily being fastest. All in all, I do believe that Red Bull is still the fastest, but I guess we need to still wait till the first race (whether Bahrain or Australia) to see the real potential and differences between the teams. Personally, I would much rather see Ferrari and McLaren close to RBR, so we can have a close battle for WCC and WDC.

      Btw: I’m really pleased with Ferrari’s reliability; they seem to just be doing their own job during the tests, not concentrating on other teams.

    2. Thomas says:

      I’ll give you my take on some things. This comes only from reading, looking and thinking. No inside info.

      First, look far away from the headline times.

      The Red Bull looks to be a missile. Again. They have a ton of downforce and judging by cornering speed and several descriptions of how the cars look they are at the top of the pile right now.

      Then we have Ferrari. Looks solid on the long runs, car is not very exiting but with the exception of Massa’s fire seems bulletproof. Have a feeling they are not quite there, but it looks to be close.

      McLaren. Nobody knows, because they have not been running the thing. Looks cool and guessing where their exhausts are is good fun. Those sidepods didnt do Ferrari any favors when they tried them. Gut feeling tells me they are a bit on the back foot.

      Renault should be in the top 4. I have less of an impression on this one, but the car seems quick, if not red bull-quick. Might come down to the drivers. Heidfeld is a quick guy, if not as showy as Kubica.

      Williams. Have no clue again. I mean that rear end is simply unbelivable, and I have some suspicions about how they use their airflow inside the car. Nothing confirmed, but nice to see Williams designing something different.

      Mercedes. Looks to be struggling, bad long run pace overall (uless they are constantly testing with full tanks) and some noise coming out of that camp that does not promise well. Might be some old Schumi/Brawn mind tricks. I think not.

      To be honest I have not been very good at following the rest. Toro Rosso looks quite good compared to last year, and they might surprise us once things get going. Sauber is for me a bit unknown. They have a good driver in Koboyashi and he will deliver if he can work with the car.

    3. Rich C says:

      It tells us nothing. It never does. Everything we read and hear is total speculation.

      The teams are all trying to keep their competitors in the dark, and *they are much smarter than we are. So tbh we fans will be in the dark until the first actual race.

  6. Andras F. says:

    James, can we expect deeper analysis on the lap times on a daily basis or will you make it after the tests are finished in Barcelona?

    1. James Allen says:

      At the end of the test

  7. Skittles says:

    Hi James, many thanks for this. Any idea if Alonso and Vettel were running on the same tyre compounds when they set those times?

    Also, any idea if the unrest continues whether the first race simply be called off or will it move to an alternative venue?

  8. Andy c says:

    On Bahrain, I think it would be wildly innapropriate for the race or the test to go ahead.

    The rulers need to be sent a message that treating your own people like that, and turning your police and armed forces on people for protesting is despicable.

    I dont care how much they paid for the race. If it goes ahead they will have one less viewer.

    Bernie needs to show a bit of balls here for once, and not just look at the pound signs.

    And he needs to consider the safety of the teams and the people of Bahrain.

    1. Nick says:

      Spot on. the unelected rulers of bahrain have said the grand prix will go ahead. what that means is they will use force against the protesters again to protect the race. f1 cannot condone that and must cancel the race. it will be pretty disgusting if they don’t.

    2. Tom says:

      Having seen some of the footage doing the rounds on youtube, I’m inclined to agree. Peacefully marching protesters being gunned down with machine guns… effing insane.

      I never liked Bore-rain as a circuit, and in light of these events I don’t want F1 to go ahead – particularly as it will be used by the Bahrain gov to portray a civilised image of a nation – just my opinion.

      Start the season in melbourne where it should always have been.

    3. igb says:

      The Foreign Office have just issued an “essential travel only” warning notice (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/middle-east-north-africa/bahrain) which pretty much puts the kybosh on the test and probably the race. I doubt that F1 teams carry insurance for their employees which would cover sending them into a country in contravention of an FCO travel advisory, and the reputational risk would be very high.

    4. Skittles says:

      I couldn’t agree more. This is why regardless of whether the violence stops there cannot be a race there this year. Time for plan B.

  9. Barkshire F1 says:

    Any news about McLaren’s exhaust system James?

  10. Bottle says:

    Narain Karthikeyan did 114 laps in the 2010 Hispania? He deserves a medal!

  11. AlexD says:

    This is amazing…last test and nothing can be understood, still.
    Red Bull quickest and Ferrari will be chasing it?

    1. Thomas says:

      Every sign points to you being very right :)

  12. tomb says:

    James,

    This is the first day of testing Mclaren have completed a reasonable amount of laps, any rumours following this concerning their pace/downfore/speed through corners compared to the RB/Ferrari/Renault yet?

    Thanks.

  13. ACB says:

    Tonio would be a good choice for HRT, looks like they got a lot of good time on the track today. Hope their testing translates in to some pace.
    Thanks James for the added information about Bahrain, I hadn’t thought about the need for medical personnel. That just may be the ‘out’ that everyone needs.

  14. Richard Elder says:

    While the the foreign office is telling British nationals not to travel to Bahrain, the majority of the F1 circus who are based in the UK will now have invalid travel insurance until the advice is changed.

    From the tests we have seen so far, it is looking likely that Red Bull will have the fastest car on the grid, but both the drivers will be taking points off each other while Ferrari concentrate on their main man. McLaren will be up there somewhere but probably languishing between the other 2 in much the same way as they were last year.

    I had an outside bet (20/1) on Rosberg before the testing started earlier this month. I had this formula in mind:
    They started work on their new car a long time before the three front runners + mercedes engine + mercedes resources + ross brawn + Nico only finished on about 60% of the points of last years winner = mercedes having the best car and Nico being able to take advantage.

    I feel like I’ve bet on the wrong horse. Somehow I never thought that Red Bull would have it in them to win the title a second time in a row, but I should have known better than to discount Adrian Newey.

    1. ACB says:

      Well… you know what they used to say, ‘who needs Schuey when you’ve got Newey.”

    2. Thomas says:

      Remember they had by far the best non-dd car of 09. This is familiar territory, and they have been quite dominant for the last season and a half.

      I’m going to put some money on Heidfeld this year.

  15. Chris Orr says:

    The spread of lap times is surprisingly large.

    I think 2011 is looking very similar in terms or speed of the teams as 2010 thus far. Except Red Bull may seem to be focusing on reliability so must be the team to be beat.

  16. Greg says:

    I don’t think todays times are any use to try and judge who’s up front. The track condition changed so much as its the first day running there after the winter weather & the wet/dry conditions of today. Though it wasn’t good hearing Schumi lowering his expectations, he’s aiming for a win not a championship.

    James, Ferrari used the 2nd chassis today, can you tell me why they don’t test both together to get more information. Also, Williams use the Cosworth engine, do you know how it compares to the others as it appears to be a budget buy and why a topend team like Williams hasn’t got a works engine?

    And one last Q. with the 3 works teams who quit these last few years, why hasn’t any team chased their engines and why hasn’t those companies put them up for sale if they left due to money, the engine tech is frozen, so it would make sense to get a return.

    A few Q. I hope you can answer!

    Have a good weekend!

    1. James Allen says:

      You can only have one car at a time.

  17. Richard Craig says:

    James, I know you posted about this earlier in the week (before things dramatically deteriorated) but I am growing quesy about your non-posting about this huge story as it relates to F1 (especially the bad press BE is attracting by procrastinating over cancelling the race weekend at Sakhir). Please don’t tell me you have been silenced (or feel you can’t speak out) due to your links with FOM (qualy / race unilaterals) lest Bernie yank your credentials?

    1. James Allen says:

      No of course not. It doesn’t work like that, despite what some people outside the sport like to suggest! I did a post on it earlier this week, as you say, and am waiting now for developments.

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    1. Ooops. Forgot to mention that the app is called F1 Mobile 2011.

  19. Rafael says:

    First off, I think Bernie should stop delaying and just cancel Bahrain already. The situation is getting more and more serious all around, so it should really be a no brainer. Money should not even be a factor. Hopefully after his experience of being mugged, Bernie is more sensitive now to inherent dangers big or small, expected or unexpected; that coming after he made light of Jenson Button’s attempted hijacking in Brazil and some other unfortunate incidents to F1 staff.

    Moving on, Looks like Red Bull still has the advantage – to do that in just 37 laps (unless Vettel was fueled light) is quite telling. Here’s hoping Ferrari and Alonso have something up their sleeves. Btw James, did Fernando give any distinct feedback yet as to how he finds the new tires? Like if it suits his style or so? Bec. Massa and Button seem extremely happy with it, but no specific word yet from Fernando.

  20. F1a says:

    It’s not the last test, there is one more.

    And, McL were clearly doing a strict programme of long to medium stint testing, Vettel did shorter runes. Still nothing at all to learn for us fans, so no need to leap to conclusions.

  21. jmv says:

    OT: James could you do a poll on Bahrain? Whether fans think the race would have to go on if the current events would take place in the days surrounding the event?

    Your readers seem to be sensible people.. otherwise they would not come here and read your in-depth analyses..

    i am sure f1 sponsors and PR people would take note of the poll.

  22. Olivier says:

    With the Bahrein GP in jeopardy, how wise would it be for teams to develop their Bahrein aero package? Is the Melbourne or Malaysia aero package similar to Bahrein?

    It would make sense to replace the Bahrein GP with Jerez or Valencia. It’d be great news for Alonso fans. Which track would be the most exciting to watch?

  23. PaulL says:

    Hiring Liuzzi seems to be a mistake. He’s not F1 standard

  24. Simon Donald says:

    Remember when BMW abandoned the 2008 season to develop their 2009 car about half way thru the season. How much a stinker was the 09 car? Hope the 11 Mercedes is a bit more on-song come the start of the season!! As for McLaren, don’t count them out just because they arnt topping the time sheets at the moment. They didn’t even test before the start of 88 season and they would have won every race that season had it not been for Jean-Marie Schlesser!

    On Bahrain, it is looking more and more like it isn’t going to happen isn’t it!? But is it realistic to have a race in it’s place? Where would have it? Barcelona – two races there in one season? Jerez – Bernie won’t let it back on the calendar. Portimao or Estoril? Magny-cours maybe? Imola? Any thought James? Or is it just totally time wise unrealistic??

    1. Baghetti says:

      it’s Jean-Louis Schlesser, not Jean-Marie Schlesser, and to be 100% correct I think it was Senna’s fuel consumption that was really the reason, although it could also have been the Old Man’s last trick…-)

  25. JJ MUPPET says:

    Hamilton has signed with IMG, Redbull do not pay as much as Mclaren so I doubt they will sign him there and why should they, 2007 Mclaren, 2008 Mclaren, 2009 mclaren almost got back in the drivers, 2010 mclaren still in the hunt until Hamilton blew it. IMG are all about money and Lording their athletes whether they deserve it or not. Redbull are fully dependant on Newey and that has taken several years.

    Hamilton will stay with Mclaren.

    I feel very sorry for Anthony being fired after all he has done for Lewis. But IMG will not care.

  26. Dale says:

    Well having seen so many pre season test sessions over the years I fear McLaren are lagging behind again.
    I hope they have something special up their sleeves but I fear not as it looks to me as though the Redbull is a clear leader with whatever it is they’re doing under the bodywork.

    As for the first race, how can it possibly go ahead now (how many have already been killed)? I say pull it now and set a lead, maybe it could be rescheduled towards the end of the season (nothing is impossible in F1)

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