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Valencia Test: Day 1 – Vettel and Red Bull set the pace
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Valencia Test: Day 1 – Vettel and Red Bull set the pace
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Feb 2011   |  6:48 pm GMT  |  44 comments

The winter break ended today with the first day of Formula 1 testing on the permanent circuit in Valencia ahead of the 2011 season and the top of the time sheets looked much as they did in November with Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel on top.

In total eleven teams were running today, all except Lotus, whose planned programme in the new car starts tomorrow.


Although world champion Sebastian Vettel set the pace today in the new Red Bull RB7, not all teams were using 2011 specification cars. Force India, McLaren, HRT and Virgin were using last year’s models, aiming to gain knowledge on the Pirelli tyres with the old car before running with the new one.

McLaren is using a car with an approximation of 2011 aerodynamics, with a blocked up diffuser, for example, but it is using a 2010 rear wing, not an adjustable one.

The headline lap time was 1.2 seconds slower than the first day of last year’s opening Valencia test, but so much has changed on the cars, with new tyre supplier, adjustable rear wing, KERS, no F Duct wing and no double diffuser. It is very early days yet and much will change over the next five weeks.

There has been a lot of interest in the exhausts on the Renault, which exit in the base at the front of the sidepods, blowing air out down the side of the sidepods onto the floor. This takes things on from the concept from last year of blowing exhaust gases through the diffuser to gain extra downforce. Keeping the internals of the car cool, not to mention the paint and bodywork around the exhaust exit with temperatures around the 800 degrees mark, is quite a feat for Renault.

All the drivers have been experimenting with the adjustable rear wing and for many it was a first experience of using KERS – often both at the same time. Getting the wing back to its higher downforce position before braking and corner entry will be important otherwise vital downforce and therefore grip, will be lost. Nico Rosberg said that it was an unusual feeling but that no doubt all the drivers will get used to it quickly, such is the nature of the sport, “That (adjustable wing) takes some getting used to because you push the button and the thing goes down on the back so you feel a little bit that the car gets lighter and then you release the button again before the braking and you think ‘Geez, what if this thing hasn’t gone back to its old position?’ ..then you’re off in a big way.”

Vettel covered 93 laps, an impressive total for a new car and two more than McLaren’s Gary Paffett, “Looking back it is something that we never got quite as good on the first day over the last two or three years, so that is a very good sign,” he said. Alonso managed 98 in the new Ferrari. The bar is high from the start.

Vettel acknowledged that he and the Red Bull team have now gone from being the hunter to the hunted, “It is a difficult situation we’re in, more difficult than last year when we said ‘okay, let’s just go for the title, ” he said. “This year is a different story because we want to try and defend the titles, but we have to develop from how we were last year otherwise we will be taking a step back and others will pass us.”

Although he set the slowest time of the day, due to time lost with a hydraulic issue, Nico Rosberg gave the new Mercedes the thumbs up, “”I think it’s just a better car in general,” he said. “The whole car is just a big step forward for us. With the aerodynamics there’s still a lot to come so in the next few weeks I think we will make quite a lot of progress still.”

Sauber’s technical director James Key shared the view of many when he observed that the performance of the Pirelli tyres still dropped off quite sharply and that degradation was quite significant, a characteristic teams observed in the Abu Dhabi test last November. Each team has just 20 sets available to them for this test.

McLaren’s Gary Paffett put a positive spin on it,” Today was about trying to understand the tyres – we established a good baseline and then did some long runs. Happily, the wear issues we experienced in Abu Dhabi have definitely improved; we saw better wear patterns and fewer problems with the tyres. It’s useful to understand how the tyres go off, and how the balance changes once they do. The Medium seems to last the longest and the Super-soft the shortest, but that’s exactly what you want from a tyre – and it should lead to different strategies once we start racing.”

It is early days yet as the track is still rubbering in. It will be interesting to see what the story is after three days.

Recent winter tests in Spain have been blighted by bad weather, but today the weather behaved and the forecast is good for the next few days.

- Additional reporting Tom Clarkson –

VALENCIA TEST, Day 1
1 Vettel Red Bull 1m13.769s – 93 laps
2 Hulkenberg Force India 1m13.938s +0.169 -71 laps
3 Paffett McLaren 1m14.292s +0.523 – 91 laps
4 Di Resta Force India 1m14.461s +0.692 – 28 laps
5 Alonso Ferrari 1m14.553s +0.784 – 98 laps
6 Kobayashi Sauber 1m15.621s +1.852 – 68 laps
7 D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m16.003s +2.234 – 71 laps
8 Petrov Renault 1m 16.351 + 2.582 – 28 laps
9 Schumacher Mercedes 1m16.450s +2.681 – 15 laps
10 Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m17.214s +3.445 – 20 laps
11 Barrichello Williams 1m17.335s +3.566 – 78 laps
12 Karthikeyan HRT 1m18.020s +4.251 – 45 laps
12 Rosberg Mercedes 1m19.930s +6.161 – 15 laps

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44 Comments
  1. Peter says:

    Do you think McLaren’s good use of KERS in 2009 puts them at an advantage with the system this year? Are they so confident that there car is very very good that they will only bring it out next week?

    1. Michael Prestia says:

      Lets hope not. :)

  2. Nilesh says:

    A couple of points here James. It would be great if you can enlighten us on these:

    It makes sense to not allow the adjustable rear wing to be used in the first two laps as there can be huge shunts if someone doesn’t manage to set the wing back in time on reaching the first corner. But what about restarts after Safety Car periods? We can very well see something like what Rosberg mentioned on restarts.

    Also, it was interesting to see that Vettel didn’t suffer a puncture today like he did in the Abu Dhabi tests. Pirellis graining lesser or RB07 easier on the tires?

    1. Galapago555 says:

      Adjustable rear wing can’t be used after SC period. The rule is the same as for the start of the race.

      FIA 2011 Sporting Regulations:

      “3.18.2 The adjustable bodywork may be activated by the driver at any time prior to the start of the race and, for the sole purpose of improving overtaking opportunities during the race, after the driver has completed a
      minimum of two laps after the race start or following a safety car period.”

      More info http://bit.ly/fP0LDd

      1. Rich C says:

        >>for the sole purpose of improving overtaking opportunities during the race,<<

        Curious phrase, this. I wonder what *other purposes they envisioned?

      2. ETM says:

        - Defending your position
        - Qualifying
        - Trying to close the gap on a leading car

  3. Seán Craddock says:

    Thanks James! Did you hear of any reason as to why Petrov got only 28 laps out of the Renault?
    R they sandbagging?

    1. Lilla My says:

      I’ve always thought that sandbagging refers to the times of the laps and not their number ;-). Or is it a general term used to describe attempts to mislead your opponents?

      I’ve just found in one of the Polish F1 services that Renault had some problems with brakes. Alan Permane apparently said that there was some leak from the brake pipe and they had to disconnect the gear box (I hope I used proper terms – sorry if not, English isn’t my mother tongue, I hope it’s understandable though).
      They say it’s nothing too serious, but it cost them some precious time today.

      1. unoc says:

        It literally means slowing your car down, as if you had put sand bags (quite heavy) into the car.

        The only way Sean’s comment makes sense is if they slowed the car down so much that they were doing 10 minute laps and only able to complete 28.

        The point of it is to not give away how fast you are and hence lose some of the additional interest you would gain if you were 1 second faster than the rest.

        While the Red Bull looks fast, we don’t know how much they were holding back. THe virgin of last year was only 2.234 seconds slower. And that’s with a new driver aswell. Maybe RBR were holding back a bit, but wanted Vettel to be the new champ be at the top of the first day

      2. Lilla My says:

        Doesn’t Vettel always want to be on top – tests or not?

      3. Galapago555 says:

        Lilla, your English is fully understandable, at least for me… ;-)

      4. Lilla My says:

        Thanks ;)

      5. Andy C says:

        Your english is better than my polish lilla.

        You are correct, sandbagging refers to making yourself look slower (deliberately) until the main event.

        Remember that this was only day 1 of the first test, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was just day 1 gremlins.

      6. Lilla My says:

        Thanks guys for your kind words :).

        It’s such a nice feature of English language – you can create new words so easily. I think that “sandbagging” term is really cool. I wish we had words like that!

  4. jmv says:

    i saw the movable flap on the rear wing in action on the sauber… on youtube…

    i dont like it :-(

    the non-movable aero devices was a holy technical rule

    1. Born 1950 says:

      http://www.youtube..com/watch?v=zYnUZHjl2Xs

    2. Tripod Ape says:

      Yes that is a bit odd to see for the first time. The movement is much more extreme than I’d anticipated, in fact for the less straight laced F1 team marketeers there must be some clever sponsorship opportunities… garage door manufacturers or dentists / toothpaste makers come to mind.

      1. Rich C says:

        “DENTISTS” ?? LOL

        You gonna have to esplain that one!

  5. thomas_b says:

    James,
    Do you know whether McLaren was running with or without KERS?
    Thanks.

    1. nick F says:

      I don’t know, but I’m going to guess NO. Where would they put it? It’s a 2010 car.

  6. sender says:

    “Vettel covered 93 laps, an impressive total for a new car and two more than McLaren’s Gary Paffett, “Looking back it is something that we never got quite as good on the first day over the last two or three years, so that is a very good sign,” he said. Alonso managed 98 in the new Ferrari. The bar is high from the start.”

    I think that the few sentences above are the most important in the article.
    Whether the trend of the number of laps continues remains to be seen.
    So far the news about the tires seem positive, although I agree that it is still early days.

  7. Mark J says:

    It could well be me, while over recent years the cars overall looked similar. But this season so far they are looking almost like a spec chassis. High nose, long body all feature very similar aero details (except for the Renault exhaust). I feel it’s a bit of a shame that the rules are so constrained and everyone is heading in the same direction of car development there really isn’t a chance to go in a totally new concept and direction for a new car. Or could it be people are afraid to do so and stick with the safe option? Such as when Tyrell released the original raised nose, or going back to the extreme days of ground effects, 6 wheels, fans and even the early experimentation with wings. Having similar looking cars takes away the feeling its the pinnacle of motorsport and technology which F1 is.

    I hope the new rules in 2013 brings some change in these regards.

    1. Fausto Cunha says:

      Totally agree, too many restrictions that leads teams to follow the same path.

    2. I agree, the cars released so far look very similar at first sight.

      That said, you may get a surprise with the remaining teams.
      Remember an innovation called F-duct last year?
      We’ll find out this Friday what McLaren have in store for 2011.

      And at the other end of the spectrum, there’s always Hispania to provide us something different, due to budget constraints I assume.

  8. The weather’s been slightly better this year here in Portugal and Spain. Last year I came close to being gone with the wind in Jerez while enjoying the show from one of the grandstands; the same story happened on top of the garages. A nightmare but the teams were still able to collect useful data – the cars were heavier than me obviously and had more downforce.

    The car design tends to look sort of the same in 2011, even more than in 2010 but I suppose in Bahrain they’ll use the real racing spec for the first time with some additions. Although we do have different shape engine covers and other small details, not to mention LRGP’s upside down exhaust! Maybe Pirelli will create special square tyres to spice things up a bit…

    1. nick F says:

      more back to front than upside down. :-)

      1. Yeah, back to front exhaust that turns the F1 car concept as we knew it upside down. The window of opportunity, pusing the envelope, etc..

        My Oxford ditionary says “upside down” also means “inverted”, but there are, of course, other dictionaries.

        Let’s see what the official name of the gimmick will be.

      2. Galapago555 says:

        Take care, don’t mention your Dictionary, DonSimon is about to call you p-e-d-a-n-t.

    2. Galapago555 says:

      “Last year I came close to being gone with the wind in Jerez while enjoying the show from one of the grandstands”

      Maybe you should try with an adjustable rear wing…

      1. I’ll see what I can do… my budget is even smaller than HRT’s. Maybe F1 teams could send me some remains of carbon fibre they usually have lying around their factories – enough to build a wing.

        I won’t be able to buy Williams hydraulic system to operate it though: I’d like to go for Williams-style wing.

        Another option would consist in putting on weight, I think there’s a Burger King place not far from those hotels in the centre of Jerez where I usually stay. I’m sure they’ll be glad to supersize me.

      2. Galapago555 says:

        You could also install yourself a KERS – the weight of the batteries will increase your downforce…

  9. Khan says:

    Fernandes’s lotus team didnt test today despite launching their car yesterday?

    1. I think they were using the car for a filming day.

    2. unoc says:

      They are testing wednesday (day 2), Thursday (day 3) and friday (day by themselves)…. nothing missed :)

  10. devilsadvocate says:

    James, any insight on what the deal was with Renault only clocking 28laps and reportedly spending a lot of time working on the car? Ive been reading differing opinions that it was hydraulics or possibly their exhaust acrobabtics, any idea what it was.
    Some small part of me is laughing a little bit devilishly from all the bragging they did about being the bravest of the brave. Some side of me wants them to not suffer for this, but it would really be the icing on the cake for Team Lotus especially after some of the recent comments about Tony Fernandez from senior Renault personnel which are nothing short of unprofessional and childish.

  11. Jeroen says:

    early days and all that but I was surprised by the clear talk and optimism from Schumi. He sounds very confident and that ussually means he is in the mix. The car looks pretty nice as well.

    Early predictions, Vettel to run away with it and behind that an almighty battle with Alonso, Schumi and Hamilton.

  12. Alex P says:

    Hi James,
    May I ask you to communicate to FOM that after such a long winter break we fans wait anxiously for the winter tests and yet there are no streams to view the action.. it shouldn’t always be about making money… fans are what makes F1 what it is today and they deserve the right to have a decent internet stream.. how much would that cost seriously?
    its hard to believe in this age of technology and innovation, F1 need to cater better for the fans.
    All i ask for is one stream dont need any fancy commentary and stuff.. just want to see the cars and hear them
    thanks

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ll forward your message to them

      1. Alex P says:

        Thanks James.. u r a champ :)

    2. JohnBt says:

      Yes, could not agree more about the streaming. Was searching all over the internet yesterday and found nothing at all. Even a delayed review of the testing will surely be appreciated.

  13. Tealeaf says:

    That Redbull looks mean, efficient and ominously quick! Vettel is well into his strides and coming into his prime, only Alonso and Hamilton can halt his charge in the next few years.

  14. Fluebroggle says:

    During the testing, do the engines, gear boxes and indeed any other components they use count towards the quota for the season? eg. can only use 8 engines for season.

    Or does the score go back to zero when the season starts?

  15. pelayus999 says:

    Mr.Allen, please try to be fair, try to speak about other teams than british one. In this post you don´t mention Ferrari.

    Thanks.

    1. James Allen says:

      That has nothing to do with nationality! Read today’s…

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