The first F1 test of the new season in Valencia test drew to a close today after three days with Robert Kubica setting the fastest time in the radical new Renault car.
The Pole set a fastest lap of 1m 13.144s on the second lap of a six lap run, the fastest time of the week’s test. Interestingly the tyre drop off on the following lap was 1.4 seconds. Adrian Sutil was second fastest in the 2010 Force India car, setting his time on the second lap of a four lap run, ahead of Jenson Button in the 2010 McLaren.
In the afternoon Kubica did a 24 lap run with reasonably consistent laps in the high 1m 16s range. Like many other drivers Kubica has commented on the steep degradation on the new Pirelli tyres, but this afternoon’s run will have been quite encouraging for Renault. Pirelli’s Paul Hembery indicated this afternoon that the four tyre compounds were more or less set now for the season, with only some minor tweaks for the next two tests, so it looks like we are going to be in for multi-stop Grands Prix and the pressure is on the teams to set their cars up to make the tyres last as long as possible.
It looks as though the Pirelli tyre switches on more quickly than the Bridgestones used to do, in other words they are easier to get ready for a hot qualifying lap. The trick is to minimise the drop off in performance after that first flying lap. Yesterday Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso said that the most positive thing to come out of the test for him – apart from the reliability of the Ferrari – was that he had begun to understand how that might be achieved through car set up and driving style. “The result we got, above all on the long runs, was good,” he said, without giving any more details away.
Drivers like Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg, who showed time and again last season that they can go longer on a set of tyres, must be feeling very positive about things at this early stage. The crucial tests for measuring tyre performance will be Barcelona, always tough on the left front tyre, and Bahrain.
Mark Webber was fourth fastest in the Red Bull and set his fastest time on the second lap of a six lap run, on what looked like a pretty high fuel load. His lap times on the run were mainly in the 1m 15s.
After the boasts of Fernando Alonso that the new Ferrari had ‘zero’ reliability problems, his team mate Felipe Massa had the opposite experience today with a fire at the back of the car due to an oil leak from a broken clamp, in the first hour of running. The Brazilian spun on his own oil and lost four hours of track time to repairs. Nevertheless he will be the first driver out in the Ferrari at the next test in Jerez on February 10.
Mercedes had Michael Schumacher in the car today and the seven times champion managed to cover a fair mileage, after problems with electrics and hydraulics in the first two days. Ross Brawn told the BBC that, “We’re not right at the sharp end but we are reasonably encouraged,” by the performance of the Mercedes so far. The Mercedes has looked a bit tail-happy in comparison with the Ferrari and Red Bull cars, so it seems there is still quite a lot of work for Mercedes to do.
Pastor Maldonado was at the wheel of the Williams again today. The team was using KERS for the first time.
It is noticeable that although Williams have had some technical niggles with the FW33, they have been in better overall shape for this first test of the season than they were 12 months ago where they were forced to run the then new Cosworth engine at reduced revs. However it’s early days to talk about where they stand in performance terms relative to the rest. However the Williams has had rival engineers closely studying it’s rear suspension which has been used to incorporate the support for the rear wing, something which hasn’t been done before – a bit like the sidepod mounted exhausts on the Renault. The Williams suspension/wing innovation is due to the miniature gearbox the team has designed this year. Williams looks like they have been more adventurous this year with design.
Timo Glock’s time in the 2010 Virgin car of 1m 14.207s was set on a qualifying simulation of out lap, fast lap and in-lap. His lap times for the rest of the day were mainly in the high 1m 16 – 1m 17s range.
Lotus has been struggling with parts for its power steering system and the running today was blighted by not having the new parts ready. As Mike Gascoyne tweeted this morning, the team was therefore “not going for times.” Jarno Trulli drove 38 laps without power steering, gathering data.
On the whole, though, the new cars have performed pretty reliably today. Not counting the Lotus, the other seven new cars in the field averaged 94 laps today.
Additional reporting: Tom Clarkson
VALENCIA F1 TEST, Day 3
1 R. Kubica Renault 1:13.144 95 laps
2 A. Sutil Force India 1:13.201 +0.057 114 laps (2010 car)
3 J. Button McLaren 1:13.553 +0.409 105 laps (2010 car)
4 M. Webber Red Bull 1:13.936 +0.792 102 laps
5 F. Massa Ferrari 1:14.017 +0.873 78 laps
6 T. Glock Virgin 1:14.207 +1.063 111 laps (2010 car)
7 P. Maldonado Williams 1:14.299 +1.155 98 laps
8 S. Perez Sauber 1:14.469 +1.325 104 laps
9 M. Schumacher Mercedes 1:14.537 +1.393 110 laps
10 S. Buemi Toro Rosso 1:14.801 +1.657 73 laps
11 N. Karthikeyan HRT 1:16.535 +3.391 63 laps (2010 car)
12 J Trulli Lotus No Time 38 laps