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Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Feb 2012   |  11:43 pm GMT  |  125 comments

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull continue to be the team to beat as the F1 testing season reached the half way point today.

I was trackside today in Barcelona, getting a first view of the 2012 cars in anger and sounding out the feeling of teams and engineers up and down the paddock.

On Day two of the second of three tests, the Red Bull carried out a race simulation run in the afternoon. It wasn’t spectacular, which gave other teams some encouragement, but the car clearly works in all conditions and is fast and well balanced. It picks up where last year’s car left off.

The fastest time on Day 2 was set in the morning by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, using the super soft compound tyres for the first time, but the Red Bull is acknowledged up and down the pit lane as the form car. “We’ll win races this year,” said one leading figure in the team, somewhat ironically.

However the picture is emerging of how the rest of the teams are shaping up and a good battle appears to be in prospect for the season. McLaren are not ahead of Red Bull, but nor did they expect to be. However they believe that they are likely to be close enough next week, once the definitive Melbourne specification parts are fitted to the cars, to know that they can take Red Bull on this season. It’s a long season with development again likely to be the key and McLaren look happy enough with where they are.

Ferrari’s disappointment has been well chronicled, but this is more disappointment that they are not ahead of Red Bull, as they expected they might be with the dramatic step change in direction they have taken. The signs are that they won’t be challenging for honours at the start of the season, but the car has potential and it’s really a question of whether they can get it working well soon enough to challenge for the championship. Understandably there is some nervousness about that in the team.

Meanwhile the Mercedes appears at first sight to be a good car with some interesting solutions in the diffuser, the exhausts and other areas, but it does not contain the silver bullet that some were expecting. It is a step forward for the Silver Arrows and should certainly bag some podiums this year, but whether it’s enough to challenge for the odd race win, it’s too early to say.

Although it suffered some reliability issues today, the Toro Rosso looks a good package and is likely to score points certainly in the first half of the season. The midfield battle with Force India, Sauber and the rest will be very tight this year, but I fancy Toro Rosso to start out at the front of it.

Lotus’ dramatic setback, with a chassis failure on Day 1 here, has been a major talking point. It appears that they thought they’d come up with a super new way of making lighter weight monocoque using clever composite techniques, but when the car tested in Barcelona, for some reason, perhaps to do with loadings, perhaps a construction issue, the chassis failed. This was verified when the other chassis was put on the test rig at the factory.

Although the problem area can be repaired, this comes at the worst time in the testing cycle for the team, as they have lost the entire middle test and are only able to claw back one day of the four that will have been lost, which they can add on to next week’s test. The car had appeared to be going well so it is a major setback.

Elsewhere in the field, the Williams looks a better car than last year’s, is very reliable with the highest mileage so far, but lacks some pace still.

Vitaly Petrov was out in the Caterham today, but struggled to get comfortable in the car at the start of the day, before getting down to work.

BARCELONA TEST, Day 2
1. Hulkenberg Force India 1m22.608s 112 Laps
2. Perez Sauber 1m22.648s +0.040 85
3. Vettel Red Bull 1m22.891s +0.283 104
4. Alonso Ferrari 1m23.180s +0.572 87
5. Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m23.639s +1.031 48
6. Hamilton McLaren 1m23.806s +1.198 121
7. Rosberg Mercedes 1m24.555s +1.947 82
8. Bottas Williams 1m25.738s +3.130 117
9. Petrov Caterham 1m26.605s +3.997 69
10. Pic Marussia 1m27.343s +4.735 108

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  1. One lunger says:

    Hey James, I remember last year you said the RB looked like it was on rails compared to the rest, is that a similar trait this year?

    Seems as if RB might be baiting the competition again into feeling they have done enough.

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, it looks good, but so does the McLaren

      1. One lunger says:

        Thanks James, this is the ‘go to’ site for anything F1!

      2. Kay says:

        Looks like dividends paid off for McLaren sticking to their own philosophy

  2. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for news from the track!
    I heard there are some rumours that Ferrari is in fact hiding it’s true form. Do you think it’s plausible?
    What was wrong with Petrov?
    I don’t think Toro Rosso will matter in the midfield fight. Last year they were also strong during pre-season testing but later struggled. Also with a rookie and a driver with only half season behind a machine that no one would call a F1 car they might have some trouble with development.

    1. kidVermin says:

      yes Jeremy, If i’m not mistaken McLaren were also sandbaggin back in 2009 as well… Just be glad they haven’t painted their entire car Flow-Vis Green as that kinda thing would be worrying. I really do hope that they can Give The Eyebrow man a good Car this year. And I don’t completely understand the need for such a dramatic CHange in Direction (That Part is the most worrying aspect in my book), the 150 wasnt all bad, it just struggled to work with the Harder Compounds which has been a Ferrari Achilles Heal for as long as I can remember, last year this characteristic was just a bit more pronounced than in other years. The F10 wasnt bad at all, Ferrari should stop shooting themselves in the foot every year before every championship begins.

  3. David Hamilton says:

    James a little confused about your article regarding Mclaren. You seem to be basing their progress on what they are seeing and not what you have seen? What did you think about the car? Asauto sport were saying it looked really stable in high speed and stronger than RBin breakinga nd turning as it could get on the power earlier.

    I suppose its still early days at this stage.

    1. Kay says:

      You don’t suppose Autosport know more than McLaren themselves do, ya?

      1. KRB says:

        I’d guess he’s supposing that Autosport is less likely to spout BS about the McLaren, than McLaren. A reasonable conclusion.

  4. radi says:

    I think with Alonso on board, ferrari will figure it out eventually, but not in the first half of the season. Pace may come too late.
    Mclaren duo is stronger than redbull’s with Webber seeming to have lost some of his edge and moved closer to being a “massa”. If mclaren is close enough, I sure hope Lewis and Jenson can work together to battle over Vettel.
    I am mclaren fan. I am not objective and that is the only problem in the plan

    1. Liam in Sydney says:

      All Alonso should be doing then is making sure he finishes races early on and bags points. Then when the development taps are fully open over the northern summer, they come on strong taking race wins later. But by suffering DNFs early, they kill off the entire season.

    2. Nathan says:

      Funny observation considering Lewis raced so close with massa last year couldn’t pass him webber will be up for a big year this year to then finish his career at ferrari

    3. Andreas Myrberg says:

      Well, that is the problem for Mclaren.
      They will both take point from Vettel, So if RedBull takes 10 wins and Mclaren 10, then Vettel takes 9 and Webber 1 where as Hamilton takes 6 and Button 4. So all in favor for RedBull, except for the the construction championship then of course, but Webber is still good enough to get inside the top 5 with a RB car

      1. John says:

        These are amazing insights you have made after 7 days of testing. We all knows that Red Bull will win, nothing else is guaranteed. You don’t win anything being great in testing.

  5. Klaas Backers says:

    Hi James,

    I’m from Belgium and although my English is very good, I don’t understand what you mean by…
    Ferrari’s disappointment has been well chronicled…

    So the general thought around the paddock is that the Ferrari has the potential, but it’s a matter of finding that potential?

    Thanks

    1. James Allen says:

      It means that many people have written that Ferrari are a bit disappointed.

      Yes, I think the feeling is that the car has some potential it’s a question of how long it takes them to get everything working properly

    2. gwyllion says:

      The verb “chronicle” can be translated in Dutch as “in een kroniek schrijven”, “te boek stellen”, “boekstaven”.

  6. Godfather says:

    This is very interesting. Some people say that we should not pay much attention to these testing times. But I think we should, and believe it is already clear who is strong and who is struggling.

    McLaren looks strong. However, there was a good tussle between Hamilton and Vettel today. Of course they were on different tyres but it is no surprise who won that battle and that gives a psychological edge to winner.

    Ferrari wanted to send Alonso on a high this week and went for a last minute glory run on the super softs at the last minute but still they were over half a second off the time set by Hulkster. Apparently Ferrari is still acquiring data. Hmm …

    Force India is doing very well. I am very happy for them and hope they will battle the leading teams this season. Mercedes still hasn’t found the rhythm yet. They are still behind. Same for Caterham. I thought they will be challenging Williams and Sauber but they are still far behind.

    Heard that Schumi can stay for two more years if he wants. I am sure he will take that offer gladly because he wants to beat Rubens record for the most experienced F1 driver.

    1. daphne says:

      Rubens will probably always hold the record for the most number of successative years in F1.

      19 is amazing.

      BTW, did I spell “successative” correctly? Just curious.
      D

      1. ian says:

        successive – nice try though

      2. Conor says:

        Haha bro seeing as that isn’t a word you can spell it how you like

      3. Grayzee (Australia) says:

        afraid not, mate! It’s spelt “successive” :-)

      4. Stevie P says:

        Daphne, the word is spelt like this “successive” (meaning: following in order or in uninterrupted sequence) and you’re welcome :-)

        Back on the testing front; looking strong for a tussle up top, which is what I think we all want :-) Force India looking good so far too, I’m not expecting them to challenge the top 3 or 4 but I’m expecting a few surprise results from them this season. Di Riesta seems settled and will want to push on from his encouraging rookie season; Hulk also will want to (re)establish himself after his year out of a race seat. Merc GP are the team I wanna see really push the top 3; I feel Rosberg is under-rated and Schumi is Schumi (and I would love to see him on the podium in his new more mature, more relaxed frame of mind). Good to see lots of reliability from the Williams; not good to see the chassis issue at Lotus. Ferrari, hmmmmmm, not sure what to make of this lot – I think for them making a radical jump in design could back-fire on them; if I were them, I’d have stayed consistent and focus my eyes (heavily) on the major regulation shake-up that occurs in a couple of years time (but then this is Ferrari and they can’t do that).

        But as the majority of us keep saying the proof and reality will be shown in Melbourne. BRING IT ON! :-)

      5. Martin B says:

        It’s ‘sucessive’ – good effort though.

        I’m happy that McLaren look strong, with their reputation on development throughout the season, it looks much more promising than it did this time last year. They have covered a lot of mileage as well which can only be good. Of course, if it’s going to be tight, it will come down to the right strategy call and faultless pit stops – can’t wait!

      6. KRB says:

        I hope the McLaren is truly competitive this year, and that neither driver has to force it. I am concerned about the nose, and whether or not the potential to find time thru the year is less with the Macca nose than with the stepped noses.

      7. Optimaximal says:

        Unfortunately, the word is ‘successive’. ;)

      8. F1 says:

        Successive. Pretty sure Button, Alonso, Hamilton or Vettel will beat this record, though.

      9. Kevin Green says:

        Vettel will the rest wont, only Vettel is driven by stat’s since day 1, the rest would rather retire than slip into poor teams as they slip away with age and better fresh talent appearing!

      10. Klaas Backers says:

        No, it should be successive…

      11. Martin says:

        yes :-) on consecutive occasions

      12. nathan says:

        Any body else want to correct it!

      13. SteveH says:

        Not me, I sort of like that word ‘successative’ with the success built in.

      14. Rob Newman says:

        Wow, everybody wanted to correct daphme. But I think the word you were looking for was ‘consecutive’. :)

      15. Kevin Green says:

        +1 :)

    2. Damo-McLarenF1 says:

      “McLaren looks strong. However, there was a good tussle between Hamilton and Vettel today. Of course they were on different tyres but it is no surprise who won that battle and that gives a psychological edge to winner”

      … Not really!! As you said, different tyres! Hamilton was on worn mediums, Vettel on new hards. I cannot see Vettel gaining a psychological edge and / or Hamilton being psychologically scarred.

      As we all know from last year, new Pirelli tyrs are always king so it was a foregon conclusion that Vettel would end up overtaking Hamilton. From what I heard, Vettel was held up for a reasonable amount of time and when he finally passed, it was on the last lap of a 14 lap run (for Hamilton) I believe; The fact that it took Vettel all that time to pass Hamilton when he was on new tyres is a more meaningful factor in my eyes.

      1. Damo-McLarenF1 says:

        Just to add to my earlier post – I just wanted to say that this is still testing and not a huge amount can be gathered from that little tussle. Vettel and the RB8 as you say, may come out on top repeatedly throughout the season (although I hope not, I just want a good fight) but I just can’t see a ‘psychological edge’ being gained from either / or both driver(s).

        Im just happy that as this stage of testing the McLaren, at the least, looks like it may give that amazing RB car a half decent run for its money :-)

        Oh and James, great insight as always. Thanks

      2. James Allen says:

        The tussle meant nothing at all. It’s a 20 race season lasting nine months. THe cars will be transformed many times during that period

      3. KRB says:

        For all we know, the RB8 was fitted with cameras in its nose, and instructed to follow the McLaren, to see how it behaved in corners and straights, for Mr. Newey to watch at night.

        Though as I said before, I’ve seen a lot of comments, from Horner especially, that sound to me like “well just watch us next week” type of comments, which I wouldn’t expect from him if things were well in hand. Although this new exhaust in the pushed-back test next week is very interesting stuff.

    3. gondokmg says:

      I doubt there was a real battle between Hamilton and Vettel, although I am sure most people at the circuit and the journos were hoping for one.

      I was looking at the lap times just before and after Vettel “overtook” Hamilton and it was clear to me that Lewis had slowed down that particular lap to let Vettel through so he could focus on his programme, so I would not read too much into that at all.

      Besides, they were on different tyres at different stages of degradation and most likely different fuel loads.

    4. [quote] Ferrari wanted to send Alonso on a high this week and went for a last minute glory run on the super softs at the last minute but still they were over half a second off the time set by Hulkster. Apparently Ferrari is still acquiring data. Hmm … [/end quote]
      I doubt they wanted to go for glory run with Pitot tube installed. This is a massive drag penalty.
      Data gathering – precisely. Complex solutions require many iterations over (presumably) large matrix – any engineer knows that, and especially the quality assurance people.
      You reap what you sow.

    5. devon says:

      i beleive alonsos run was the first lap of a 10 lap stinit on the hard tyre.

  7. Darren says:

    Thank you for your thoughts James. There’s nothing like reading an account from someone connected in the pitlane and can watch the cars for themselves.

    I read on another site that Lewis was initially disappointed with the MP4/27 and shared those feelings with old pal Heikki. Your observations would seem to dispel those rumours though.

    It would seem that there is hope for a competitive season as long as the others don’t give Red Bull too much of a start at the beginning of the season.

    Last year we all thought Ferrari was on Red Bulls pace after testing only for Red Bull to show their real pace in Melbourne.

    It seems like Ferrari and McLaren have reversed roles with this year with McLaren having a smooth testing build up and Ferrari battling problems.

    I hope both are well sorted quickly so we can have a real three or four way team fight for wins this year. I suspect from previous seasons that Red Bull will have a gap on the others but hopefully, with McLaren having less ground to make up than last year, they will be on even terms before the championship is almost in Vettels pocket.

    Nothing against Vettel, just want to see a good fight this year.

  8. Hi James,

    Do you think any of the teams are still hiding their best cards? What are the chances of seeing new developments/devices/etc in Melbourne for the first time?

    Surprisingly, it seems that with the billions of dollars spent by all teams cumulatively nobody has come up with anything clever, impressive or original… More of the same all down the pit lane.

    Thank you

    1. James Allen says:

      There will be some ideas for sure. But so far no must have gizmo

      1. Jeremy says:

        What about the “letterbox” on Redbull’s nose? Does anyone know what’s it’s function?

      2. Russell says:

        To James & to all of you. What about the wings front and back?Is anyone really low like the RB of last year? Are they showing/using their real front end wings? Do teams mostly have ‘improved’ wings compared to last year.

        Thanks James. This is fun. A nice relaxing moment at the end of the day while the wife watches the tellie.

      3. PRCandME says:

        In an interview a few weeks ago, a person on the Renault engine team mentioned that Renault and Redbull had come up with an inventive way to regain some of the downforce that had been lost due to the new exhaust rules.

        Any more information or speculation on what Renault/Redbull might have come up with?

      4. James Allen says:

        Exhaust positioning

    2. Liam in Sydney says:

      Yes, I agree to a point, but you are making a judgement based on what you can see on the car’s outside. Under the skin there can be plenty of unobtrusive gizmos that can add performance. Plus teams are not necessarily testing all their go-fast parts. They are establishing baselines for how later parts will compare.

  9. Bakdraft says:

    James, you are so lucky…. you have the best job in the world…. need any help?

    1. Grayzee (Australia) says:

      Hey bakdraft!… join the queue, buddy :-)

  10. William says:

    It seems that the latest set of regulations have the teams ideas exhausted, which isn’t really a surprise given the rampant rate of development.

    Force India are looking really strong. I hope it isn’t just test bogey runs, I quite like the team, and it’s nice to see Hulkenburg back in a car, and a car with pace. Perhaps they could spring some surprises in the first 6 or so races. Not to mention Di Resta for Team UK, even if he does have the personality of a passive aggressive robot. I still like him.

    For now, in terms of the cars, I can’t wait for 2014, and the engine changes, as only then will we see particularly large aero developments. Does anyone know if there will be regs on how the engines have to be mounted, or will someone try and be clever and try and lay the engine flat, like a certain Murray design ? (I think)

    1. William says:

      Just realised my ‘exhausted’ pun. I am one funny gentleman.

      1. adi says:

        William….posting your realisation has presented me with an opportunity to add my own play on the exhaust pun. By stating that your funny you have successfully ‘blown smoke’ up your own backside…

  11. Matt Clayton says:

    Hi James, last year a lot of marbles were seen on the track. can you comment on what you are seeing this year down at the track?

  12. Sammy says:

    Hi James, I’m at Montmelo these days, any chance I can get access to the paddock? Thanks.

  13. Mantikos says:

    James, tell us your impression of the W03′s handling. DO you think they are sandbagging?

    1. James Allen says:

      Mono think it was only day 2 with this car and it had an oil leak in the afternoon.

      It is a step up on last year certainly

  14. goferet says:

    Yes the Red Bull appears to pick up where last year’s car left off but the difference is Vettel is also slated to pick up where he left off last season too i.e not having too much luck as shown in Abu-Dhabi & Brazil.

    If so, some teams can take heart in the fact that they can have a shot at challenging for the title this time round for it appears Vettel has lost his good luck charm again & is most likely to carry on the misfortune of the last races of 2011 which of course will be in contrast to the good fortune he carried over from the end of the 2010 season —> And thus I expect Webber to out perform Sebi this year.

    Now my assessment of today’s running is that Sauber & particularly Force India may not be as good as last year & hence the near desperation to set the fastest time on super spot tyres for it feels like they know they won’t be any where this year so have decided to try to put on a good show for potential sponsors —> With Force India’s financial woes well documented.

    Ironically it was also the second test last year that Rubens sets the fastest time so I believe the same thing is what is going on at Force India.

    As for Mclaren their ace card this year seems to be their long runs which appear to match Red Bull or maybe are even faster so much so that it also grabbed Vettel’s attention & the fact that they haven’t suffered any reliability issues bonds well for the team.

    Now, unless Ferrari can get their horse whisperer to do his thing & turn around this situation fast, they might as well have to write off this season for once a team begins pushing further back the goal posts then you know they’re in trouble & if I may remind you, modern day Formula 1 is most dependant on having a strong first half of a season and so, if an outfit is to capture any form of glory, it must shoot out the gates on all cylinders.

    I know that Schumi has been offered a new contract but I really think this is it this time for the Kaiser.

    First off, for Mercedes to win a podium, let alone a race, they will have to hope both Red Bulls, both Mclarens, both Ferraris & possibly both Lotuses fall off the road which is very unlikely even in a wet race.

    And with Schumi’s qualifying woes nowadays, well not sure he would bear any more of this disappointment so again I say, no podiums for Mercedes and especially so, none for Mr. Schumacher

    1. Chris says:

      What are you basing all this on?

      1. Steve says:

        just his personal perfences, nothing more than that.

      2. F1Fan4Life says:

        His obvious lack of intelligence..

    2. Pete says:

      Haug, Zetsche… all say that Schumi can draw up his own contract and sign it, that’s it

      they REALLY WANT him to stay

      also, there are NO qualifying woes; rather, it seems Rosberg is just THAT brilliant; Ross Brawn just said so in a German interview; Schumi is on par in qualifying but Rosberg gets more out of the car than there really is . During the race , however, Schumi is as good and towards the end of the season was better at times, Brawn said; he also points out that Schumi’s tyre management is better

      Brawn also pointed out that Schumi realised at one stage that he could not match Rosberg’s insane qualifying speed and then changed strategy, instead of forcing it in QF he tried to get the car ready for the race itself, leading to better overall race performances

      still, both Haug and Brawn absolutely RAVE about Rosberg and rate him amongst the VERY top; they just have not been able to give him the right car

      meanwhile, the Mercedes CEO recently pointed out that Schumi was still THE ICON of the sport worldwide

      the English perception of Schumi being past it , or being unpopular is NOT shared by anybody at Mercedes

      they also point out that his enthusiasm and drive is HUGELY important for motivational purposes; he really talks to EVERYBODY in the team, asks about their family members, pushes them on to develop the cars into the late hours…: the OFF-track stuff Schumi produces is massively important to Mercedes

      his professionalism is still unique as well: the head of Pirelli Tyres just said that there were TWO drivers who wanted to know everything about the new tyres right from the start, ie even during the initial development phase: Schumi and Vettel

      1. goferet says:

        @ Pete

        also, there are NO qualifying woes; rather, it seems Rosberg is just THAT brilliant
        ————————————————-

        Hahaa dude, if you think Schumi is the same driver he was in his first career, you either missed the Schumi Benetton/Ferrari years or just believe whatever PR talk comes out of people’s mouth.

        So no Rosberg isn’t really that brilliant in qualifying it’s just that Schumi is past it (at the ripe old age of 43) & it’s only the German media & the Mercedes suits that haven’t woken up yet & smelt the tea.

        As for the contract, it depends on Schumi for would he be willing to keep taking this humiliation, in my view —> No!

        @ Chris

        What are you basing all this on
        —————————————–

        My intuition!

      2. KRB says:

        Him qualifying three or four-tenths behind Rosberg wasn’t a problem last year, when they still qualified 7th and 8th despite that gap. If that gap means they start 7th and 11th regularly this year, then you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be grumblings at Mercedes about Schumi.

    3. dzolve says:

      As a fellow McClaren supporter I quite like your posts @Goforit but Christ, sometimes, you really do talk a load of rubbish!!

      Webber to outperform Vettel – No chance!
      No podiums for Mercedes – I don’t think so!
      Ferrari may as well write off their season, eh?!

      1. KRB says:

        Yeah, don’t see Webber beating Vettel … ’10 was his best chance at it, and he blew it.

        I also expect podiums for Mercedes, and only a fool would write off Ferrari b/c of some problems in winter testing. We saw how McLaren sprang back from a disastrous winter testing last year, and Ferrari is just as capable.

  15. Gonzo says:

    Sure that Alonso is getting his lawyers to sort out the “OUT” clause in his contract.

  16. Stone the crows says:

    James, thanks for the reports. Assuming that Lotus will only have to report any changes to their chassis, rather than homologate it again, will they be able to reclaim their lost time in the same manner that Mercedes did at Silverstone?

    1. James Allen says:

      No, can only get one day back

  17. Sean says:

    Hi James,

    I was a little surprised to read Hamilton commenting on the car’s improvement over the high speed corners.

    In yesterday’s test, whenever he was able to match or was faster than Vettel in sector 1, he was unable to do the same in sectors 2 and 3 where the high speed and low speed corners are.

    Isn’t it a little contradicting? Could you offer your insight please James?

    1. James Allen says:

      Fuel loads make the comparisons meaningless. Judge it when they are all running on low fuel quali. THen you see the underlying pace of the cars

  18. Eduan says:

    I do not think all the teams will show their entire hand until Melbourne. This test is still feeling out the cars and making sure everything works. I think the final test will give us maybe a clue of where each teams is, for example I think Mercedes can go a lot quicker but they just launched so they are still feeling their way through with the new car. Everyone is worried about Ferrari but I think they will be right on it in Aus. I definitely do not foresee a season where Red Bull will run away and this is a long season so the development race will be furious.

    James is there any news on Marussia’s new car? and HRT? I know HRT have struggled with passing the crash test.

    Thanks

  19. at the mclaren launch whit marsh stated that ‘all teams grandstand and all teams sandbag’ to greater or lesser degree during testing. i believe him.

    ‘so far, no must have gizmo. well one wouldn’t expect any ‘gizmos’ to be on display especially at this point in time. i will wait until the second/third race to make up my mind who has what and is doing what with it.

    i like your site james. good quality without the ‘look at me’ plague on some other sites.

  20. Nick says:

    Thanks James – I’ve read a lot about the testing, but this piece has been by far the most balanced and informative – going well beyond what the times sheets show (which we know at this stage gives very little idea about the teams’ relative stanidngs) and instead focussing on the little things that give us real insight into how well the teams are doing. Keep it up!

  21. Paddy says:

    Hi James, regarding Lotus and the chassis failure…why hasn’t this come up during the FIA impact tests? Thanks

    1. Andrew P says:

      I suspect that they have been deploying the “Thin Ply Technique (TPT)” for laying up the carbon composites.

      Refer to recent Seahorse articles by North Sails where they expound on the increase in specific stiffness and lower weight that can be achieved by laying the carbon down onto the tub mould in 50 gsm tapes rather than 300gsm or 900 gsm tapes.

      The lower denier fibres used in the TPT carbon unidirectional material leads to a reduction in voids for the glue matrix, giving a claimed higher carbon content and increased stiffness.

      This technique has been used in carbon mast making for the Volvo round the world race. It also the technique for laying up the black monolithic sails used in high end yachting sails. Pity several snapped in the early phase of the current event.

  22. Bollo says:

    Looks like another dog of a Williams – Its worse than a Kevin Costner Movie(s)!

  23. Ade says:

    Hi James, a bit off topic, but do you think the funding crisis that has hit Mr. Mallaya’s airline back in India will have any impact on his F1 team? Looks like the man himself is going to be very distracted for the forseeable trying to remedy a major problem in one of his core business interests. That must surely have some affect on his F1 team….?

    1. James Allen says:

      Could do. It’s a question many in F1 are asking too

    2. Rob Newman says:

      Isn’t that the very reason he offloaded half of his F1 team to Mr. Sahara?

  24. Ryan Eckford says:

    Testing has been very interesting so far. Red Bull looks strong, but McLaren is very close to them, so at the moment it will be those two teams fighting for Pole Positions and Race Wins.

  25. Mark in Australia says:

    Anyone inform me what’s the black pole is on top of the air intake is?? Is it a testing apparatus of some kind?

  26. Yos says:

    Hello James, I am waiting for your verdict come the end of the pre-testing. I rememeber how you sort of announced the 2009 Mclaren as a very bad car as compared to the brawn gp, RBR…I wasn’t ready to accept it but it was the case come Melbourne.

  27. Richard says:

    Good to have second test impressions, and being a McLaren fan I was a little concerned that their front end design was different from all the others, but it looks as though they have made a beautiful design work well. They do seem to have excellent reliability just hope they are fast enough to really challenge the Bulls. Next week’s test should be a little more revealing as the cars edge closer to race trim, but can’t wait for Melbourne.

  28. SJM says:

    James, I don’t mean to speculate, but from the minimal information in testing so far, McLaren seem have made a major step forward. Poor high speed corner grip was their downfall last season and they seem to have found a solution early on.

    One thing I feel that has RBR worried is that the progress has come using a different design philosophy. I think copying any of McLaren’s performance upgrades may not be as simple this year, for the stepped nose teams :)

    1. That works both ways, though…

      1. SJM says:

        True, but judging from the speed at which McLaren develop their car over the season. I am sure RBR is already wary

      2. I’m an F1 fan foremost and McLaren happen to be my favorite team. So while I hope you’re correct, your theory doesn’t weight out.

        McLaren’s development through the season, whilst impressive, has usually involved implementing their own versions of other teams ideas.

        If the two philosophies are difficult to copy from then Red Bull have 11 other teams they can look at to copy ideas from. McLaren rely entirely on its own innovation.

  29. Rodger says:

    I might be wrong (its contrary to reports afterall), but what I’ve seen of the McLaren so far I think they are in serious trouble. Watching it turn in and turn out of corners has, at the moment, got me thinking it is behind Ferrari, way behind Red Bull and perhaps even struggling to keep up with Mercedes.
    But like I said I could be wrong.

    1. James Allen says:

      No, the car is good. It’s not Red Bull good, but it’s close enough that the development programme will give the drivers a chance to fight for the championship

  30. Andrew Kirk says:

    Hi James what is the mood at Williams? The team is in dire need for some results this year after a raft of changes in personnal and I imagine the money men involved with the team must be getting annoyed.

    You say the car lacks pace not a great sign as I do not think that Williams have the best track record in developing a car over the season in recent years.

    1. James Allen says:

      Stil recovering from 2011, but more confident in the 2012 car, even if it needs some more speed

  31. Tealeaf says:

    Yes I can see the Hamilton bregade all rubbing their hands and think that Vettel will be toppled this season but sorry to disappoint you guys the finger is here to stay as champion and even if the pace of the car is even Seb will take the title, don’t make me say I told you so after Melbourne.

    1. SJM says:

      …can you feel that?….its winds of change are already blowing in Spain. A hurricane called LHWDC2012 will be hitting Melbourne in March :)

      1. Doobs says:

        or hitting Massa

    2. The title is decided after Melbourne?

      1. Steve says:

        did the statistic show whoever won in Melbourne has a good chance go on and with the title?

    3. KRB says:

      If the pace of the McLaren and RBR are the same through the season, then Vettel will not win the DWC. But time will tell …

  32. Dan Orsino says:

    James, with regard to Lotus, can a new chassis be built in less than three weeks?

  33. Tifosi numero uno says:

    Very concernd about my boys in Red, I just really hope there is some more upgrades coming towards melbourne so were at least fighting for podiums. Also im so happy for my fellow australian Daniel Ricciardo, looking at his times from this weekend and following his career now since he was abit younger, absolutely stoked for the lad. H

    1. Walter says:

      Ferrari are testing many different setups with the new car. These tests are about data acquisition so they can best predict how the car will behave in all situations and then they can develop parts to increase performance. Don’t be too worried right now. This 20 race season is a marathon, not a sprint. The championship is not won during pre season testing. Ferrari will be ready for Melbourne.

  34. Nuno says:

    Hi James,

    Can you please clarify in what tyres did Vettel and Alonso set their time?

    Thanks
    Nuno

    1. Rob Newman says:

      Vettel – Soft
      Alonso – Super soft

  35. azac21 says:

    James, thanks for the report from trackside in Barcelona.

    Did you hear anything about the issues that Ferrari has with wind tunnel and track data correlation?

  36. James says:

    There have been rumours reported that Renault and Mercedes are still exploiting off throttle engine maps!
    Do you have any information on this or can you quash the rumours?

  37. Adiel says:

    James is there a big difference in tyre performance compare to last years?

  38. Erik says:

    James, is there a decent lap time gap between the different tyre compounds? People are praising the new Pirellis’ consistency but does this mean that the tyres are super reliable just like the Bridgestones were? Which made for boring strategies as the tyres just kept on going no matter they did with them…

    1. James Allen says:

      Gap is down, probably a bit too close between soft and medium. But the key thing is the tyres degrade, which Bridgestones didn’t. So it cannot be the same as it was then

  39. victor barbados says:

    i think the mp4 27 is a good car ,what i cant figure is the exhaust lay outs ,they seem to be blocking the air flow to the lower spoiler ,thought it would be better to have them closer in to help energize the air flow on to the lower spoiler thus creating more down force

    hope this year all four top teams are close a one man show is boring the best action last year was button chasing down vettel in canada and lewis coming through the field and his battles with massa lol love it ,the ideal race all four top teams start at the back

  40. Peter says:

    Thanks James this is great info

  41. Anup Kadam says:

    Hi James what`s your take on this…please do reply…and Also reply Ferrari`s engine mapping on this…

    [B]Teams that use Renault engines and Mercedes in serious trouble[/B]

    If you are confirmed German press reports today, that before the season starts we are preparing a small revolution. Three days ago I mentioned to you that Renault and Red Bull worked very hard over the appropriate mapping for the engine to compensate for losses caused by non-blowing in the diffuser. Once the information has reached us, is undoubtedly also be given authority of the FIA.

    The first signals that reach from the federation can be very disturbing for the teams that use Renault engines, but not only. According to the experts working for the FIA engine software used by the engines Renault and Mercedes in breach of applicable laws. Although the exhaust pipes are not addressed in the diffuser, it still throws gas engine when the driver pull off the accelerator.

    Soon, interested teams should get the records detailing the technical directive regulations in this regard. In early March, it should also hold a meeting of representatives of the teams with the authorities of the FIA, in which the problem will also be moved. If a team fails to comply with the recommendations, the FIA provides that it does not allow them to race at the start of the season in Australia.

    I stress again that if the information provided by German journalists are true (and I have no reason to believe that they are not), then the team mentioned above will be placed in a very difficult situation. The teams have spent a lot of time to design a new exhaust system and any change in the way the engine can have a huge impact on the balance of the whole structure. Only Ferrari can feel secure, which may soon be the cause of many conspiracy theories, but so far we do not reopen this issue.

    1. James Allen says:

      Not something I’ve heard about but I’ll look out for that, thanks

      1. Anup Kadam says:

        ok thank you James will be waiting for ur reply…

      2. Anup Kadam says:

        James few updates i got from one of the post…even i don`t know what`s true n what`s not…but here is the post…

        FIA says they did have a meeting and they’re still discussing about it. But nothing is been banned or called ilegal so far
        -Charlie Whiting says “a” team came over to the FIA complaining about the engine mapping and they’re discussing about it. More info at 5pm
        -So that we’re all clear about it, C.Whiting didn’t say they’re having a meeting with the teams now. Discussion is happening within FIA

      3. Mike P says:

        Any news on this?
        I read this on auto123.com: There are rumours Renault and Mercedes-powered teams are still using clever engine mapping techniques for aerodynamic effect.

        I also read that Merecedes is hiding something special. Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport reports that mechanics working for the Brackley based team are making more efforts than usual to hide the front and rear of the car. But a big secret is now out of the bag, and it’s located beneath the rear rain light and being described by insiders as “like a double diffuser”.

    2. Mike P says:

      Why is no one reporting this if it is the case?

  42. Daniel says:

    Hi James,

    Please could you clarify the term ‘chassis failure’…Does this actually mean that the chassis has failed in the sense that part of it has literally broken, or does it just mean it has failed in terms of predicted performance?

    1. Doobs says:

      I think it broke.

  43. JC says:

    That STR has seemed strong on pace so far but a bit lacking in reliability; Ricciardo has been the cause of four red flags (one of which was a deliberate “out of fuel” run). Any idea what the problems may be? (I say this as a concerned Ricciardo fan)

  44. ChrisJones says:

    Hi James,

    Looking at photos from testing it appears that the top teams have taken somewhat different approaches to rear end downforce this year. As with last year, this years key development area seems to be the rear end aerodynamics. In particular, how to best use the airflows coming from the exhaust and radiators (engine, tranny, KERS, etc.). Red bull pioneered routing the radiator airflow out through the single port on the engine cover. Ferrari actually tested a solution similar to this last year, but decided to take a different approach this year.

    Red bulls approach seems to be focused on creating downforce on the rear beam wing by blowing the exhaust and radiator outlet airflow across it. The nose cone step air inlet on the red bull must simply be redirecting small jets of air down to a key point on the floor. The red bulls diffuser approach is also unique in that the centre section dips down to form a channel for air passing around the side pods and down to the centre of the car below the transmission. There is an excellent photo that shows this on f1-fanatic.

    In contrast, both Ferrari and mclaren seem to be using the exhaust and radiator flows to energize the airflow coming out from under the diffuser. Could mclaren and Ferrari be using a single outlet for both the exhaust and radiator airflows? The Ferrari in particular is very blatant in its design, with the rear exhaust ports clearly angled down towards the floor. Given the new exhaust outlet orientation regs, they might be trying to use the manipulated radiator airflow to help redirect the exhaust gases down towards the floor. This could help energize the airflow coming out of the diffuser by blowing the hot gasses across the top of the floor. They may also have specific slots or gaps in the floor to transfer some of the outlet airflow under the floor.

    Any insight on these seemingly contrasting design directions James?

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for that thorough appraisal. I’ll investigate and post some thoughts on it

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