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Barcelona Test Day 4: Leading teams playing it cagey, big changes for next test
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Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Feb 2012   |  8:28 pm GMT  |  172 comments

The second pre-season test drew to a close today in Barcelona with all the leading teams focussing on longer runs and not on setting headline lap times.

The next test will be the one where we see the definitive Melbourne specifications and there is no doubt that for most teams there are some big updates coming. This is certainly true for Red Bull and McLaren, no doubt for Ferrari and Mercedes too.

Mark Webber certainly hinted that Red Bull has some big changes in the pipeline, “We have a lot of work to do back in Milton Keynes over the next few days to get the car ready for the next test. We’ve done well over these two first tests and the feeling is pretty good,” he said.

Red Bull hasn’t been doing headline grabbing lap times this week, there is some gamesmanship going on between teams on fuel loads, use of DRS wings and so on, perhaps even more than normal. Usually by this stage we’ve seen some fast laps, but so far this year it’s just been Williams, Force India and Sauber stretching the car’s legs on performance runs on new soft tyres.

Mercedes did another race distance with Nico Rosberg this time at the wheel; it’s been a good first week for the new car from the UK based German team. Ferrari had a better day with Felipe Massa saying that the afternoon session gave glimpses of how much potential the car has. A lot is riding on the final test for the Scuderia, which has shifted to a Friday to Monday programme, from Thursday to Sunday. This will give one extra day for production of new parts. Red Bull are doing the same, while Lotus can make up one of the days lost this week after a chassis failure.

The Pirelli tyres are clearly lasting longer than the 2011 models, although they still degrade, so there’s no return to Bridgestone type performance. In the cooler conditions seen at times this week the tyres have degraded quickly, but this shouldn’t be so much of a problem in warmer conditions.

Some engineers have suggested that the gap between the soft and medium is a little too small, but again time will tell. For Melbourne the tyre choice is soft and medium, but in Malaysia it’s medium and hard so we’ll get a good picture in the first two races.

Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said, “The teams completed 17,207 kilometres as opposed to 14,949 kilometres in Jerez. This allowed them to gather plenty of data on all four slick tyres that we can now analyse in order to come up with a few different scenarios for the first races related to strategy options and crossover points. As we expected, most teams chose to concentrate on the medium tyre, with the emphasis often on aerodynamic set-up work rather than tyre evaluation.”

Caterham have had a tough week, with a variety of issues on the car. Today they had an engine change to make after an electrical problem, “Things haven’t exactly gone as we would have liked, but I think we all know where the car can and should be when it gets real in Australia,” said Heikki Kovalainen, “So now the challenge is to regroup in time for next week and make sure we come back here ready to put in a final week of hard work on track and get back to where we want to be.”

Marussia also struggled today with their 2011 car, a suspension problem preventing them from doing any running. Their new car, the first produced in house, will appear at the final test next week. HRT meanwhile has passed two of the crash tests and is taking another. It will be touch and go for them to make Melbourne and it’s looking as though the car’s first lap might be in practice at Albert Park.

BARCELONA TEST, Day 4
1. 1. Kobayashi Sauber 1:22.312 144 Laps
2. 2. Maldonado Williams 1:22.561 134
3. 3. Di Resta Force India 1:23.119 101
4. 4. Button McLaren 1:23.200 115
5. 5. Massa Ferrari 1:23.563 103
6. 6. Webber Red Bull 1:23.774 85
7. 7. Vergne Toro Rosso 1:23.792 92
8. 8. Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.843 139
9. 9. Kovalainen Caterham 1:26.968 70

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172 Comments
  1. ilya says:

    HRT is a joke, really… Third year in a row

    1. kfzmeister says:

      Cut them some slack, they all can’t be midfielders or front runners. We need them in the sport!

      1. Kay says:

        Yer they of course deserve credits in trying, not many can achieve getting a team together, especially F1.

        But to be honest, you gotta be realistic. If you are struggling like how HRT is, why bother? It’d probably be better off for them to quit than struggle like mad for life

      2. Richard Foster says:

        Cut them some slack! It is shocking that as they enter their third season in the sport they aren’t capable of reaching a test session! This shows absolutely no progress at all. Yes they deserve a place on the grid for at least having the ability to create a car but seriously it is poor that they have still yet to reach a test session!

      3. Ashley Scott says:

        personally I don’t think they should be cut any slack at all. A rule should be introduced that if a team does not attend and run in at least one full test they should be excluded from taking part in the championship! We no more need HRT in F1 than we need an ashtray on a motorcycle.

      4. Andrew Barratt says:

        But that’s just it, they’re not breaking any rules so thy are not doing anything wrong – other than harming their own chances. Imagine they could be avoiding testing because they’ve come up with an absolute show stopper

    2. Jack says:

      Totally agree, completely pointless. They’ve had and wasted their chance – give their entry to someone who deserves it

      1. kardaans says:

        who deserves it ?

      2. Simmo says:

        Apparently lola cars are looking to make an entry to f1. Maybe they deserve it.

      3. Yuri says:

        I don’t know why they didn’t let ProDrive enter Formula 1 along the other new teams back in 2010.
        Was it politics or there was a good reason to deny them the chance?
        I believe they would do much better than HRT.

      4. Robert s says:

        I agree, they don’t appear to have a good business plan.

      5. Kevin Green says:

        You are probably very wrong! there business plan is likely to be with limited slots on the grid and them having the rights to one of the slots when F1 becomes desirable again to mass car manufacturers again (which it no doubt will) they will have one of the slots to sell for pretty mark up!

      6. Robert s says:

        Yes they may be sitting in a good position with a healthy profit when it comes to selling, once manufacturers become interested in entering.

        But until that day they still seem to have a very good business plan when it comes to racing and building a car. Like has been said earlier every year they have struggled to make the first race. I’d rather have them on the grid than no-one at all, but they appear to struggle so much.

      7. Robert s says:

        they still don’t seem to have a very good business plan**

      8. Kevin Green says:

        Or would that be sporting/racing plan ??? there in it for the pay day i reckon.

      9. Andy says:

        What happened to Stefan GP?

      10. James Allen says:

        Never happened, but Mike Coughlan was involved.

    3. gerry mc says:

      have to agree. whats the point for them.

    4. MIke84 says:

      Agree, I don’t think any of us want to see them in the state they’re in. What if someone missed the football fre-season and barely made the 1st game 3 seasons in a row, totally unprepared? Maybe HRT should switch to a series they can handle, and give someone else a chance at F1.

      1. Quattro_T says:

        When Ferrari said this years ago, ppl did not want to listen…there you go.

    5. David says:

      There must be other teams/people out there capable of bringing a car to the grid on time. Get rid!

      1. Charalampos says:

        I think you all forget that there is a 13th slot available that was given to none. It is not like if HRT goes away someone else will come. So they make no harm but I guess no good as well

      2. Kevin Green says:

        I feel given the right future climate and viable interest ie Manufacturers I would say there’s scope for at least 8 appearing/making a return i feel there’s room for 8 more cars on the grid for sure and would certainly be more interesting/competative on the wider scale and the cars are so safe now there’s little issue on that side.

    6. Flying_Scotsman says:

      HRT have completed 2 season with no sponsors and almost no budget.
      I fail to see what more we can expect from a team operating under these conditions.
      Getting on to the grid at all is an achievement as far as i am concerned.

    7. Dave Aston says:

      Amazing, considering how many Bathurst enduros and Australian Touring Car Championships they managed to win over the years.

      1. Ryan Eckford says:

        Different HRT. The Hispania Racing Team is F1′s HRT. The Holden Racing Team is the V8′s or Australia’s HRT.

      2. Dave Aston says:

        Really? I had no idea…

      3. Andrew Carter says:

        That comment made my day! Holden, they are not.

        It has to be said though, they way HRT has gone about F1 feels like the shambolic non-entities of the early to mid 90′s, Minardi would have been embaressed to be in such a situation.

      4. Alex W says:

        That HRT had Prodrive running it in the glory years…

      5. Andrew Carter says:

        You mean Tom Walkinshaw Racing, TWR.

      6. Alex W says:

        yeah TWR, brain explosion sorry.

      7. Luke says:

        Completely unrelated teams… HISPANIA Racing in F1 v HOLDEN Racing in V8SC.

      8. Henry says:

        Dave I wish this site had the ‘Like’ feature – your sarcasm is great!

      9. Ford V Holden says:

        +1

        It’s unfortunate 90% of this websites readers won’t get your point.

        Won’t it be good to see HRT beat Nissan at Bathurst
        “Your’e all pack of…”

      10. RT says:

        I hope you’re not serious? This F1 HRT has nothing to do with ‘Holden Racing Team’ who race in V8 Supercar championship!

      11. Dave Aston says:

        I’m completely serious…

      12. Mike Campbell says:

        So, what’s HRT’s relationship with menopousal medication then?

      13. AndrewM says:

        Yeah, for fans of the Aussie HRT (Holden Racing Team) their association, even just being known by the same initials, sits uncomfortably.

      14. Kevin Green says:

        Ha Ha that’s hillarious!

    8. kardaans says:

      do you see any better candidate who WANTS to enter ? all credit to HRT or their efforts. don’t laugh them off

      1. Simmo says:

        lola cars

    9. Iwan says:

      I a way I agree, but think about it this way: the last two years they didn’t test and showed up with a car that’s not near the techno tour de force of most of the other guys. Yet, apart from 1st race of the season, they manage to be within the 107% of the front runners – and at a FRACTION of their budget with not Vettel/Alonso/Hamilton in their car.

      So do we really need teams spending 4-5 times as much to be 3.5sec faster?

      Also if the FIA were better at marketing and race coverage were better, HRT would be able to attract more sponsors.

    10. Moxlox says:

      ….they’ve beaten Virgin two years in a row. So their place is deserved.

      1. Al (21prods) says:

        +1

        I like everybody saying HRT should be out of the F1 and yet no word about Virgin. Have they done better these previous years? Have they already tested the ’12 car?

        So…

      2. rgvkiwi says:

        Hear hear. I think any team that can field a car and qualify in the top of the top echelon of motorspport deserver the chance. Ideally they would be ready but I think they do wonders considering they (and others) got shafted with the budget fiasco.

    11. DanWilliams says:

      Would much rather the extra slots avail on the grid taken up by 3rd cars…

      There could be a rule as well that the 3rd car must be occupied by rookies and/or pay driver’s. That way the cars would be competative and it would give a chance for teams to test young driver’s and for them to get a taste for F1.

      The 3rd car could also be made avail for different sponsor’s (especially if its a pay-driver driving it). Therefore a Ferrari could be on track but could have other sponsor logo’s on it giving other companies who want to be in the sport a chance to be involved that can’t afford to run an entire team for a entire season. But then Ferrari would get the benefit of gaining all the extra data that from running the 3rd car as well as obviously having 3 of their cars on track.

  2. Godfather says:

    It is very difficult to understand the results of todays testing. Overall McLarens seems to be more reliable and stronger and probably leading at this point. Red Bull has problems but not sure how severe those are. It is very difficult to understand where Mercedes is. As for Ferrari, not sure even if they know where they are. Glad to see Force India doing well. The cars look fast and reliable. I was expecting more from Caterham but looks like they are going to be where they were last year. They haven’t made any good impressions. As for HRT, with no testing at all, I don’t think they are going to be within 107% in Australia.

    1. KRB says:

      Whitmarsh was saying that he thought the bigger teams each had 2-3 seconds in pocket. 3 seconds sounds like a lot, but who knows? I would still say RBR is the form team … the regs have not changed significantly enough for them to seriously miss a beat.

      Force India does look fast and good in corners.

      And agreed, HRT with no car at the first two tests is a bad joke.

      1. Optimaximal says:

        I’d say they *have* changed significantly enough to compromise RBR. They built the car around the EBD, whereas everyone else had to adapt it into their designs.

        For reference, Mclaren had to build a new car when the F-Duct was banned – RBR haven’t built a new car, but the key strength of it has been munted. It still seems remarkably well sorted, given the compromise made, but (as some have said) their key advantage has been reduced markedly.

        Of course, come Melbourne, everything could be turned on its head…

  3. Anand R says:

    Hey James,

    Being track-side, do you think it would be closer this year between RB-McLaren than last year?

    I have been reading elsewhere (BBC) that Mclaren’s approach with a lower chassis leaves them with limited to exploit on underbody down-force.

    Thanks,
    AR

    PS: I think I am one of the few readers west of the Atlantic, based on the timing of Users Comments (more European times, just a superficial observation!)

    1. James Allen says:

      I was only there one day (Weds) but yes I think it’s closer and I think McLaren have a strong development programme which will put them in with a chance

      1. Adam says:

        I concur on McLaren, rather than glory runs they seem to have been systematically mapping mechanical and aero changes to the car and what it does to the overall performance. Given the miles they seem to be well ahead in these stakes of knowing if you change these, this is the result. The big bonus for them is the reliability. Contrast to ferrari where they seems to be battling the car and have so many changes knowing which element is the root cause of the issues is very hard. They are in the midst of a massive puzzle to figure out what is going on.

        This year is likely a learning year for them. So the question is Red Bull vs McLaren and if they are close in Melbourne the McLaren development Juggernaut will likely win for them. If the gap is large they will catch up at the end of the season again! Mercedes seem to be working the hype pretty hard they have something special! It to is building on last year so maybe?????

      2. Charalampos says:

        But checking the long runs from redbull and maclaren Redbull looks quicker + they always hide more things – pace than other teams + their development program is not worse than anyones so how do you expect from what we see Maclaren to trouble them?

        One observation I had looking at Red Bull times of Mark Webber (day 3 barcelona test, did not check other days) was that they can extract more pace from the very first lap from the tyres and then they loose a few tenths. Not sure if it means anything, but this pattern was not there for any other team.

      3. @Charalampos

        “One observation I had looking at Red Bull times of Mark Webber (day 3 barcelona test, did not check other days) was that they can extract more pace from the very first lap from the tyres and then they loose a few tenths. Not sure if it means anything, but this pattern was not there for any other team.”

        If that’s the case it would suggest to me that they were pushing harder on the first laps than other teams.

      4. kardaans says:

        James, can it be that RedBull are sandbagging ?

      5. Glennb says:

        Nah…. Red Bull wouldn’t sandbag. I think its HRT who are sandbagging.

    2. Davexxx says:

      Just to let you know here’s someone else ‘west of the Atlantic’ (California Brit). But agreed there does seem a time lag. Often I’m invited to ‘Be the first to comment’ to a new article, then make a fool of myself when it’s finally accepted, 17th down the list, with my wording no longer tying up with the article!

      1. Anand R says:

        Lol, yes… Same here wrt time lag! Btw, I fear a Ferrari juggernaut from the second half if not the stay of the european season… Hope i am wrong!

        The final day of the final test will reveal a truer picture for melbourne.

      2. MISTER says:

        Once James writes an article, if you comment, your comment will not be shown right away.
        James or his fellow Mods will go through the comments every 2-3 hours or so and then update those who don’t break the House Rules.

        That’s how I think this works.

        Cheers!

      3. James Allen says:

        Bang on. Bear in mind we can get over 200 comments on a normal day. 500 + on a busy day

  4. Miz_F1 says:

    James, out of the top 3 teams ( Ferrari, RB, Mclaren) which team had the biggest drop off during the longer stints.

  5. Seán Craddock says:

    I saw some pictures of today’s testing on f1.com that really confuesed me, James maybe you could help me understand what tyres people were on.

    I saw two pictures of cars (Kobayashi and DiResta) on tyres which looked like wets, but they had what looked to me to be orange markings. I’ve looked up the colour codes and none are orange and the wets are blue.

    Also there was a picture of Rosberg with blue marked tyres, that should be wets according to the code, but which looked a lot like inters.

    Can anyone explain this? Were they wet/inters? And why if the weather was dry? And even more importantly, why did they seem to be marked incorrectly!?

    1. Paul says:

      The blue/orange marked tyres are just wets/inters from last year which teams use just for the installation laps so as not to put any unnecessary wear on the new testing tyres.

  6. CMR says:

    good four days of testing, it has been the most fun reading the hacks attempts to ‘number crunch’ who’s who in the pecking order!

    as always with F1 there’s more goings on behind the scenes than in front of them

    looking forward to the last test as this will show much more

  7. goferet says:

    Yeah, this is the kind of the all stakes games Daniel Craig was involved in Casino Royale i.e. Everybody playing their cards close to their chest.

    But something that I have found amusing is how positive and up beat almost all teams are especially the mid field runners, everybody believes this season is going to be their teams best only for hearts to get crashed come the first race —> Seen it all before.

    My prediction is Williams, Sauber, Force India, Torro Rosso and Mercedes will be the slowest mid field runners in that order.

    As for the big teams, I have to say, Red Bull have really been rattled by the Mclaren’s pace to the point they had to organize an extra day for testing, I recall seeing Red Bull mechanics doing all nighters in 2011 once they felt Mclaren had been too close for comfort during practice.

    Now Massa finally gives some encouraging words to the Tifosi with Ferrari having found a direction to develop the car & more importantly was able to do a race simulation for the first time without any issues but for all my worth, I can’t think of any team that went on to win any title after having had such a horrid time during winter testing.

    As for the Pirellis lasting longer, I guess another reason is they wanted to cut down on the number of pit stops teams make especially after Montezemolo complained there were too many after the Turkish Grand Prix.

    Good luck to Marussia & HRT, hopefully they can see the light at the end of the tunnel but surely teams like these deserve to get banned for their sole purpose is to make up the numbers while waiting for somebody to buy them out for how can you claim to be ready for Australia when you have hardly tested —> Crazy!

    And to make matters worse, these teams usually have hard headed drivers that never want to get out the way once the blue flags are shown —> Ridiculous.

    Anyway, Australia here we cooooooome, ready or not!

    P.s.

    Maybe Caterham shouldn’t have hurried to launch their car like the season was to begin the following week, maybe they wouldn’t have all these reliability problems right now.

    Just saying!

    1. Red Bull aren’t doing an extra day’s testing

    2. RodgerT says:

      Red Bull hasn’t added an extra day of testing.
      They are just shifting the days for the next test by one along with Ferrari.

    3. build says:

      G’day Mate,
      No all-nighters in 2011, they have a curfew.

      regards,

      1. Alex W says:

        no curfew on the janitors, who all happen to have Aerospace Doctorates….

      2. KRB says:

        … which they’re allowed to break, two times during the season (I believe it’s 2x).

      3. Which they were allowed to break 4 times per season.

    4. gondokmg says:

      I remember Mclaren did the same thing in 2009. They had been struggling in testing and as many fans did, I preferred to believe they were sandbagging rather than face the harsh reality. So when they announced a tweak to their test dates I felt vindicated. They had been hiding something, which they will finally test in private, I believed. We all know what happened thereafter.

      There may be a number of possible reasons why a team may decide to tweak their test programme, but in my limited experience, it is generally because they are struggling somewhat!

  8. Jorge says:

    Hi James, thanks for the insights about these tests. Once again as an avid fan, I put together with a friend of mine some consolidated times for the 4-day testing:

    http://f1commentary.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/summary-of-2012-pre-season-testing-at-catalunya-circuit-barcelona-spain/

    1. Søren Kühle says:

      An interesting assesment. It will be interesting to see how accurate it is come Melbourne. Do promise me to do one like it after the last pre-season test.

      1. Jorge says:

        I promised that I will share the final consolidated version. Thanks James for let me share my non-professional thoughts.

    2. peter says:

      Hi Jorge,
      I notice that you put buttons run on supersofts when all other sites put him on hard tyres, any reason

      1. Jorge says:

        Yes Peter, others have commented the same. I probably missed that one.

    3. Steve P says:

      Doesn’t look very scientific to me, what about fuel loads? Length of the stint?

      1. Jorge says:

        wow that will be too much data to crunch, I leave the professional analysis to James, he knows better. sorry.

    4. Martin says:

      Interesting but you missed out a 1.22.6 lap from Maldonado which was set on soft tyres, he then pitted put on super softs and set the 1.22.3 time

  9. Colin says:

    Hi James,
    I know these tests don’t show the true potential of the teams yet. But which teams do you see that are in good shape?

    1. James Allen says:

      Front runners: RBR, McLaren, Mercedes

      Midfield: Toro Rosso, Force India

      1. Ryan Eckford says:

        What about Ferrari?

      2. Kay says:

        Most probably Ferrari don’t even know themselves really, they are still gathering data and yet to do any performance-chasing runs.

      3. Tornillo Amarillo says:

        Ferrari, between Mercedes and Toro-Rosso.

  10. Hi James. Great reading as always. What is the current situation with Lotus? Any update on there dramas?

    1. Dan Orsino says:

      I’ve been scouring the sites for any word of Lotus, but there’s none. Everybody’s schtuum. …
      Last year the exhaust, this year the chassis. They really need to get a top engineer in at any price

  11. Sebee says:

    They are doing a really good job keeping us in suspence. The dream is alive for fans of most teams to at least have hope their team shows up on the podium.

    Gone I guess are the days when Schumi would be fastest at every test, every test day. If James does a contest to call the Australian podium, it won’t be easy and mostly down to luck.

    1. Tornillo Amarillo says:

      Melbourne podium:

      1st VETTEL
      2nd HAMILTON or BUTTON
      3rd BUTTON or ROSBERG

      1. Sebeee says:

        Ok, let’s place our “bets”

        1. Vettel, 2. Webber, 3.Schumi

        Yes, I’m betting stepless McLaren won’t podium.

      2. Simmo says:

        1. Vettel
        2. Hamilton
        3. Alonso

    1. Martin says:

      Thanks for that Calin.

      The Rosberg-Schumacher comparison looks to me like Michael had one stint more fuel in the car. His pace seems to be a stint behind. However, unless Michael was underfilled at the start, and then had a slight top up on lap 10 – heavy fuel wear being a problem for Merc last year – the times don’t make a lot of sense as a progression.

      Apart from the final stint Maldonaldo looked pretty handy. Tyres and KERS/DRS usage are two factors that could explain this as no one is saying Williams are right up there.

      Cheers,

      Martin

  12. John says:

    Good post James. It will be interesting to see how the next test pans out.

  13. zombie says:

    Really, why are HRT even bothering to be in F1 ? They are not serious, they’ve got no money and certainly no prospects. Minardi had a “never die” culture and spirit, HRT reeks of cheap marketing for some rich spaniards. We need teams like “super friends Super Aguri” who despite being small have that fighting spirit in them. Thats what fans want to see.

    1. anti.tifosi says:

      Yeah, spot on.. I’d welcome Super Aguri back with open arms.. And their name sounds much better than hormone replacement therapy.

    2. Tom in adelaide says:

      When you look at their budget it’s a pretty big achievement for them to be within 107% (usually). They add nothing to the grid, but you have to admire them just a bit.

  14. BBASP says:

    So we still don’t really know how things are going to shape up, other than the pecking order won’t be too different from the end of 2011. Did anyone work out what the deal is with the slot in the step on the nose of the Red Bull? And has there been any word as to where the air flows to through the hole in the nose of the Mercedes?

  15. Brisbane Bill says:

    James – it would appear that I am barred from commenting on this forum. Did I breach some rules? If so, I apologies profusely but would like to understand what I did that has resulted in me being struck off.

    1. olivier says:

      Same here … I had to change my email address to take part at the forum again.

    2. Davexxx says:

      I had the same problem last year. Even when trying another email address. (I wasn’t offensive).
      Glitch In The Matrix? OK this year though.

      1. Davexxx says:

        …I wonder if the (busy) Moderator accidentally hits the ‘Reject’ instead of ‘Accept’ button sometimes?! ;-)

      2. Brisbane Bill says:

        It can’t be that as my messages do not even make it to the “awaiting moderation” state. They simply do not post, yet I enter a different email address and it will post. Something screwy (or deliberate) going on with the filter being used.

      3. rgvkiwi says:

        Same with me. Today is the first time in 6+ months I have had a comment even reach the awaiting moderation stage. My old email and user name on pressing enter made the page go straight to the top of the article. I though I had been inexplicably banned as well..

  16. Chris_NZ says:

    James, sorry but a rather specific question. But you don’t happen to know roughly the differences for each compound of tyre per lap with these new Pirellis?

    1. build says:

      My guess was very roughly 7/10ths *except* the Soft-Medium.

    2. Keith says:

      James,
      With the new tyres not degrading as fast as last years, are we still going to see bits of them get lodged in the front wings, like what happen to Hamilton last year, and we saw Ferrari spraying something on their front wings in the last couple of races, to prevent marbles from sticking to them, or blocking any adjustment made to the wings during a race.

  17. Andrew Kirk says:

    James I am at a loss to understand how a team like HRT can be allowed to carry on in the sport? After 3 seasons they are still failing to get the basics done such as build and test a new car before the start of the season. How can they serious expect to race with other teams by doing this year in year out?

    1. RodgerT says:

      Think of how useless Spyker was a few years ago. Then think of how well Force India is doing now.

      Going the other way. Williams were the team to beat 20 years ago. Now look at the state they’re in both interms of performance, and financial stability.

      The only constant in the world is change.

      1. Phil C says:

        You can’t really compare HRT to Spyker. The latter were born by taking over an already well established team in Jordan (or Midland), with a team of engineers and staff who knew what they were doing.

        HRT have had to start from scratch, but rather than keep hiring a German firm to run the team, which may have given them a chance to make testing, they’ve decided to up sticks ans establish themselves away from the F1 industry in Spain.

        Virgin / Marussia and Caterham have managed to launch new cars and get to at least one if not all the tests this season, and they all started from scratch – so why not HRT? Why are they insisting on doing things their way, when it could cause them even more trouble?

        The only reason they finished above Virgin for two years running is because of a lucky result. They finished one place higher in one race. And lets not forget Glock was on for 11th in Korea 2010 until he was punted off by a Torro Rosso…

        Teams should be present at at least one pre season test, to allow for a proper shakedown of the car to ensure it is safe to run. If they are not, they should be excluded.

  18. Matt Clayton says:

    HI James, thanks for the comprehensive articles of the past 4 days.
    It has been great to see how many replies to direct questions you have responed to. Keep up the great work, your an asset to the F1 community.

  19. Paul Jarman says:

    Should a car really be allowed to shake down at the first race of the year? Personally, I really think it dangerous.

    1. It presumably won’t make the 107% rule, as per last year. Friday practice and Saturday quali will be used as a late chance test session.

    2. DB says:

      I believe the 107% rule is there for this reason.

  20. Grayzee (Australia) says:

    Excellent analysis, once again, Mr Allen.
    I would also like to thank you for your efforts in replying to so many of our questions.

  21. Paul says:

    Do Marussia and HRT get an extra day at the next test much like Mercedes have and Lotus will?

    1. Doubt they can afford it

  22. t3x says:

    So i guess Ferrari won’t be ready for the first race… some heads are going to roll if that’s the case.

    1. Dan Orsino says:

      designers? engineer? team principals? drivers?

      1. Andy says:

        I think the whole lot, you just get the feeling that a lot of people are expecting a lot more from them that they are giving right now. It turns out that Alonso is not the bringer of hope that Ferrari had hoped. (one man does not make a team)

    2. SteveH says:

      Not ready for the first race???? Of course they will be ready for the first race; maybe just not as quick as they would like to be.

  23. Dook says:

    What is it with HRT and their continuous struggle to get a car ready each year? Once was heroic, now it seems like folly.

  24. Rodrigo Lamas says:

    James, what kind of topspeeds we are having for each team?

    1. James Allen says:

      Mercedes 320.5
      Toro Rosso 319.5
      Caterham 318.5
      Force India 317.5
      Sauber 315.8
      McLaren 314.9
      Ferrari 311.2
      Williams 311.2
      Red Bull 310.3

      1. KRB says:

        But that could be with wing open or closed, no? Seems like a continuation of last year, when Mercedes and Toro Rosso always topped the speed trap charts, with Red Bull always near the bottom, with their higher drag.

      2. Chris_NZ says:

        Thats an interesting statistic.
        I wonder what DRS set up Red Bull will be favouring, whether they run a set up for qualifying or the race.

      3. That is VERY interesting reading. There’s no way I believe that the Caterham will be faster in a straight line than everybody bar Mercedes.

        I think this goes to show how much more potential Red Bull, McLaren & Ferrari in particular have left to show. Not looking quite so positive for Mercedes, then.

      4. Bakdraft says:

        Hmm that totall tells a picture… its clear how the main teams are hanging back in their performance in this game of chess…

      5. Chris G says:

        Hmmm was hoping for good things from Caterham this year, but 3rd best in a straight line and worst on a lap time, no mater how you play with fuel loads, not looking to good

  25. Shane Govern says:

    James

    One of the responses posted earlier showed a link of an analysis of lap times over the week and it painted a picture that the current pecking order is RBR, Ferrari and then the rest. It also painted a picture that on similar tires the difference between Vettel / Alonson was less then 3 tenths. How accurate is this in your opinion?

    Also i read another article where a reporter said he witnessed ferrari fitting a nose to their car and it took 4 engineers to lift it and fit in in place. Is this normal or is it a possible sign that Ferrari are sandbagging?

    Thanks

    Shane

    1. James Allen says:

      The second point is almost certainly nonsense.

      The first one, its hard to be that precise because of fuel loads (unknown) and DRS use.

  26. Nick says:

    Hi James

    I’ve been reading the many comments about the new Ferrari (and apologise of you’ve answered this already), but was wondering if you have any insight into their chang of philosophy on the new car? To a fan looking from the outside in, the Ferrari of the past two years has seemed a good car. And after the performance at Silverstone last year seemed like the ban on the blown exhaust would favour them and their car. So why the massive change? Seems a bit overkill.

    1. James Allen says:

      It wasn’t a bad car, but it wasn’t fast enough. So it didn’t win.

      They felt they needed to take some risks with the design to get ahead of Red Bull. It hasn’t happened straight away, but the car clearly has potential

      1. Bayan says:

        Hi James, when you say clearly has potential, what are you looking at or how do people come to that assesesment? I remember at one point last year the same was said of the 150th Italia (don’t remember when exactly) but it turned out not to be fast enough.

  27. RickeeBoy says:

    James,

    As Jenson and Lewis has been running the Jessica Nose – Has Seb been running the Witchipoo Nose ?

    Any names for Seb’s new car yet.

    Congratulations to Merc getting on the pace so quickly with long runs – Shows the big team ethics coming through.

  28. Russell says:

    A question from the ill informed to all of you.

    Is this how it stacks up for the motors being used by the respective teams?
    Are all Renaults/Ferraris/Mercedes the same as other motors of the same brand, i.e. is a Ferrari Ferrrari motor the same as a Torro Rosso Ferrari motor?
    Will Cosworth stay on?

    And Anand, I too am on the western edge of the pond.

    Ferrari Ferrari
    McLaren Mercedes
    Mercedes Mercedes
    Toro Rosso Ferrari
    Red Bull Renault
    Lotus Renault
    Caterham Renault
    Force India Mercedes
    Williams Renault
    Marussia Cosworth
    Sauber Ferrari

    1. double eyepatch says:

      From an operations point of view it makes sense that the engine specs and build would be the same between the works and customer engines. It wouldn’t make sense to change the factory tools just to elaboratly give someone else a disadvantage. Mclaren dont seem to suffer any against the Merc GP team
      I suspect though that the works teams have better maintainence and wear monitoring staffed in their garages throughout the race weekends. Also if there happens to be one of those ‘reliabilty’ upgrades, then the works team would get the first taste of the new engines.

      1. Russell says:

        Thanks Double Eyepatch.

  29. Kay says:

    “The Pirelli tyres are clearly lasting longer than the 2011 models, although they still degrade, so there’s no return to Bridgestone type performance. ”

    This shows what I said previously about Pirelli being incompetent in making a strong, durable tyre rather than trying to make ‘racing exciting’ is correct. They are just plain incompetent, not as they claim trying to improve the spectacle. I’d appreciate it better if they just admit to it rather than just tell lies to cover up and get teams on their side to agree to this false claim.

    1. audifan says:

      pirelli were asked NOT to just make a strong , durable tyre a la bridgestone , and , thank heavens , they haven’t ; personally I think they did an amazing job for their first season

      on the subject of tyres , it seems to me to be likely that the top teams have been saving a lot of their limited allocation for the final barca tests….they all plan to have major upgrades then so will need all the tyres they can get !

      1. Kay says:

        Yer, that’s how it was if you believe in their PR and press releases.

        It was Pirelli who said it was the teams who asked them, the teams said nothing of this to the public prior to Pirelli released this. From their degradation and other issues over 2011, it’s more likely that they were just incompetent rather than unwilling to make a durable tyre comparable to the Bridgestones.

        And IF the tyres were intentionally made to last for 10 laps at most, racing is even more artificial than what everyone already complains about with that cliff-hanging tyre idea behind the concept of ‘racing’, as mentioned in my comments from JA’s previous articles. You seen how racing was many years ago? Some one here posted a video not so long ago. Tyres should last all the way so drivers don’t need to nurse them to make racing flat-out fighting, rather than “ohhh it’s falling off i can’t push”. That’s almost like making the driver to drive with one hand tied without the ability to push as much as he wants.

      2. Andrew Carter says:

        You are aware arent you that the Pirelli test tyres used in 2010 where every bit as durable as the Bridgestones being raced that year? Or that they deliberatly went conservative with side wall construction last year as they dont have any information to fall back on about tyre loudings?

      3. Kay says:

        No I really do not recall they were ‘every bit as durable as the Bridgestones’. The ‘delibrately’ went conservation as I said is what they made people like YOU believe.

  30. Zing Zang says:

    Force India is third fastest form my observations. Then ferrari and merc.

    1. When you make claims like that you should really, really try and back it up with some data/stats/propaganda.

      I would happily place quite a large sum of money on FI *not* being the third fastest car!

  31. Methusalem says:

    I think one of the Big-Four is hiding something big. Is it Ferrari? McLaren? Red Bull? or Mercedes? We won’t be finding out until the 17th of March — when the Polesetter will then reveal it all.

  32. Daniel says:

    James,

    What do you think about some rumours that Mercedes hiding something “like double diffuser”? Is it true that mechanics were ereceting huge screens in front of the pits between test runs in Barcelona?

    1. James Allen says:

      All teams hide behind big screens in testing.

      I’m told that the diffuser is very interesting on the Merc. I posted that on Wednesday

  33. Richard says:

    While it’s interesting to speculate we really can’t read anything into the times without understanding the programme each team is on with respect to fuel load and tyres. Testing is notoriously misleading a good example being Ferrari last year looking strong in test, but lacking pace on the race track. The final Barcelona test will be interesting to see if anything is fundamentally different as they edge closer to Melbourne race trim. McLaren must be in a better position than last year having completed some meaningful test programmes. Everyone thinks Red Bull are very strong and it is a good bet, but I’d say let’s not pre-judge. Ferrari are an unknown quantity as are Mercedes, but I suspect the slower of the two may have their hands full battling with Lotus come race day.

  34. Chris L says:

    HRT are all passed test now and will be there for 2 of the 4 test days next week according to Autosport?

  35. elie says:

    I cant believe how silly some people here can be.Looking for meaning in speed traps. RBR, Mclaren were not the fastest in straight line in 2011, & yes Teams like Torro Rosso were. Even if they were all flat out in testing (laughs) what does it mean- nothing!

    Of the new cars that Mercedes is a stunning package- very compact!. I definitely think it will be on the podium often in 2012.I notice some pics show the Merc & (to a lesser extent) -Ferrari have a shorter wheelbase. James can you notice this in the pit lane ?

    Does anyone remember last year.Mclaren were seconds off the pace & what happened first race!. Its just waste of time trying to work out. I reckon for sure Mclaren RBR, Ferrari, and even Mercedes wont show full pace till Melb.

    As for HRT, fair go people- does anyone think the team like spending Xmillions of dollars & coming last.Besides they have new management so its a new challenge again. I m sure if they dont make progress they will pull the plug themselves. !

    As far as V8 supercars go..HRT is rubbish also- go ford ! & for the “Red neck” westies reading here- You were smashed by Nissan and I pray you get smashed again when they race under local formula this time round.!

    Bring on the next test & news of Lotus chasis issue?.. Call me sceptical but I think Lotus are changing a “design feature” on that E20. Again this package along with the Maclaren& Merc “looks” great!

    1. Mocho_Pikuain says:

      Ferrari’s wheelbase is larger than last year.

      1. elie says:

        Oh ok..the pics on other sites show it smaller than the other 2012 cars.

  36. Sammy says:

    I was at the circuit – I can tell you that all laptimes from Rosberg on day 4 are in-accurate as he was holding his foot from the throttle every lap in turn 3. As for Ferrari, I spoke with some mechanics (same hotel) and they seemed to be very confident in this years car. Next week they will do some runs with low fuel and super softs just to see where they are and to give the Italian press something to write about.

    I think the top teams are just sandbagging, none of them actually know where they are at the moment – compared to each other.

    1. Russell says:

      Hi Sammy. What evidence makes you say Rosberg was holding back on turn three? Just curious.

      1. Sammy says:

        We were standing in turn 3 during the whole day and you could clearly hear he was lifting a lot when he was in the middle of the corner. The other cars where almost flat, building up speed so they could shift from 4 to 5…
        Keke Rosberg was standing next to us for about half an hour and when I asked him why his son was lifting, he was just smiling…

      2. hape says:

        Uhh maybe they were testing some kind of exhaust blowing when off throttle ??

      3. Sammy says:

        Possibly, yes.
        I remember he has done a race simulation on that day, so his times were irrelevant.

  37. Sammy says:

    To see my pics from all 4 testing days, follow link below:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/76209009@N03/

    1. MISTER says:

      very nice pictures Sammy. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  38. Richard says:

    I’m not sure if any team actually goes in for sandbagging as such, or put another way deliberately go slower by virtue of the throttle to hide pace. They would simply put more fuel in if they wanted to hide pace as they can extrapolate the corresponding more lightly loaded pace as they know what each kilo of fuel equates to. That said heavier cars do handle differently, but again they would be able to factor that out to understand where they are. What it really means is that for us it is one big guessing game until we reach the first qualifying session. – I can’t wait, but if Red Bull end up on pole by some margin there will be one almighty groan from this household.

  39. George says:

    James, first of all, as this is my first post here – great site! You truly understand Formula One.

    Now for my question

    How much of a role does the set-up for a weekend play, compared to the raw pace of the car?

    Would you say, a car which is ultimately a second off the pace can gain this time, solely by getting their setup spot on? (theoretically using 2 identical driver skill levels and track conditions)

    1. James Allen says:

      Quite a bit. YOu need to get everything right over a weekend to do well. THe margins are very tight. It also has a lot to do with driver confidence. Set up can make the driver feel more like hanging it all out, if he feels confident. Only the really special guys can push that hard in a car they don’t trust

  40. Tim says:

    Its all smoke and mirrors at this stage. Its rare that something like 2009 happens, when Brawn pitched up with a huge leap forward. But for what its worth, my humble opinion of where the teams are at is this:

    Red Bull – still the ones to beat, Vettel almost untouchable, 3rd straight title, Webber’s final year, maybe a Ferrari swansong in 2013/14?
    McLaren – much closer than this time last year, nothing to separate JB and Lewis – will they take points off each other?
    Mercedes – new car seems good from the box, definite podiums, would love to see both drives grab a win
    Ferrari – a lot of work to do, intense pressure to perform, Massa’s final season
    Force India – good car, great driver line-up
    Toro Rosso – another good car, intriguing driver line-up, massive battle with FI
    Sauber – yet another decent midfield Sauber, Perez to Ferrari in 2013 if Webber doesn’t go there
    Williams – massive mountain to climb, huge pressure, but they won’t win the midfield battle
    Caterham – best of the “new” teams, close to midfield, should get some points especially Heikki
    Marussia – must start moving forward, failed to deliver on the presentational promise
    HRT – hanging on by their fingernails, but they managed to not be disgraced on race pace in 2011

    The final test might start to show some clarity, but roll on Q1 Melbourne!

  41. Bert says:

    Vote on this poll for the car that has most impressed you in the testing period so far. Right now Mclaren are marginally favoured over red bull !

    http://f1predictions.net/polls/results/index.php?pollnum=16

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