Today we had all but one of the current F1 teams in action on the race track and over the next few days the mists will start to clear and we will start to see who’s quick and also how much slower the 2009 cars are compared with last year’s cars.
Renault, Williams, McLaren, Toro Rosso and Red Bull were in action at Jerez in Spain, while Toyota, Ferrari and BMW were in Bahrain.
I’ve not seen the full set of timings for the test, only the headline laptimes and you have to be very careful reading too much into those. However if you look at the times from Bahrain and compare them to last year’s February test, you see that the lap times are about 1.6 seconds slower. Ferrari did a 1m 33.6 today on the first day of running, last year on day one of the test they did a 1m 32.0. The next day on low fuel Raikkonen did a 1m30. When the cars came to Bahrain for the Grand Prix in April, when it was hotter, they were lapping in 1m32.2 on the first day of practice and a quick low fuel lap was again 1m30.
So they do not appear to be that much slower than the 2008 models at the moment, despite the cut in aerodynamics.
One of the key areas for competition this year is going to be getting the tyres to perform. I’ve heard a fair bit of moaning about the new slicks, that they are very hard and that the performance drops off very quickly. Keeping them working, not taking too much out of them in the race is going to be critical to success and in the last two seasons that is something Ferrari has done better than McLaren.
However the flip side of that is that the McLaren got better performance out of the tyre in qualifying. It’ll be interesting to see whether that pattern emerges again this season.