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JA at Barcelona test – Day 2
JA at Barcelona test – Day 2
Posted By:   |  10 Mar 2009   |  8:19 pm GMT  |  37 comments

I come away from the Barcelona test feeling that this is going to be a great season of racing, but in a very different way from the McLaren vs Ferrari battles of the last two years.

The testing performances we have seen so far suggest that McLaren has, if not a mountain, then certainly a big hill to climb, while Ferrari, BMW and Toyota look very strong, one might almost say equally strong.

If the performance we’ve seen here is carried over to the early part of the season, as it has been in recent years, then you could see Kubica, Heidfeld, Raikkonen, Massa, Trulli and Glock fighting for wins and podiums early on. I don’t think it will be too long before Alonso joins in either, as the Renault team made a big step forward this week thanks to a new front wing and underfloor parts. They started behind and are still a bit behind, but closing in fast.

Kimi Raikkonen said that the Ferrari team has not yet pushed for the ultimate lap times, implying that there is more to come, but from what I saw in Barcelona there is little to choose between the top three teams on pace. Certainly when the BMW does similar runs to the Ferrari, it sets similar lap times. When it comes to racing, Toyota may have a slight disadvantage from not running KERS at some tracks early on, but they are adamant that the decision, taken early, not to start the season with KERS was the right one. Their car is very driveable, predicatable and consistent. Jarno Trulli thinks he can do great work with it. The car is still not as comfortable as some of its rivals over the kerbs, but it’s a vast improvement on last year’s model.

The new rules have cut the maximum downforce level available on the cars to below the level they used to have on low downforce tracks. This has meant many things, but one of them is that braking stability is now harder to find, as downforce is an important part of getting the car slowed down. I stood at the heavy braking zone at Turn 10 for a few hours this morning and studied this closely. Everyone is more jittery than they were there last year, but if I had to pick a winner under braking I would say that it’s the Ferrari. The Brawn car is giving a little bit away there compared to the Toyotas and BMWs, and so is the Renault.

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BostonF1, it happened to Ferrari after 2004… However, wonderful post by Mr. Allen! I am happy that I discovered this site!


– It’s hard to believe that after such a competitive car last season Mclaren is having issues putting one together this year. I know they were developing all the way to the end of the season but Ferrari were doing the same and they’re setting the pace now. So much for that facility in Woking.


after reading the latest time sheets (from the last testing days) i’d say that McLaren are not sandbagging. they really seem to have huge problems.

All i want to ask is can the designers provide them with an accepted/good solution within the next week(s)?

IMHO they do not have ample time to do so..


I agree … great coverage James! MUCH more useful than anything on the news sites with quotes from the teams and their mandatory spin, or speculation and rumor starting by journalists with nothing else to print. Fascinating is right.

I personally would enjoy seeing McLaren struggle and as someone said … seeing how Lewis handles not having an ideal car. THEN we’ll see what he’s really made of.


James. Will we see you in commentary box this year, i am not going to watch F1 if you are not there … [ There may be tears in the Javed household, I fear — Moderator ]


I cannot believe that McLaren have a real problem with the rear wing, it’s such a fundamental and major part of the package and everyone else has shown that there is no real issue. I rather think that they are simply trying to increase the down-force in order to get LH’s tyres to last more than a few laps. They certainly have enough experience and computing power. OF course Lewis’s driving style will not help since he will probably be hanging the back out and sliding it about all over the place, nervous because he now knows the queen will be watching. 🙂

BTW in order to gain a couple of feet advantage in the event of a visual dead heat, the transponder needs to be in position “C”. between the front wheels rather than A or B beside the cockpit opening.


Fascinating stuff. The information you have given from the test is a million times more useful than anything I have read anywhere else.

I do hope it stays as close as this right until Melbourne. Although I tend to think that Ferrari will be able to pull away by a few tenths by then. We will soon find out.

One thing I have noticed in the last couple of days is the “shark fin” seems to be popping up again. Renault launched their car with a shark fin but now I have seen it on the Red Bull and the BMW.

Is the shark fin actually allowed under these new regulations? And won’t a shark fin just make overtaking harder which goes against the intention of these new rules?


I tend to agree with @IM. Using the 08 rear wing & aero paint suggests the wind tunnels and computer models have thrown up some miscalculations. And then you have to wonder what else is wrong. JA’s observations would seem to confirm this.


Thinking about all the Mclaren back-end problems surely this is a result of the design borne out of Hamilton’s desire to throw the back of the car into the corner and sort it out as he’s exiting – something which befuddled all his competitors in the previous years, how he could carry so much speed through a corner.

So maybe Kovalainen is just wrestling with a car designed for Lewis…?

As for the viz-paint, well we do know how Mclaren like to have an interesting paint job to highlight their car on the TV for the sponsors, maybe they’re “pushing the envelope” with some “Green Sky thinking”


What is your opinion on the Ferrari team? More, precisely, does Kimi look like “he’s back to his natural driving style”? They had last year some problems heating the tyres (especially Kimi). Does the car struggle on the first laps of the stints or does it seem to be able to heat the tyres quickly enough?


Your comments on the McLaren having to wait to get on the power are very interesting. Most discussions have focused on the McLaren having aero problems at top speed on the straights with a ‘stalling’ rear wing. In your opinion is the grip problem the main issue facing McLaren or is it the aero at high speed?


Think Glock is more likely to give Toyota a result …. Jarno has rarely sustained his quali performance over a race distance.

lower-case david

who knows … f1 nowadays, more than ever, it’s a tough racket and it wouldn’t take very much of an error to see a championship team get spat out the back, but those sort of mclaren laptime gaps, slower than a Force India and a Brawn that both only recently finished drilling different mount-holes for their Merc engines? really?

i don’t get the feeling its old-fashioned sand-bagging either … we could be looking at something brand new here. a methodical program to carefully connect the 09 car on the track back to the computer predictions, and ensure precise correlation. if so, then it’s not really about doing fast lap times, it’s about doing the same laptime that the computers said that you would.

there is no in-season testing this year, no 100% wind tunnel work, engines have to last even more weekends, after setup-work, spare practice mileage for testing, using unrubbered Friday tracks, will be tight … that’s game-changing stuff. the old methods no longer work. how do you make sure that you are in a proper position to aggressively and reliably develop the car all year long.

mclaren want their engineers, designers and drivers to be able to heavily lean-on software and simulations, much more than anyone has ever seen before (ron’s nirvana surely? all the engineering, none of the mess) … i think perhaps what we’ve seen from mclaren so far this winter is the long-game, it isn’t about melbourne, it’s about being ready for the nurburgring and for fuji. to confidently bolt on new “untested” parts and knock two tenths off when you need it.

if this is what they are trying, how successful have they been, we punters won’t know till mid-season, but i can’t help feel that getting distracted by the stopwatch might mean missing out on a much more interesting bigger picture.
here comes pedro, the SMS text-pest, what’s he got to say, “We are doing a lot of comparative work with different configurations. What has surprised us is that other teams are not doing the same”.

either way, that new floor was clearly designed months ago, it represents a very clear and distinct aero design philosophy. all the flick-ups, fences and steps, it’s not a hacksaw-job and it represents decisions taken way before any “winter testing crisis”.

haug was quoted a month or two ago talking off “a completely new interaction between floor and rear-wing”. i think we saw the first part of that new interaction yesterday.

today, mclaren bolted on some small sidepod winglets, important but not critical aero elements, and again, after a few laps, splattered them with flow-viz paint. more checking, more validation and more real-world feedback for the computer models.

sure, it is absolutely possible that they have produced a broken hopeless car that will on these times struggle to get out of Q1, or instead they could have shown us how all F1 cars will be tested in the future. that’s pretty much your two choices, place your bets.


Kimi is looking ominous. He seems to perform on a bi-annual basis. He seems to be very quiet but very fast again.


JA writes: Not particularly. They’ve been running heavy fuel last two days, took some out to set the time today obviously. Looking at long run times on the fuel they were running, they are in the mix but need to see what Rosberg does later this week. It’s still a moving target.


Any comments on Williams, James? Nakajima’s time was set on low fuel (for Williams) and AMuS quotes Patrick Head as saying that changes to the car’s sidepods and diffuser haven’t had the desired effect.

I’d love to see Hamilton in a non-front running car, just to see what he can do. His class is obvious when he has a car capable of running at the front – can he be just as impressive when it’s not so fast?


It’s so great to have a succinct daily wrap-up from the tests. Glad you’re there and blogging. No other form of motorsport starts the intrigue so early and keeps it coming all season long. I hope the rule makers don’t make any more moves to level the field…this is fascinating.


It sounds less and less likely that Mclaren are sandbagging, but could someone explain to me how Mclaren (or any other F1 team) would benefit from making themselves look slower than they actually are in testing anyway?

But even if Mclaren are struggling, don’t panic (or celebrate if you’re a Lewis- hater) just yet. Don’t forget that BMW, Ferrari and Toyota have all had a few days more testing than the others and Mclaren, Renault, Williams and Brawn will presumably have closed the gap a bit after the Jerez test next week.


I was wondering if you had any further opinions on the Williams. Apparently PH is not too happy about some of the updates and the team has gone slightly backwards. Any info?


Fascinating stuff. Either McLaren are pulling the biggest cloak-and-dagger trick ever, or they’re going to be to this year what Toyota has been to every other year.

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