This has been a great week for F1 with a real buzz starting to build around the start of the new season. As predicted it has also given us a much better idea of where the teams are relative to each other in performance, with a few surprises, like McLaren and Brawn.
The key question is, who’s the pace setter? Well from what I’ve seen so far this week -and the picture has been clearing as the week’s gone on – there is nothing to choose between Ferrari and BMW, with Toyota and Brawn right there too. The one thing we have not seen is the outright pace of the Ferrari and BMW cars, ie low fuel flat out.
Of those teams only Brawn has more testing days, next week in Jerez. The others have finished.
When they do longer runs, the pace in similar. On Wednesday Felipe Massa did a 20 lap run with laps in the mid to low 1min 21s. His fastest time came on the fourth lap of a six lap run and he did a 1m20.168. Interestingly his two previous laps were 1min 20.4s.
Around the same time, Robert Kubica in the BMW was on a similar programme, setting a best time of 1min 20.217 on the third lap of a four lap run, so he was 0.05s slower than Massa, albeit his run was a couple of laps shorter. It shows that they are very close to each other on performance. There will be some places where the Ferrari has the edge and others where BMW has it. And we have yet to see which of the two is the better qualifying car, but it does seem as though the Ferrari still has the tendancy to have more difficulty getting heat into the tyres on cold days. We will see.
Meanwhile Toyota’s Timo Glock also set his time on the fourth lap of a five lap run on Wednesday and he was 0.25s slower than the Ferrari, so very close indeed, even allowing for the fact that they may have had slightly different fuel loads. As Jarno Trulli said on Monday night, Toyota is there or thereabouts.
Apparently technicians who have overlaid every lap by every car say that it puts Toyota and Brawn on Ferrari’s pace with BMW a shade behind. McLaren are some way behind.
Rubens Barrichello stunned everyone by dipping under 1 min 19secs today. Massa told reporters that his Ferrari would not have been able to do that lap time. The car is very sound aerodynamically and voices around the team are saying that the Mercedes engine is as much as 70bhp up on last year’s Honda.
It is shaping up to be one of the most eagerly anticipated starts to an F1 season in years.