Felipe Massa is set to test a 2008 Ferrari at Barcelona on Friday. He will take the car over from Valentino Rossi, who has been enjoying another taste of F1 power this week.
Ferrari are able to do this because the car is now two years old, which is the embargo set by the testing committee to protect against new technology. The car is now part of the stable of cars managed by Ferrari’s F1 Clienti department, which looks after old F1 cars for its wealthy customers. No other team does this and it’s quite an undertaking to maintain all the different engines and hydraulic systems and so on.
The F2008 car has more or less the same engine as this years 2010 car, due to the engine freeze in F1. The question many people will be asking is whether they are able to get any technical benefit from running this test, for example to test something out in the engine.
The answer I’ve gleaned from talking to F1 engineers from other teams is that there is little benefit that can be derived from this test which they could not derive from testing on the dyno in the factory.
Ferrari’s big issue this season is fuel consumption, with suggestions that at 2009 rates of fuel use, they may have to carry as much as 10 kilos of fuel more at the start of the race than cars powered by Renault or Mercedes. On average this will mean a deficit of 3/10ths of a second per lap to their rivals and more on some tracks. I think it that the actual figure is likely to be less than this, because it is something that they have been working hard on this winter.
With the first track test of the new Ferrari due in ten days time, there is little they would learn on this from Barcelona in a car with a different weight, different front tyres and configuration.
As far as Massa is concerned, it makes sense for him to get some extra mileage in to refamiliarise himself with an F1 car, particularly as he will have very limited time in the three pre season tests, in which he will have to share the car with his new team mate Fernando Alonso. I spoke with Massa’s manager Nicolas Todt this morning as he and Felipe were arriving in Barcelona and he said that the test will help with his confidence and give him some valuable extra time in the car, which is such a precious commodity in F1 these days.
Weather permitting, he should be able to do around 80 to 100 laps on Friday which will give him a good understanding of how his body reacts to being in a car over a long distance again, much as Michael Schumacher did last summer and again with the recent GP2 test.