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Barcelona day 4 – End of testing shows how close it is
Barcelona day 4 – End of testing shows how close it is
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Feb 2010   |  10:00 pm GMT  |  157 comments

The official pre -season testing ended with a frantic day at Barcelona as the 11 F1 teams who have a working car got their final runs in before the freight gets sent of to Bahrain and a new season of F1 begins. Whether they will be joined there by Campos, USF1 and/or Stefan GP we will probably learn in the next week.

Picture 20
As expected it looks like the closest season for many years with four teams fighting for the overall victory and several others only a few tenths of a second behind. The rule changes outlawing refuelling seem to have brought the field closer together, if anything, and McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes can all expect to fight for victory in the early part of the season. With those four teams stuffed with superstar drivers with a point to prove, including four world champions it should be a vintage season of F1.

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the test today, with a 1m 20.472 in the McLaren, which seems to be very strong on the single qualifying lap. Hamilton set the time on new soft tyres in a qualifying simulation. He was just 2/100ths faster than the Red Bull of Mark Webber and 6/100ths faster than the Ferrari of Felipe Massa. Adrian Sutil showed that Force India have good pace with a time just 13/100ths off Hamilton and Michael Schumacher was 3/10ths off the McLaren time. The track conditions were different from yesterday with a gusty wind troubling the teams in the morning.

Barrichello was only a tenth behind Schumacher with Kobahashi hard on his heels for Sauber, which makes it seven teams within four tenths of each other. The Toro Rosso was just behind, but you have to bear in mind that this is the first car the team has designed and built itself, having been a customer of Red Bull Technologies these past few years, so to be doing this well this soon is very impressive. The Renault confirmed predictions from last week that it is around 7/10ths off the pace, despite running a new front wing today.

The Lotus, with Hamilton’s former McLaren team mate Heikki Kovalainen at the wheel, ended up 4.8 secs off the pace after it’s second test session, almost a second clear of the Virgin, which was again hampered by hydraulic problems.

There was some theatre during the day, with Hamilton and Schumacher running close to each other during their race simulations, taking a good look at each other ahead of their first encounter in Grand Prix racing.

It’s a very different feeling for McLaren from 12 months ago when they left Barcelona test with long faces and a 2.5 second deficit to the Brawn car, despite using the same engine. McLaren had a significant update this week with new floor, engine cover, top body and after Jenson Button found a direction with it yesterday, Hamilton and his engineers dialled the car in today. There have been some mixed messages around about McLaren in recent weeks, but they are clearly as fast as anything else out there and this will mean that qualifying, tyre choice and race strategy will be crucial deciders in the early races.

After a strange 2009 season when neither of the traditional front runners was able to fight for the title, both McLaren and Ferrari are clearly back in business. Ferrari have been strong and reliable all through these tests and were the pace setters going into this final week. Things can still change, Mercedes are a tenth or two behind but have a significant upgrade coming for Bahrain and it will change from circuit to circuit depending on handling characteristics and upgrades. It looks like teams will bring upgrades in large steps, rather than chip away at it with something at every race.

Felipe Massa, who is also fully back in business, signed off the testing with a positive message, “We wanted a competitive car and I think we’ve achieved our goal. It’s difficult to say who worked best. Today the time sheet says Hamilton, but we’re all very close together, it’s just tenths of a second. I think that we’re part of the group. I don’t agree at all with those who say we’re the strongest: I think we’re there, together with some other teams. I can’t say that we’re going to Bahrain to win, but I know that we’ll fight for it.”

Headline Lap Times – Barcelona Day 4
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes 1:20.472 134
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:20.496 61
3. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:20.539 114
4. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:20.611 100
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:20.667 76
6. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:20.745 123
7. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:20.870 84
8. Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber 1:20.911 67
9. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:22.135 88
10. Robert Kubica Renault 1:23.175 107
11. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:25.251 65
12. Lucas Di Grassi Virgin Racing 1:26.160 49

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

I think alonso could have been in the high 19’s if he had supersoft tyres on friday


A bit out of topic james, but how long is nico rosbergs contract at mercedes??


James, sorry to go off topic somewhat but…

What do the rules allow the FIA to do in terms of preventing teams running that are deemed to be, for example, too slow or too unreliable and causing too many red flags?


Hi James, Any top speed data? Thanks.


Yes. Hamilton fastest through the speed trap at 313km/h. Massa 308km/h, Barrichello 308, Schumacher, Kubica, Sutil 307, Buemi 305, Di Grassi 302, Vettel 301, Kobayashi 300, Kovalainen 298


James any fastest Sector times. Great blog, keep it up.


Hamilton S1 22.356; S2 30.305; S3 27.645


No one has commented on the possibility of DNF’s playing a large role in the championship outcome.

Schui has always gained the upper hand by intimidating other drivers. The newer young guys like Vettel and Hamilton will need to resist this intimidation. Could all end up in tears on occasions. Villeneuve and Hakkinen weren’t intimidated by Schui. I think Schui had Damon Hill psyched out for a few seasons.

Cheap points will be available toward the end of races when there will be a long line of drivers on shot tyres.


Fantastic reports all the way since Cheste in Valencia to Montmeló in Barcelona. I’ve really enjoyed the thorough analisis and enthusiasm that you’ve showed from the star James. You’re journalism shows that you really love this sport, not that it was ever in question hahaha…

As you’ve stated in today’s final report. On today’s testin. We’re really gonna be in for a great start to the season with the top teams all so close and all with fantastic drivers.

I just heard on the Spanish radio ‘Cadena SER’ that Campos Meta is now going to be called Hispania or something like that. Unbelievable this merrygoround with chops ans chnges all over the place. I only hope we get some sort of stability at the rear end of the field because it could make the whole thing a shambles and in my opinion the FIA are the ones to blame because they’re the ones responsible for the decision making.

What do you think about those changes James?

Anyway… Thanks for everything uptill now James and I for one can’t wait to keep upto date with your F1 diaries!



It’s a shame, but not altogether unpredictable.


Hi James

Any “insider” info on Mercedes upgades for Bahrain?


Did anyone report the excitement in the circuit when Alonso passed Hamilton during the test on Friday?

It seems like a moving past Schumi by Hamilton have give English media quite an exciting, which must gave them some comfort, after saw Alonso passing Hamilton at least two times on the track on Last Friday.

Take it easy, it´s just in test.

Anyway, I do not think Schumi is still that very best Schumi, just like 41 years old can never be as same as 31 years old, Even Brown has come to realise that, Schumi is not the one in his memory yet.

However, in such a labouring work, for him, can still have a place in one of the best teams is already a great victory. For other driver, if still regards passing Schumi a great victory, such a feeling could be regarded as a shame.


what?! what language are you speaking?!? have u used google transalation to make your point?! james sort this lot out!


Sorry, my Mother tongue is Chinese. I never use google to make my points.

My main points are:

I read several reports from some English media, which making some funny description about Hamilton’s movement on the Shumi, I wonder why they did not mention what happened on Friday, the real excitement happened in the circuit.

I do not think such kind of description has much gravity.

I do not think Shumi is still the very best driver on the track, although he is worthy of my full respect.

Sorry for the confusing caused by my written English ability.


James, I don’t know how can You assume that Renault is 0.7 sec off the pace. They didn’t do any quali simulations during Barcelona test (limited running due to technical issues). Their pace on Sunday, with new front wing, on race simulation was really good (I w’d say that they were somewhere near Mercedes, and far better than FI, Sauber and Williams). In addition they are planning to bring 40% new parts to the car for Bahrain; including new “extreme” diffuser (and new nose, I guess, because the one used in tests seems not to fit to the rest of the car). I think that Renault may suprise many people in Bahrain, including You, James ;D

Regards, Peter.


Maybe you are right, but I’m not assuming anything, It’s from engineers of other teams whose calculations suggest that this is where Renault are. Let’s hope they are wrong and Kubica will be in the thick of it, as you say


I think this year’s regulations will suit a driver like Schumacher. With all that experience he’s had since the days of his endurance racing in Sportscars (early 90s) where they almost nursed cars to the finish, his consistency and his very low proneness to make mistakes, I can see him probably being very slow and lackluster for almost 75% percent of the race, and then all of a sudden at the end you’d wonder how he got there?

Rosberg I think is fresher and has more race practice than Schumacher (in the last three and a half years at least). I don’t think Rosberg is faster, at most they’re probably equal, its AMAZING that Schumacher could even match him straight from day one – and this guy will only go quicker and quicker. Moreover, Rosberg is not as consistent.

I have my money however, on Alonso winning the Bahrain GP. I don’t know who’s gonna be WDC though. Your Bahrain GP (driver) winner, anyone – Everyone??

(its not fair to only have a selection of only four team) 😉


Where’s the option for “none of the above”? 😉


I dectect a high amount of patriotism in the poll there. But in all honesty, and as a Brit myself, I expect a Ferrari to be the winner with the likely winner being Alonso. Second and third are very much open at this stage.


James w

I think the user stats on ja s user population are that the spread is much more global than than 75% Brits. I think mclaren are really well placed. But we’ll find out in 2 weeks 🙂


isn’t it only about 40% uk based? What are the latest user stats on number of people contributing and where them come from?


Yes about 45% UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Australia and pretty much everywhere else. Lot of Finns… even Kazakhstan!


Jees this is really close between the top 8.

Interesting to see Kamui Kobayashi and Adrian Sutil up there. Looks like force India are in good shape! Its really nice to see privately owned teams coming up.

Im a Schumacher fan and i believe that Michael will be top soon, but give him a break, hes been out of the sport for 3-4 years!


BTW, I wish the BBC had brought you over from the ITV commentating team. I find Legard really not up to standard. I think you were a victim of being enthusiastic about a British driver who had some very vocal haters, but they weren’t in the majority. Real shame. Your rapport with Brundle was brilliant. Same cannot be said for Legard.


As a McLaren fan, I don’t think the VMM has the best car yet. They do have the fastest driver though that makes up for certain performance lack.


KERS is no longer allowed..


James just wanted to congratulate you on your book The Edge of Greatness. I can’t help thinking you will be relishing the prospect of all the new material that the German Genius is about to create for a second book?
Any ideas for the title yet maybe Greatness to Genius?


Let’s see what he does first!


I’d be amazed if he didn’t achieve one more championship in the 3 years at Merc!



Great job sifting through the jungle of laps for us. How does McLaren compare to Ferrari and redbull on the Long run sims?

So curious– and so are my friends here in Sweden. You are a life saver!



It’s close. Ferrari had a tenth over Red Bull in Barcelona on long runs, but that can change with updates to cars etc very quickly. Ferrari need to keep the developments coming, while I think Red Bull haven’t fully unlocked the potential in the car yet. Qualifying at the front will be critical.


And McLaren?


ps. apologies for double sending that one. your website (at least from sweden) seems to be acting up a little since last evening.


And McLaren? where do they fall on the long runs vis a viz Ferrari and redbull? Thanks so much!


James, here’s a question…

Were the teams who ran race simulations really able to gain a representative view of tyre performance when they were stopped by red flags?

What I mean in, surely they would have had to come into the pits, and the tyres would have cooled. then they’d have had to work them hard to get them up to the temperature they were at prior to the red flag.

I’m guessing they may have put the tyres in blankets, but still wouldn’t there have been a drop off of temperature?

Just wondering!


Let me go a little bit off the topic for a second. I desperately need your help. Here in Spain we spend half of each race watching commercials. This season is going to be even worse because our favourite commentator, namely Pedro Martínez de la Rosa, will be comfortably driving a certain Sauber car. Does any one know of any web site were we could watch F1 on the Internet.

My other option is to commit suicide. 🙂

I also have a dish but it doesn’t point to the right satellite.


I don’t know where you are in Spain but if you can get either TV3 or Canal 9 from Catalonia and Valencia respectively the you’ll be able to watch the Grand Prix with only 3 commercial breaks. That’s not bad when you consider that La Sexta with the main deal are really gonna go all out with adverts!


I used to watch F1 on Speed TV on the internet using TVU Player or Sopcast, both peer to peer streaming programs that show F1 races, from Spain, for the same reason….

The best site for fans, pre James’ new project, I found was the FIA Formula 1 site this gives all the lap times, sectors, etc. live and is an invaluable insight to what is really happening out there, often before the commentators have noticed or bothered to report it.

Could be time to buy a second PC screen 🙂


use a proxy to watch f1 on the BBC, i ususaly do that as i live in France and they don’t mind to put a commercial break whenever they feel about it, I remeber going myself going crazy when they put an ad when Hamilton and Raikonen were batteling it out at spa 2008.


I’m a Brit in USA; Speed TV F1 coverage is good, but to save $$$ I had to downgrade our cable TV package, so no longer get Speed TV. I’d like to learn more about how to watch F1 qualifying & races – even if recorded and shown later – via the internet. Could someone help explain just how one can do this please? Any useful links to user-friendly sites? And at what costs? Otherwise I’ll just have to watch clips and read all that I missed, on this FANTASTIC JA website – THANKS James for such a great job! (And people – please stop pestering James Allen for Predictions, give the guy a break!! Thanks)


I’m a Brit in USA; Speed TV F1 coverage is good, but to save $$$ I had to downgrade our cable TV package, so no longer get Speed TV. I’d like to learn more about how to watch F1 qualifying & races – even if recorded and shown later – via the internet. Could someone help explain just how one can do this please? Any useful links to user-friendly sites? And at what costs? Otherwise I’ll just have to watch clips and read all that I missed on this FANTASTIC JA website – THANKS James for such a great job! (And people – please stop pestering James Allen for Predictions, give the guy a break!! Thanks)


Davexxx, here’s a third I forgot to mention:

No experience with them.


Davexxx, am also in US without SpeedTV. Here’s a couple. First is for fee, second is free:


Have only used them some in past year, quality can be so so at times—on my pc anyway. A sports bar is my preference. Hopefully others will chime in with tips/opinions.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

James, the commentary here in Colombia is atrocious. It comes from Fox Sports.

They turn the sound of the cars right down and have three heavy-accented Argentinians barking commentary at you from the studio. It’s all like a very badly dubbed movie.

One of the commentators has a horrible gravel-voice like Max the manservant from Heart-to-Heart (the 80s US mystery drama starring Robert Wagner). Another has a horrible command of pronouncing English words….e.g., Lowees Khamilton and Weeleeams.

There is no insight into fuel loads or strategy and they have this horrible trumpet music that comes on during ad breaks.

If you were to set up your own live commentary channel on the internet, I for one would happily pay a subsriciption.


You are not allowed to do that from the race circuits. It’s against FOM rules and I have too many other things to do during the sessions anyway!


You can follow my Twitter commentary of the qualifying and race



Will you be doing the fom/world feed press conference questions this year?


Peter Windsor might have some free time for it if you know what I mean!


Yes I will, at most of the races


And I will. Like others, I discovered your site a few weeks ago and I think you are a master. I didn’t tell you before because I hate to sound like the teacher’s pet (you say “teacher’s pet”, right?)

But I would also like to watch it on tv if possible.

I need to keep proving that my predictions are always wrong.


Thanks. Please spread the word about the site


I wonder why people seem so interested in the fastest lap times this year? Its no indication of how the car will perform during the race. The Mercedes looks just as good as any other team out there on low fuel but I feel Schumacher seems to be feelin a bit down concerning race pace. Maybe that is what Michael alluded to in the earlier statement he gave?

I can only hope the new diffuser and the big update that is due for Bahrain can address the race-pace issues as the car seems to eat out its tyres faster than the rest.


Have there been any coding changes to the site? It no longer works on my symbian mobile browser (N85) 🙁


Some upgrades have been going on this week, but it should all work the same way.


I’ve been having a lot of problems getting onto the site the past 24 hours too. Hopefully they’ll disappear again soon!


Same here. I’ve finally been able to get through this morning (here in Manila, Philippines) but I’m getting a string of weird characters on my Opera browser. Though it lacks the speed and bells and whistles of Firefox or Chrome, its easy interface makes it my favorite surf and blog tool. Hope your tech dept. finds a fix, James. – Thanks!


James, There are rumours that Mercedes are looking to indroduce a new ‘super diffuser’ for the 1st race…..?

If true, could be the start of 2009 all over again!

Do you know anything about this….?



Look at the laptimes of the drivers as a whole. Don’t just pick out one fastest lap to base an analysis on.

Overall Hamilton was a huge amount faster than Schumacher and Massa.

“It’s a very different feeling for McLaren from 12 months ago when they left Barcelona test with long faces and a 2.5 second deficit to the Brawn car, despite using the same engine”

They might have been 2s slower than Brawn at the end of that Barcelone test, but in the following Jerez test they were “only” a second off the pace.

The last 2 days at Jerez, when McLaren “privately” tried out their double diffuser, Kovalainen was actually only 0.1s off of Button’s earlier fastest time.

In the end they went even a second faster than the fastest time they set on Jerez this year …

Oddly enough they didn’t have the guts to actually race that double diffuser and decided to close it up for the first few races.


The Renault is not more than a half second far from the best. How can you say that ?

I looked at all the long runs and the Renault seems to be not bad at all, maybe even better than the Mercedes.

Mclaren tested a new front wing, new deflectors, new bodywork, a new diffuser and many lttle modifications…

Renault and Mercedes tested new front wings…

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