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Decoding a frantic day of Formula 1 action in Valencia
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Decoding a frantic day of Formula 1 action in Valencia
Posted By: James Allen  |  01 Feb 2010   |  8:14 pm GMT  |  160 comments

Today the new cars from seven teams hit the track and Formula 1 2010 really took off.

Although there are still 40 days to go to the first Grand Prix in Bahrain, the new season kicked off in style with a frantic day of car launches and testing in Valencia.

Picture 55
We had first sight today of new cars from Toro Rosso, Williams and the Mercedes W01, the keenly awaited follow up to the championship winning Brawn. Michael Schumacher took the wheel in the afternoon for his first laps in a contemporary F1 car since the end of 2006.

Missing from the test this week are Red Bull, Force India and the new teams.

Most attention, inevitably, was on Schumacher and his return to F1 action. He quickly got down to work in the afternoon, having taken over the car from his new team mate Nico Rosberg and he went faster after just 18 laps. Rosberg had complained of sitting too low in the car and not being able to see out properly.

Rosberg did the initial installation laps and his best long run was at the end of his time in the car and his laps mainly in the high 1m 13s and low 1m 14s. Schumacher was on that pace straight away and in his final long run he was lapping in the low 1m13s and high 1m12s. Afterwards he was bright and breezy,

“I felt totally comfortable and really had a feeling that everything was very natural,” he said. “It felt just like at the very beginning of my career in 1991 when on the first lap, I thought ‘wow that was really fast’ and then on the second lap, I was just extremely excited. I feel like a young boy again and really enjoyed myself out there.”

Although it looks today as though Schumacher was faster, it will be a fairer comparison over the next two days when both drivers get more time with the car.

With new rules meaning that the cars will have to race with 160 kilos of fuel on board it is harder than in the past to decode the lap times, because the range of possible fuel weights is greater.

My understanding is that the front running teams will settle into a routine of running around 80 kilos of fuel, half full tanks, for their long runs to develop the car. Teams looking for sponsors or otherwise trying to catch the eye will be running around 40 kilos at times, a difference worth around 1.5 seconds per lap. This is something to watch out for over the four test sessions this month.

It will be very obvious all round when a time has been set on low fuel and new tyres.

The other comeback king, Felipe Massa, was fastest today in the new Ferrari. He set a time of 1m12.574 on the 14th lap of a 16 lap run and managed an impressive 102 laps. His long runs looked pretty good. He did one early on in the mid to low 1m 13s and later on did a ten lap run in the low 1m 13s. The car looks like it reacts well to changes.

“The car behaved very well, said Massa. “I felt it was an easier car to drive compared to last year’s. Last year it was always difficult to find the balance.”

It was a positive start for Ferrari. There have been rumours about the aero figures being poor and a B spec car being prepared. But my sources suggest that what has happened is that they recruited a new head of aerodynamics from Toyota in December and he brought a solution for a radical new diffuser with a hole the size of a sheet of A3 paper! It’s worth a lot in extra downforce and so Ferrari may well be building an update package around it, possibly for the first race if they can build it in time.

McLaren had Gary Paffett at the wheel for the first day, tomorrow it will be Lewis Hamilton and on Wednesday Jenson Button.

Paffett took the radical looking McLaren around 86 laps and set a fastest time of 1m 13.8s. Most of the long runs looked like they were run on heavy fuel, there was one long run in the middle of the day when he lapped mainly in the low 1m 14s to high 1m 13s.

Pedro de la Rosa managed 74 laps in the new Sauber-Ferrari and said, “The car was reliable right from the beginning, which meant we could follow our programme perfectly without wasting any time. Also the car reacted to our changes very well.”

His long runs were varied, the fastest in the middle of the day was a ten lap run in which his times compared with the Ferrari, but I would guess that he was running less fuel for that run.

Picture 56
Renault did not set any eye catching lap times in their new car today, but they covered 69 laps with Robert Kubica at the wheel.
“Tomorrow we will start working on the balance and trying to understand the car a bit more, ” said Kubica. “The narrower front tyres certainly had an impact on the car, but it’s difficult for me to judge as this is the first time I’ve driven the R30.”

Likewise, Williams looked like they were struggling a bit early on, but Rubens Barrichello covered 74 laps and set his best time on the fifth lap of a seven lap run. Barrichello brought out the only red flag of the day when he stopped out on track due to a software problem on the throttle system.

Sebastien Buemi managed just 18 laps in the new Toro Rosso, losing a lot of time to a gearbox control problem. This is the first car that the team has designed and built by itself, having relied on a car from Red Bull Technologies until now. Technical director Giorgio Ascanelli managed expectations today when he said that it was inevitable that there would be mistakes in this fledgling technical operation.

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1

The flow-vis paint in itself wasn’t what showed that McLaren were struggling 12 months ago.

It was the fact they were using an illegal 2008 higher downforce rear wing, combined with using flow-vis, combined with the very slow laptimes UNLESS they were using this 2008 wing. There were all sorts of fanciful stories going around about “the new 2009 wing will have this much downforce and this 2008 one is just simulating it”, leading to the nickname “magic wing”. But no the aero had problems. I do get a kick out of the interviews now though especially the last few days.. “you knew 12 months ago straight away there was a problem with the car”.. actually some of the PR comments up until the final Barcelona test were hilarious and wouldn’t acknowledge anything. Lewis had an especially embaressing one, if you now look back at it with 20/20 highsight.

The flow-vis in itself is nothing. McLaren have already set good laptimes with the wing the car was launched with. CRISIS AVERTED. You can breathe deeper now McLaren fans.

And last thing, just a little reminder about how meaningless the test times are. Up until the final Barcelona test where it became clear Brawn was easily infront, Ferrari were seen as the quickest winter testing car. Afterwards, they were seen as top 2. And come Melbourne, they were nowhere and had to make a tyre gamble on Sunday because they qualified so far back. You never know what fuel anyone is running, that includes Ferrari.

2

Good to see Massa topping the times. Keeps me feeling positive over my bet on him for the championship. His qualifying record speaks for itself, he just needs to out race Alonso which he will do. The cars look better this season.

3

I bet on him too!!!!!!!!!

Forza Massa

4

james what the hell is going on with stefan gp?? what do tyhey know that no one else does?

5

Well it looks to me as though Ferrari have a lead on the others, I hope McLaren can pull the gap before the first race.

Why can’t McLaren hit the ground running instead of having to do it the hard way?

6

On a lighter note….we have seen what all the F1 drivers are up to, who is driving and who is ‘in the garage’ but no word about the ‘WAGS’ what is the F1 etiquete regarding this James ? are they welcomed, are they banned ? or are they at home in the warm, as not enough spectators, or ‘movers and shakers’to see them ? !

7

The new tyre rule for qualifying is putrid. Qualifying has been one of the finest aspects of a dark few years for Formula one and now they go and mess around with that too.

Unbelievable.

8

With the change in rules on drivers having to carry the tires used in Q3 to the race will we see drivers set a hot lap 5 mins into the session then scrub tires in for the race in the final 5?

Unless drivers are limited to one set of tires in the session, I can’t see why they wouldn’t do this. Am I missing something?

I understand FIA and FOTA are trying to make the race interesting but it seems to be to the detriment of qualifying. We have again lost the chance to see drivers going for it on low fuel without having to conserve tires! F1 is becoming more about endurance than a sprint.

9

Hello. Does anyone know why there are raised bumps mid way on the nose cones of the new cars? Is it a saftey or design thing?

10

Has everyone done their FOTA survey???

See link below

http://www.lgf1racingfansurvey.com/

11

Just done mine, felt the questions were very much loaded/biased and left no opportunity for our own views or suggestions.

12

Poorly constructed again, a series of leading questions which each year seem to have little impact on how the sport changes.

No questions on:

Constant rule changes

Value of new teams vs 3 car entries for top teams

Only one question on the cost of the sport to fans!!! I thought FOTA wanted to reduce ticket prices for 2010 and that FOM supported it.

14

to make the 15 days of testing equal between Jenson and Lewis they gave Paffet the spare day

15

James, just seen that McLaren are running with green paint again…

Any issues, do you think?

16

Sadly it’s looking more and more like it to me 🙁 If it is the case 2010 will be the worse for it as I for one was really looking forward to the Hamilton/Alonso/Schumacher battle 8)

17

I just read about the changes to tyre rules. I’m dissapointed that the Q3 qualifiers (top ten) will have to start the race on the same tyres they qualified on. I know it will bring more strategy into it but i think it will affect raw pace at qualifying.

18

Inevitably then, most if not all will be starting on the softs, thus taking the mystery out of it.

However for the race, presumably the primes will be favourite, thus we may see very early stops from all of the top ten.

(ok shoot me down!)

19

Couldn’t agree more, at last I though we’d be seeing in 2010 the real fastest driver in qualifying, what’s wrong with pure racing? Answer nothing when it’s on the right tracks.

These fools at the FIA should just make sure F1 is always raced on the right track, what say ye?

20
las amazonas cachondas

James,

What do you make to the test day’s change at ferrari between massa and alonso this tuesday.

There must have been some political moves behind the scenes.

21

It’s because the shakedown at Maranello was cancelled last week due to weather. Nothing more than that

22

With all the unknowns to contend with – especially the fuel loads – I wonder if we will really be able to gauge the pecking order until the first race? It will keep the suspense going nicely for another month I’m sure.

23

The only thing you can take away from this is nothing. Too many variables?

24

The Red Bull hasn’t seen the track yet, neither have Alonso or Hamilton. I think there’s still a lot to be seen.

25

Note: I have no idea how I put a smiley there. Unintended.

26

I think your point eight, with “8” next to “)”, got translated as a smiley.

Computers, who’d have ’em? 😉

27

With so little testing available and such a radically designed car ni hand, what goodness does it give to let Paffet drive the car for 1 whole day? Wouldn’t it be better used by at least letting Jenson have the feel of the car for half a day?

28

Paffet will be the replace driver should he be needed. This is the only reason he drove today.

29

Something is wrong with the Ferrari…

it may not be a dog!

30

Of course, it’s a Red Bull painted red …

31

Great stuff James.

Shame the BBC haven’t found a role for you on their coverage.

The first day of proper testing is always a great day for an F1 nut! Ive been told that the Mclaren is a lot faster than it looks today but I’m sure all will become clearer over the coming weeks.

It strikes me that the rear end config on the Mclaren is not going to be condusive to slipstreaming and overtaking…good for them – bad for the sport and I can also see it causing high speed corner understeer. Still better than oversteer for Jenson!!

32

It’s a warning to Schumi that if he beats the Ferrari it will be stuck where the sun don’t shine. 🙂 well done to the old bloke from an old bloke

33

I said it some days ago, that MP4 25 seems to be a hard to setup car, now the flow spray coat in its aero parts, seems like they’re seraching for something

34

How can you have said it a few days ago before it even turned a wheel. You have no idea how much fuel was on board or what set up changes they were trying. That comment was made with no proof what so ever

35

I made a comment based on its appearance, just put the idea to work and remember that every single car in modern F1 with complex design and aero solutions was disputed as “troubled” (MP4 19 in 2004, with its carryovers from the MP4 18, had simply no room for cooling) or “hard to setup” as the most recent example that hideous and complex BMW F1 08, it took them time to fine tune its setup until reaching a front running performance, which they actually managed to, even fighting for that championship

36
Carlos Eduardo Del Valle

Friendship between Massa and Schumacher seems to be as ok as ever:

“I suddenly see my old car on the track and I’m not sitting in it, and it is a strange sensation, but it’s good to see my brother on track, in the car,” declared Schumacher, returning with Mercedes three years after retiring as a Ferrari driver, of his former team mate.

http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLDE6102BK20100201

37

Hi James. Great stuff your twitter link. Thanks a lot for that. I’ve got a question that worries me a lot as a mclaren fan. What do you make of the flow vis they used yesterday? Is it, as last year, an indication that they got it wrong once again and have issues with their aero figures? It seems they used it in 2007 as well but not as much as in 2009. Do you have any information you could share with us?

38

Ohhhhhh. Groovy! As a troglodyte, I’d still like to see an actual race (turn ’em loose at Portimao, I say) instead of the Test Times Grand Prix. BUT CARS ARE BACK ON TRACK. YES!

I’ll play, Alex. In order (and I’ll be really, really, really, really, really bold and go down to 8th place), here’s my “Upset Special” for the first race:

1) Sauber (Kobyashi)

2) Mercedes (Schumi)

3) Ferrari (Massa)

4) Ferrari (Alonso)

5) Williams (Rubens)

6) Sauber (PDLR)

7) McLaren (Button)

8) Mercedes (Nico)

Side bet: Assuming they both make the grid (fingers crossed), USF1 finishes ahead of Lotus.

Do feel free to laugh (laugh, laugh, laugh, I say!) But March is approaching, so I’ve got Bracket Busters in there, in true NCAA Basketball Championship, a/k/a “March Madness,” fashion.

39

Nico in eighth? Bit hopeful there. Although he will be running in a podium spot for a few laps before he gets over-excited, wets his nappy and runs wide.

Kobayashi in first? Could well be true… I bet he’s the only driver Schumi wouldn’t dare put the chop on.

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