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Final F1 test, Day 2 – Vettel gives them all something to think about
Final F1 test, Day 2 – Vettel gives them all something to think about
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Mar 2011   |  6:40 pm GMT  |  88 comments

On the second day of the final F1 test at Barcelona Sebastian Vettel went for a time, setting the benchmark in the high 1m 21s, some way clear of his opposition. Up to this point Red Bull have played their cards pretty close to their chest in terms of outright pace. Now the others have something to aim for.

Photo: Red Bull

I said at the last Barcelona test that engineers had told me they felt the RBR car was capable of a high 1m 21 and today it happened. There is clearly a tenth or two more to come as the lap was the first on a five lap run.

Vettel set the time early in the day and then worked on the car on different fuel loads and set-ups. Vettel got back into the 1m 21s on other runs during the day.

Michael Schumacher always used to test this way – go out and set a flat out time at the start and then use that as a benchmark for lap times set on set fuel load, evaluating set up changes as you go. It’s a way of working he got into when he was at Benetton with Pat Symonds and Frank Dernie.

Ferrari was out with it’s updated car, the details of which I posted yesterday. They feature new ultra low exhausts. Felipe Massa was at the wheel, but did not feel tempted to see what his car might manage in similar configuration to Vettel’s. That may or may not come by the end of the week.

Toro Rosso did a race distance today and set the second fastest time with a lap in the low 1m 22s, half a second off Vettel and similar to Red Bull’s time from yesterday. The Toro Rosso certainly has some pace and has made significant improvement since last season.

McLaren had more reliability issues, another hydraulic problem and an exhaust failure among them. He did not manage a race distance run but did set the fourth fastest time in the high 1m 22s, similar to Button’s pace yesterday.

Afterwards Lewis Hamilton told reporters that McLaren has a lot of work to do ” ‘Do I believe I have a car to win the world championship at the moment? I don’t, no,’ ” he said.

“But that doesn’t mean it won’t become a world championship-winning car. In terms of how long we can go in terms of reliability and our true pace, that’s an unknown factor for us because in the time we have had we’ve not been able to maximise things.”

Today the team announced that Perdo de la Rosa, has rejoined them as test driver, a role he had for many years before returning briefly to a race seat with Sauber last year. De la Rosa is valued for his engineering ability by team principal Martin Whitmarsh in particular.

Mercedes ran their new exhaust package and new bodywork, the results from which were “in line with expectations” according to the team, “I think we have some impressive developments, “said Nico Rosberg, “Even though we couldn’t test or show the full performance today as not all of the elements are on the car and working together yet. We had glimpses that showed that the full package should be a big step.” Team principal Ross Brawn indicated last week that the car had been around a second a lap off the pace in the early tests.

Williams also had a poor day’s running after a KERS fault in the morning, which required extensive repairs. Meanwhile Paul di Resta simulated a race weekend for Force India, with qualifying laps in the morning session and a full race distance in the afternoon, punctuated with proper full speed pit stops. Di Resta is making his debut in Australia in two weeks.

Tonight the drivers are meeting with the FIA’s Charlie Whiting to talk through the adjustable rear wings, give him their learnings so far and discuss safety. There have been concerns voiced about the safety of the devices, especially on wet days, with Rubens Barrichello arguing over the winter that there could be a case for disabling the device when the track is wet, to avoid sudden changes of downforce level on a slippery track.

1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m21.865s 112 laps
2. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m22.396s + 0.531s 120 laps
3. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m22.670s + 0.805s 116 laps
4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m22.888s + 1.023s 57 laps
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m23.324s + 1.459s 101 laps
6. Paul di Resta Force India 1m24.334s + 2.469s 118 laps
7. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m24.436s + 2.571s 107 laps
8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m25.807s + 3.942s 100 laps
9. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m26.090s + 4.225s 98 laps
10. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m26.989s + 5.124s 29 laps
11. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m28.982s + 7.117s 64 laps

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I’ve been interested to read in many places that McLaren are in big trouble. I’m not sure I totally agree.

They are certainly off the pace, and Lewis said the balance was pretty good in the car (you’d expect that with forced weight distribution though).

In my non engineer mind, the current car is a large departure, both in terms of rear suspension layout, and in terms of Aero from last year.

Its clear they havent nailed it straight out of the box, but I think they can expect some bedding in time.

There is nothing to say the car handles like the 09 one, but they do say that a slow car that handles well is really worrying. I’d much prefer a bad handling very quick one 😉

Great to see PDR back at the Tech centre soon. An excellent development driver.

So James, temporary blip, or a year in the doldrums?

P.S If I were a betting man, I wonder whether Toro Rosso might spring a surprise this year. in terms of winning a race or two.

Jonathan Barker

Hi James,

Reb Bull are certainly looking very strong again, but along with many I am concerned by Mclaren’s problems. I read on another website that some people were pointing the finger at Mclaren’s policy of ‘using a different designer every year’. That seems amazing, and not something I had ever heard before. Would you be able to offer any further info on this, as I find it hard to believe they would have such a ridiculous policy in place.

Many thanks


Renault used and as far as I know still use two design teams, one working on the following years car and the other developing the current car with manpower shifted between the two as needed.

Worked for them in 2005/06 however they are a smaller team, I wonder if the size and nature of McLarens organisation makes it harder for the two design teams to exchange ideas and achieve continuity.

Jonathan Barker

Yeah, it certainly worked for Renault. Is that the case at Mclaren then with two design teams alternating, or is it more complex? I read that Eddie Jordon had lamented this approach recently, and was wondering how exactly Mclaren work: it certainly appears that since 2007/08 they’ve gone off the boil, every year starting with one problem or another.



There has been enough talks about the engineering aspect of F1 this year. Now lets talk about the human element. What I would like to know is who possess the most complete race craft to exploit the resources available to them in terms of KERS and Flexi-wings etc.

My Evaluation is that Michael and Alonso way ahead of the field in this department. Vetel is the new Kimi Raikkonen, for you put him in any car and he’ll drive the wheels off it. Button is very evolved thinker behind the wheel, while Lewis is fast and erratic and so is Rosberg excluding being erratic. Massa is quick but it would be interesting to know just how he will be able to use the degradable Pirellis, Waiting for Kubica while Nick is no slouch, will be missing Hulk, so it would be interesting to see how Di resta would fare.

Your comments will be appreciated.




Intelligent drivers who can multi task will benefit, but it’s also a team game and the strategy will be very important, to pit before your rival, ideally, and get the tyre degradation calculations right.Ferrari have invested a lot in this area, thinking it will help them this year.


And now we’re morphing from what Formula One “used to be about” into what “NASCAR already is” – namely, a form of racing in which pit stops and pit crews determine a given racing outcome as much as, if not more, than a racer’s ability to race.

In itself, this isn’t a bad thing, but it does tend to dilute the primary distinguishing factor which traditionally separated F1 from it’s competition – namely, a Grand Prix is supposed to be either a 300km race, or 2 hours maximum – whichever comes first. Tyre stops became quite de rigeur in the mid 1980’s, however, they weren’t obligatory. Teams were able to choose their compounds, and their life cycles, based on their knowledge of known tyre wear etc. In 2011, however, the rules now force tyre changes onto the teams, including the choice of compunds – and in doing so, the rules have forced pit stops onto the teams regardless of whether their car has to make that change or not. And that, right there, is why the current rules aren’t the same for everyone, notwithstanding that at first glance, they appear as though they are. A very good example of this is Sebastien Vettel’s drive at Monza last year when he pitted on the last lap simply because the rules said he had to – otherwise he would have finished in a much stronger position on one set of tyres for the entire Grand Prix. In my view, Red Bull were penalised that race. Their chassis was sufficiently kind to run one set of tyres for a whole Grand Prix and yet they coughed up a very strong position (2nd place if I recall correctly) for no reason other than the rules said they had to.

There isn’t an easy solution to this, obviously. There is a “sweet spot” between viewing numbers and technological innovation that the FIA are hoping to occupy, but the net result is that F1 continues to become closer to the NASCAR racing model, and NASCAR already occupies that space very successfully it seems to me.


Last year’s first several races have been quite fascinating much owing to Mclaren’s know how F-duct and several memorable overtakings due this, hope this years’ start will not be alike train coaches either.

One chanse for Red Bull with it’s slightly weaker engine vs Ferrari is to maintain superb aero package to offset HP deficit.

But guess Newey will not fail to implement it’s task to beat rivals, if he could get right engine than outcome would be more predicable. His last car with Mers engine MP4/20 was unstoppable with Kimi behind the wheel.


My worry about the rear wing is what happens if you have a three car train , will the two behind activate ? Can you imagine the battle could be dangerous.


I agree. What happens when two hard battling front runners come up behind a back-marker who can’t operate his rear wing and doesn’t have KERS? The speed differential could be huge and we saw what that could lead to in Valencia last year.


It should be interesting in the opening laps of the race or on a restart after a safety car…let´s wait and see.


“with it’s updated car” (you can delete this comment, just letting you know about the typo)


In my opinion (not that any of you have asked for it but hey, that’s what messageboards are for!) Red Bull are where Williams were at in 1981 after Alan Jones won his World title. In that year, Carlos Reutemann took it right up to Alan Jones so hard that they both robbed each other of precious points which allowed Nelson Piquet to win the WDC in an ascending Brabham – notwithstanding that EVERYONE in the F1 paddock at the time agreed that the Williams FW07 was by far the quickest car on the grid.

I see a great deal of similarity between the current superiority of the RB7 and the FW07 of 1981. Alan Jones should have easily retined his World title that year, and yet he didn’t. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that Webber and Vettel will skirmish amongst themselves to such a degree that they both open the door to a competitor from another team.

I’m not writing off either Hamilton or Alonso in that regard. Lewis Hamilton in particular. Man, that guy is uber fast, and he consistently pulls off the best passes in motorsport.

And don’t be surprised if Williams is a contender MORE than the testing would initially indicate, either. That Cosworth engine is not all that far off the pace, and the Williams hybrid KERS is arguably the most advanced system of all. Their new ultra low gearbox and transaxle is a very, very interesting development.


While a McLaren fan, I still always follow williams as well.

This was the team I grew up seeing winning, with some great drivers and engineers/design.

I’d love to see their car and drivers do well this year. Fingers crossed


What’s the chances that if Mclaren realise they’ve made a complete mess of their car, they will have to make a mp4-26b? like they did back in 2004 with the mp4-19, or even worse have they got another mp4-18 on their hands and they end up having to race a upgraded version of last years car, I highly doubt its that bad though and I hope its on the pace.

With the new Pirelli’s I think the races will get mixed up quite a lot for the first few fly-away’s and the fastest car is quite probable not to win, we have no idea how the cars and the drivers will react to the tyre degradation in full on race conditions and how long it will take them to adjust. We could be in for some surprise results, and in regards to Mclaren Buttons biggest advantage is his ability to judge his tyres and the race situation and conserve if need be, so you never know he may get some decent results, and Hamilton will probably drag it into the points too. So lets wait and see where everybody is in a month or two, with all these new factors- rear wing, kers and Pirelli’s, this year is either going to be really exciting or a complete dud, either way im really excited!!!!


I reckon the real ‘psych war’ runs will take place late on the last day.


Any McLaren fans still think that the car looks beautiful or that it was an ingenious strategy to delay it’s launch?

I’ll be interested to see just how fast the Toro Rosso is and how quick the Renault is if they’ve finally got their trick exhausts working properly.

Interestingly Ferrari have opted for a Redbull style super low exhaust this week rather than the front exiting one.


I’m a little surprised Redbull gave away so much.Could not see Ferrari doing this.


James, in what type of tyre was the 1:21.8 clocked?

I read that it was on the hard tyre, can you confirm?



Last year Red Bull started out with a dominant car, but couldn’t capitalise it because of you reliability issues. It looks like they’ve got that completely nailed this year though, so I reckon we might see a bit of a whitewash reminiscent of the Schumacher-Ferrari days.


those at least 3 pitstops are so many occasions to do something wrong, to find yourself in traffic that it doesn’t look like a walk in the park and RedBull.

the qualies with a single try per session are also so many occasions for mistakes that this season will have more elements of unpredictably I sense


Well the wing should at least in theory help the unfortunate fever who comes out in traffic with the faster car behind some slow ones, we have yet to see if it works. I’m feeling the sane sentiment that James mentioned that I think it will be down to new tires vs old tires as opposed to trick wing.

As for quali Alonso usually set his pole times on a first lap if memory serves me right with vettel occasionally needing a second flier to pip Alonso or whoever else was on pole, but generally being a wash between the two in terms of doing it right the first time. I felt like a lot of the others, there werent that many since vettel was there 10times, typically needed a second flier a lot more often to solidify their poles so they mitt be playing catchup. The real test will be preserving the tires while also tryin to get a good lead up in the first two laps before they turn the wings on.


No, I think Ferrari will give them a battle


If the speed difference of the Redbull and Ferrari were equivalent to last year then Vettel will win this championship easily, the car’s more reliable, Vettel has now matured and with that championship under his belt has the chance to prove he is the best driver on the grid I don’t think he will let that chance slip like Hamilton did in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
I do think Ferrari are closer and the scrap between Alonso and Vettel will be the start of another great rivalry for this new decade.


I hope so, and I think the tyre degridation will really help turn F1 into even more of a team sport with tactical calls on pitstops becoming even more important.

I’d love to see Renault back up there and Williams too, but I think initally we’ll see RBR and Ferrari leading the pack.


McLaren have to be one of the most frustrating teams to follow in F1. They had a great platform at the end of last year. The car was not far off Red Bull, and certainly could have been caught with a few tweaks over the winter. But no. They have to be different. Theres a thin line between being brave and being unnecessarily risky. This season seems to have started as the latter.


“There’s a thin line between being brave and being unnecessarily risky. This season seems to have started as the latter.”

So what you need there is a bit of luck! 🙂


No you read it wrongly, I said that a team with Adrian Newey did not need luck.

But in any case you are wrong, many new designs do not work as anticipated, McLaren’s this year for instance. Sauber on the other hand seem to have got it right. Are you then saying that Sauber’s designed are better engineers than McLaren’s? Or are they a bit lucky that their design worked first time?


My reply above to **Paul** has appeared in the wrong place.


I don’t think that McLaren’s issue is with brave moves or whatever. For years now, they’ve been unable to produce the fastest challenger. Since Ferrari took over and Renault joined them and now RedBull.

McLaren is always there challenging for victories and coming with interesting ideas but never at the top.


I’m a diehard McLaren fan,its sad to see them struggling so far in testing. Hope they can find some speed very soon!


i am looking forward to seeing alonso friday and saturday in the updated ferrari, james, is massa just as quick as alonso on the long runs? or is alonso trade mark consitentsy giving him the edge? i think alonso will be right on the tail of red bull at the start this season


I think we’ve all heard what Martin Brundle said about McLaren. It doesn’t sound good, but for the sake of our entertainment I hope they will sort it out and do not lose too many points at the beginning of the season, so that the battle will be intense once again.

Re Red Bull… please don’t tell me that this is a forecast for the whole season… (nothing against Red Bull really, but I just don’t want any team to have a significant advantage over the rest, so that it won’t be boring and predictable).

I hope Ferrari’s workaholism and this huge amount of kilometres they cover each day pays off and they will be competitive.

All in all, it’s not really surprising what I see (maybe apart from McLaren’s struggle), is it? I’m still wondering whether we can expect some really big surprises when the season starts.

Only 16 days left to Australian qualifying!


hey james i was wondering if you could tell me what updates teams like lotus and virgin have brought? havent heard much news on their updates if they do have any? thanks


Brundle said he was watching the Mclaren on track at the last test and it was handling horribly.


strange, LH said that the car was handling better than last year’s challenger but it lacks downforce and that was the issue besides the reliability of course.


Yes, I was standing next to him


if i was in the cockpit i’d be tempted to overdive it 🙂





“Michael Schumacher always used to test this way”

That sounds a little sad nowadays, because when he did that he would already have spent a hundred hours or so in testing and knew the car and it’s handling characteristics inside out.

I am beginning to change my view of the test ban, whilst it equalises, it also detracts from the concept of F1 being the pinnacle of race engineering. It does not allow the best to be developed nor those behind to catch up.

Yes I know that in theory it allows the smaller teams to be closer to the front and saves money; but the resource agreement seems only to affect the small teams, while the front runners continue to have budgets of 3 or 4 times those of the tail-enders.

The current system also favours the lucky, there is always an element of luck with a new design, Torro Rosso have it this year, McLaren do not. (Red Bull don’t need it, they’ve got Aid)

With tyres good for only one lap, this year in quali it’s almost like going back to the one by one quali system of a few years back, that never suited some drivers, only now they will have to put up with other drivers on the track at the same time. Blocking will become a huge issue in qualifying this year.


I disagree I think the testing ban is rather good. It’s moved the whole pack closer together. What is also does is turns F1 from an engineering and testing sport to one that relies on engineering principles and design and not thousands of miles of testing. That to me isn’t a bad thing at all. Design of a good car isn’t about luck by any stretch of the imagination. Do you honestly believe that Adrian Newey and Nicholas Tombazis just happen to be lucky? Of course not, this is where the designers skills make a real impact. Sure some established teams appear to be losing out slightly, but that’s what happens when you have a more level playing field where teams can’t just throw money at a problem to resolve it.


And maybe Michael’s team-mate didn’t quite get the same amount of test time – I like the restricted testing regulations: same for everyone so in my view, luck will level out over a season or two.


Well, that’s not the truth, some complained that his teammates had to do all the hard work and he enjoyed them.


Hi Dom,

Any link to back that up? If not it looks like you are making that up. Plus none of his teammates ever complained of not being able to test as much as they want. May be they don’t want to do the chores who knows? So finally Nico gets the same treatment due to testing ban even though it’s the same boss?
Don’t make me laugh man


Michael was the testers tester, famous for pounding out the miles.

It’s good to see Nico being able to enjoy the same terms and conditions.



Red Bull will kick the field.

Helping themselves by helping Torro Rosso to better finishes to take more points off competition.

Ferrari looks like a challenger.

Mercedes looks behind.

McLaren will need some “spy” help to nudge them in the right direction – circa 07/08

And hopefully Renault will throw a monkey wrench in there somewhere.

If you were to enter the sectors and testing times into any season simulator I’m sure it would tell you that it will be a red male cattle that takes the prize in 2011. I just hope Vettel/Webber are knocking wheels until the finish line or every race.

Suggestion to Red Bull: Build a sufficient lead at a race track with a wide start/finish straight (after you wrap up the championship) and throw that thing into reverse on the final stretch and take the checkered flag going backwards. Seems like you’ll have the race distance margin to get it done with ease. That will play on highlight reels for years, would be #1 YouTube motor racing video ever in a matter of hours. I don’t believe it’s against the rules.


Hey, I do that all the time!

In a game though.

When I have enough lead, I try to spin my car so it crosses the line sideways or backwards.

Always wondered why no one does this.

In MotoGP, they will pull crazy wheelie across the line.


lol it’s funny you mention the spy, they haven’t had a strong car since Spygate.


Pretty worrying reliability for the Mclaren when it manages less laps than a Virgin car.

They really do need 100+ laps in their next two days of testing.

James – what will teams who wont be running tomorrow – eg mclaren – be up to?




James I read some comments from BBC commentators that McLaren use a different designer for their car every year from within their team. If true, isnt that something that would hurt them and explains why they have ended up playing catch up over the last couple of seasons? ‘Cos F1 cars when encompassed within a certain set of rules are more evolutionary. like the RB6 and RB7. Your thoughts?


With the lack of testing I believe this design methodology is now flawed and hurting them. That is if they still follow it?


Other reports say it was the begining of a 7 lap run. The fuel effect is about 0.1s per lap.


I think that Red Bull is indeed a lot faster than anybody. How come noone was able to do better than that? Not in test….but the car development…

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