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Barcelona Test Day 3: Mercedes completes race distance
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Feb 2012   |  7:57 pm GMT  |  110 comments

The penultimate day of the Barcelona test saw the Mercedes team complete a race distance on the new W03 car, which is quite impressive for a car which only began serious testing this week.

Michael Schumacher was at the wheel in the afternoon to complete a simulation, featuring live pit stops. Mercedes say the car has now done a total of 1700 kilometres, with a few niggles, but on the whole it’s been pretty reliable. “We have definitely improved our game which is what we wanted to achieve,” said Schumacher. “To what extent, we can only see later, but I am finishing with a positive feeling.”

The lap times looked good.

The feeling was less positive from Fernando Alonso as he signed off from testing the Ferrari at Barcelona. The Spaniard never managed more than short bursts of laps at a time. “I don’t know if we are competitive or not,” he said.” We’ve tested lots of things and the strengths and weaknesses we saw in Jerez are the same. It’s a complex car and we need to understand it,” he said. The body language of the Ferrari crew in Barcelona tells its own story. We’ve all known each other long enough that you can tell what kind of car a team has by watching the mechanics and engineers, without needing to look at a stopwatch or lap time clusters.

Speaking to Italian media Alonso said that the car has problems on corner exits in particular. “It’s an area where we are struggling,” he admitted. “We don’t know if it will be a season or triumph or disappointment. Our plan is ambitious; we want to win from the first race, but I don’t know where we are.” Today Felipe Massa drove the car and managed 84 laps, almost exclusively on the hard Pirelli tyres.

Jenson Button took over the McLaren and did over 100 laps, with a race simulation in the afternoon. “We’ve been really working hard to understand this year’s Pirelli tyres and getting the car to work efficiently around them. That’s a key part of the programme this winter,” said Button.

The signs are that the new Pirellis offer more rear grip relative to the front tyres than was the case in 2011. This is good news for Button and for his driving style. He got on very well with the Pirellis last year in terms of tyre management because of his smooth easy style. Although the 2012 tyres are designed to last a little longer, it looks like the characteristics of the 2012 tyres will suit him even better. One small note of caution is that because of the wider contact patch of the new tyres, the warm up isn’t quite as good. So we will see if that has any effect on Button’s qualifying performance. It’ll be one of the things McLaren will be working to engineer around in the tests before Melbourne.

Caterham had a difficult day with Vitaly Petrov struggling to find a balance in the car and a set up on which to start pushing forward. Sauber had Kamui Kobayashi in the car (above) for the first time in Barcelona and he covered almost 100 laps. Front tyre warm up was a reported issue for the team.

Pastor Maldonado set the fastest time of the day in the Williams, but like Hulkenberg’s time yesterday it cannot be compared to the front running teams as fuel loads and tyres were different.

1. Maldonado Williams 1m22.391s 106 Laps
2. Schumacher Mercedes 1m23.384s +0.993 127
3. Kobayashi Sauber 1m23.582s +1.191 99
4. Button McLaren 1m23.918s +1.527 114
5. Vergne Toro Rosso 1m24.433s +2.042 78
6. Webber Red Bull 1m24.771s +2.380 97
7. Massa Ferrari 1m24.771s +2.380 84
8. Di Resta Force India 1m25.646s +3.255 83
9. Glock Marussia 1m26.173s +3.782 108
10. Petrov Caterham 1m26.448s +4.057 70

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The river does tell a story. He continued saying,” I got ’em on swimbaits,” as he held a big fish.

It bends against the force of the wind. Pacu fish are usually fishing rod basics found

in the north-eastern part of Michigan. At top-quality coup d’oeil by an anglerfish that it is wouldn’t seem all fishing rod basics that rattling.

Miles of fishable beaches and no off season alonbg with the fishing laws.

Carp can be caught in Michigan that are very easily detected

and are quite noticeable.


Ok my first comment on this site. First a lot of ppl think that Ferrari is sandbaging which I hope they do but them being Italians means that more likely they are lost for direction, as for RBR and Merc I don’t know I think both of those teams are hiding something thats my opinion, their times are somewhat too close all 3 teams are there within 0.8se but they not diping bellow 1.23 so the real picture will be revealed next week.



So do you reckon current pecking order is Red Bull, McLaren, Mercedes followed by Ferrari ?

I just hope Ferrari can deliver a car 1-3 tenths down on front runners. Fernando will do the rest.His performance last year impressed me more than his 2005 & 2006 Championship winning years. Although I do detect some frustration in his media comments.

How do you think the rest of the grid is shaping up ?

I think Torro Rosso will continue to bulid on strong finish to last year. The traditionalist in me would love to see Williams come back strong this year. Our sport needs names like that to be successful.

Cannot wait for pitlane to open in Melbourne !


Maybe, but there is some gamesmanship going on with DRS etc, Ferrari had a better day today. It will change a lot still before Melbourne. Next week the definitive kits go on so until then it doesn’t mean a lot


Hi James,

Day 4 four at barcelona Ferrari are running pretty good…lap times are also consistent..what`s your take on this?


Looking at that picture, Kobayashi’s changed quite a lot during the break 😉


Dear James,

Schumi had a problem last year of warming his tyres in qualifying. Do you think that this wider contact patch of the new tyres is going to affect him more this year.


It is a fact by now, and very well documented all over the net Ferrari still hasn’t figure out what is best for them; nevertheless it seems from their times, tires, and possible fuel loads that present is good. I also think they do more sand bagging than the others, which in tern is also portrayed by a rather unusual for the Italian way, kind of gloomy media commutation approach. I ‘ve got the impression that during next test they will stop playing catenachio, in order to leave barcelona on a high, looking winners towards the first race, and leave others with questionmarks. By the way James,what about the engine mappings, any solid news yet?


Don’t want to spoil all of the fun, but after seeing Williams on the top, I can’t stop thinking the times are irrelevant still.

Sorry everyone, but what catches my eyes the most is Petrov… in the far back, behind last year’s Virgin\Marussia after 2 days of tests…

Good choice, Caterham! Well done =)


Yup. A single day of testing should be enough to totally adapt from the relative luxuries of a high-mid field running car to a back-marker. Good call.

The big disappointment about Caterham is their general lack of pace, Petrov or no Petorv



With a number of teams doing race simulations this week, does this mean that we have a better yardstick with which to judge the teams’ relative performance?

Presumably they don’t have as much leeway to mess with fuel loads when they have to load the cars tanks to the brim at the start?

Any chance of seeing some comparative plots?


A bit, but they aren’t all fuelling it up at the start and running to empty, they are coming in for a few mins then going out again, so hard to judge the fuel. Also some fun and games going on with DRS (using it or not using it?) etc. So not showing their hand yet. Merc times looked competitive


That Merc looks fast, first week of testing for them and already close to RB. Exciting times, we could have 3 closely matched teams going into the first race in Melbourne although I still expect RB to have a small advantage. Even with that it should not allow Vettel to storm off into the distance like last year….if Schumacher can get his car on the first 3 rows of the grid then we will see fireworks.


He’s got to regularly beat his teammate first.

It would be great to see a McLaren / Red bull / Merc 3-way battle for the title though.

I still suspect Ferrari are sandbagging and not as bad as some people are thinking, so it may even be a 4-way battle.


You mean MS needs to beat NR at qualifying. He’s out raced him quite alot last season & the trend seemed to be getting stronger & stronger as the races wore on.

NR seems to focus ALOT on qualifying performance, but seems to go backwards compared to his teammate on raceday (where the points are given). Its well documented thaty MS likes a strong front end in his car (something that the short wheelbase Merc & the pirelli front tyres didn’t give last year).

Here’s hoping the “more front end grip” from the tyres that drivers are talking about this year, + a much improved & useable longer wheelbase Mercedes (with a new front wing after 2 years at last, yay!) will play more into MS’s hands this year.



What can I say about Ferrari? I’m disappointed to see that a double world champion can’t get into a competitive car again… At best these years Ferrari has been 3rd fastest. James, has a double world champion ever had this sort of drought of a car capable of actually winning races? i know Schumacher waited awhile but he had the second fastest car a number of times. Alonso should make his way over to Mercedes as I said last year. Would love to see him and Brawn team up. In my opinion in his significantly fewer years Vettel has spent more races with a faster car.


Hi James,

Excellent info there, thanks.

Do you think Massa drove 80-odd laps on the hard tyres because Ferrari are scared they will end up repeating the last two seasons where: 1) their chassis just does not warm up the fronts; 2) the hard tyre particularly kills their speed?



No, I think they are trying to evaluate things so staying with same programme for short runs on same tyre to measure changes in other variables


So James,

After your initial impressions: can Merc fight for wins against McLaren?

Does the Merc have the potential to be a race winner?



Not sure if it’s that good. But it’ll put drivers on podium, certainly. Winning may come down to a bit of luck and certainly to development



Much appreciated James.


after the last 2 years they have had, i’ll take that, thanks!

Grayzee (Australia)

James, there is no mention of Webber’s first outing here in the RB. I heard he had car issues in the morning. Can you add anything?


P.S. I can’t trust any other reports!


I think everyone else can add to this: biased management from RBR.

Grayzee (Australia)

That would not surprise me. However, I’ve not known James to be bias, and he usually gets the info either way! There a quite a few posts here asking about RB and Webber, but no replies from James. A bit strange, eh?


Not really. Not much to say. It’s going well, car is fast, occasional reliability glitch, It will win races.


James Hamilton commented that the fronts are more grippy than the rears this year relative to lasts? Thoughts??? Given the lack of Blown diffuser adding lots of rear downforce, would this not suggest Hamilton is right???


Here is the quote

“I think we’ve got a little bit more front end in the tyres this year,” Hamilton added. “I don’t really feel the rears have improved in terms of grip but the fronts have. So then you’ve got more front and perhaps need less front wing maybe than you did last year. Plus we’ve lost the blow diffuser so we’ve lost quite a lot at the rear and we’re trying to offload any at the front to the rear.”


Good to see Williams have the confidence to go for a time, and Maldonado looks more comfortable in the car than Senna. May have been a light run but the time is good for this stage of the game. I was getting worried that they were quite a bit behind Sauber, Force India, and Torro Rosso but perhaps they are all closer than was first apparant.


Mercedes look like they might stick it to McLaren and red bull, although i think its between them and lotus to fight for left-overs, mclaren and redbull look too good so far.

Ferrari look like they’re lost, the car just doesn’t look good. Ugly cars seldom win championships.


If you say ugly, they are all fugly bar McLaren. So how does ugly come into it to rate performance / winning chances?


Tell me how many of the last few years title winning cars were ugly? The Ferrari just looks awkward, and doesn’t sit well on the road…


All the cars from last few years were ugly if you ask me, these fat front wings and narrow rears. I don’t appreciate the RBR nose much either from 2009-10.


Hi James,

This is a little off topic and I apologise, but I stumbled across this video this evening and thought it was fantastic:

I think an event like this would be a great way to end the season and allow the drivers to let their hair down a little, not to mention letting us see some wheel to wheel action in equal machinery!

I could picture somewhere like Abu Dhabi building an indoor karting arena. We could have F1 drivers leading teams with perhaps a GP2 driver team mate taking part over a weekend, lets say a series of heats on Friday evening and Saturday leading to a final on Sunday?

Have a word and pull some strings James!


Fantastic! I remember that event.

They still do it today, organised by Philippe Streiff with electric karts at Bercy with some F1 drivers, but the Race of Champions has come along and taken the top F1 guys at that time of year


I think the Williams pace shouldn’t be downplayed too much. I’m obviously not suggesting that they are the car to beat for 2012 or anything, but the fact that they have done more laps than anyone so far, and have good reliability, bodes very well for their car. If they were going to do low-fuel, flying laps just to entice sponsors then they probably would have done it much earlier in the test. They’re not the first team to take some fuel out, slap on a set of super-softs and go for glory, and so far they have the fastest time of all. Positive signs from the new technical team at Williams.



the lap times are meaningless without some context of the tyres used and stint lenght….

Last year you had some graphs of laptimes, overlaid for different run lengths…

(last year you were showing the high wear of the new perilli tyres…)

Do you plan to publish similar plots this year??

Are there any sites were we can get full laptimes from the tests??




Would I be wrong in suggesting Jenson isn’t so happy with the McLaren’s balance? Seems to be a consistent thread in his comments. Not that this relates to actual performance.


I’m a massive Button fan but apart from the first six or seven races of 2009 has he ever not complained about the balance? I think it’s just buttons thing now.

Alonso will say ‘for sure – we must maximize our potencial’ in an Italian inflected Spanish accent.

Button will say ‘the balance just wasn’t quite right…’

It’s like brundle saying ‘an extreme rate of knots’ at least 29 times per GP. There are some things you can always rely on!


Kimi Raikonnen. “we will just have to wait and see”


i used to like Kimi’s “pretty ok”.


Haha, or Vettel in his interviews with “obviously”.

I used to count how many times he says that word in post race interviews. I know it’s a bad habit, but it makes us look like we are stupid or something, because it seems everything is obvious to him.


Hi James, I have a question regarding tyres.

Last year we’ve seen huge build up of marbles and it didn’t really affect the racing yet in previous years- tyres wars especially – the racing could be mundane.

Is it because of the ‘race within a race’ effect which you get from tyre wars?

Or could it be ‘the cliff’ effect of the Pirellis?

BTW, do the new Pirellis reach ‘the cliff’?


Not as much no, they don’t drop off suddenly like last year


C’mon James, your reports a bit light on for someone at the trackside! There’s a blue car there somewhere you failed to mention. Can’t remember their name…something about double world championns I think.


I’m back in UK now, was at the Bernie conference this morning.. keep up!


James, when you say Button did a “race simulation” in the afternoon, do you mean like Mclaren say, a “race-distance simulation”. This is actually a key difference, as in their reace-distance simulation, they appeared to refuel between stints, meaning comparisons between RB are pointless over the whole simulation.

However, looking at specific stints can provide some insight. For example, on Mark’s 2nd stint, after a first stint of 11 laps and on the hard tyres, he put in a 16 lap stint with an average of 1:29.353 (excluding the oddly slow last lap). Jenson put in a very similar stint on the 3rd of his simulation, but the first 2 were almost identical, so I assume Mclaren had re-fueled him between those two. The 2nd of those to was also 11 laps, like Mark’s, so assuming no fuel was taken out, Jenson would have been on very similar fuel to that of Mark on his 2nd stint. He was also on the hard tyres and did a similar 16 lap stint with an average time of 1:29.277 (again excluding the last lap for fairness).

Now obviously there may have been a small difference in fuel, but I would have thought no more than a 10th or 2 per lap, meaning they were very close. What do you make of this?



Hi James, Im very worried about the ferrari. Is this going to be a repet of 2011? What are the atvantages of having a front pull rod suspension? Thank you.


A front pullrod suspension will slightly lower the center of gravity.

A lower center of gravity is desirable, because it lessens the forces that try to make the car roll and pitch, which also is of aerodynamic benefit (less roll and pitch means more constant distance to the ground), also Ferrari think that the angle of the pullrod disturbs the airflow in a less negative way than a push rod would.

But with a nose as high as that, a front pullrod suspension comes with some drawbacks, which is a very tight angle, that will hardly move the dampers and that requires a much stronger rod, compared to a front push rod. This is no problem in the back of the car, because the rod can be mounted very low, which gives a much better angle, but in the front this is a bit of a problem.

Ferrari think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

In the back everyone is going for pull rod suspension this season (2011 Ferrari did not, so pullrods is all new for them this year). Pullrods in the back compromise accessibility for the team, but they come with a good angle, low center of gravity and a much slimmer top of the gearbox (while is grows a bit wider at the bottom). See Craig Scarborough’s blog for more details on rear pullrod suspension:


Thanks so much for explaining. If the car is going to be stiffer at the front does that mean the car would have a hard time handling the kerbs.


Don’t know. Neither do they.

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