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Barcelona Test Day 4: Leading teams playing it cagey, big changes for next test
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Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Feb 2012   |  8:28 pm GMT  |  172 comments

The second pre-season test drew to a close today in Barcelona with all the leading teams focussing on longer runs and not on setting headline lap times.

The next test will be the one where we see the definitive Melbourne specifications and there is no doubt that for most teams there are some big updates coming. This is certainly true for Red Bull and McLaren, no doubt for Ferrari and Mercedes too.

Mark Webber certainly hinted that Red Bull has some big changes in the pipeline, “We have a lot of work to do back in Milton Keynes over the next few days to get the car ready for the next test. We’ve done well over these two first tests and the feeling is pretty good,” he said.

Red Bull hasn’t been doing headline grabbing lap times this week, there is some gamesmanship going on between teams on fuel loads, use of DRS wings and so on, perhaps even more than normal. Usually by this stage we’ve seen some fast laps, but so far this year it’s just been Williams, Force India and Sauber stretching the car’s legs on performance runs on new soft tyres.

Mercedes did another race distance with Nico Rosberg this time at the wheel; it’s been a good first week for the new car from the UK based German team. Ferrari had a better day with Felipe Massa saying that the afternoon session gave glimpses of how much potential the car has. A lot is riding on the final test for the Scuderia, which has shifted to a Friday to Monday programme, from Thursday to Sunday. This will give one extra day for production of new parts. Red Bull are doing the same, while Lotus can make up one of the days lost this week after a chassis failure.

The Pirelli tyres are clearly lasting longer than the 2011 models, although they still degrade, so there’s no return to Bridgestone type performance. In the cooler conditions seen at times this week the tyres have degraded quickly, but this shouldn’t be so much of a problem in warmer conditions.

Some engineers have suggested that the gap between the soft and medium is a little too small, but again time will tell. For Melbourne the tyre choice is soft and medium, but in Malaysia it’s medium and hard so we’ll get a good picture in the first two races.

Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said, “The teams completed 17,207 kilometres as opposed to 14,949 kilometres in Jerez. This allowed them to gather plenty of data on all four slick tyres that we can now analyse in order to come up with a few different scenarios for the first races related to strategy options and crossover points. As we expected, most teams chose to concentrate on the medium tyre, with the emphasis often on aerodynamic set-up work rather than tyre evaluation.”

Caterham have had a tough week, with a variety of issues on the car. Today they had an engine change to make after an electrical problem, “Things haven’t exactly gone as we would have liked, but I think we all know where the car can and should be when it gets real in Australia,” said Heikki Kovalainen, “So now the challenge is to regroup in time for next week and make sure we come back here ready to put in a final week of hard work on track and get back to where we want to be.”

Marussia also struggled today with their 2011 car, a suspension problem preventing them from doing any running. Their new car, the first produced in house, will appear at the final test next week. HRT meanwhile has passed two of the crash tests and is taking another. It will be touch and go for them to make Melbourne and it’s looking as though the car’s first lap might be in practice at Albert Park.

BARCELONA TEST, Day 4
1. 1. Kobayashi Sauber 1:22.312 144 Laps
2. 2. Maldonado Williams 1:22.561 134
3. 3. Di Resta Force India 1:23.119 101
4. 4. Button McLaren 1:23.200 115
5. 5. Massa Ferrari 1:23.563 103
6. 6. Webber Red Bull 1:23.774 85
7. 7. Vergne Toro Rosso 1:23.792 92
8. 8. Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.843 139
9. 9. Kovalainen Caterham 1:26.968 70

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1

It is appropriate time to make a few plans for the future and it’s time to be happy. I’ve learn this publish and if I could I wish to recommend you few interesting issues or tips. Maybe you could write subsequent articles relating to this article. I desire to learn more things approximately it!

2

Vote on this poll for the car that has most impressed you in the testing period so far. Right now Mclaren are marginally favoured over red bull !

http://f1predictions.net/polls/results/index.php?pollnum=16

3

Its all smoke and mirrors at this stage. Its rare that something like 2009 happens, when Brawn pitched up with a huge leap forward. But for what its worth, my humble opinion of where the teams are at is this:

Red Bull – still the ones to beat, Vettel almost untouchable, 3rd straight title, Webber’s final year, maybe a Ferrari swansong in 2013/14?

McLaren – much closer than this time last year, nothing to separate JB and Lewis – will they take points off each other?

Mercedes – new car seems good from the box, definite podiums, would love to see both drives grab a win

Ferrari – a lot of work to do, intense pressure to perform, Massa’s final season

Force India – good car, great driver line-up

Toro Rosso – another good car, intriguing driver line-up, massive battle with FI

Sauber – yet another decent midfield Sauber, Perez to Ferrari in 2013 if Webber doesn’t go there

Williams – massive mountain to climb, huge pressure, but they won’t win the midfield battle

Caterham – best of the “new” teams, close to midfield, should get some points especially Heikki

Marussia – must start moving forward, failed to deliver on the presentational promise

HRT – hanging on by their fingernails, but they managed to not be disgraced on race pace in 2011

The final test might start to show some clarity, but roll on Q1 Melbourne!

4

James, first of all, as this is my first post here – great site! You truly understand Formula One.

Now for my question

How much of a role does the set-up for a weekend play, compared to the raw pace of the car?

Would you say, a car which is ultimately a second off the pace can gain this time, solely by getting their setup spot on? (theoretically using 2 identical driver skill levels and track conditions)

5

Quite a bit. YOu need to get everything right over a weekend to do well. THe margins are very tight. It also has a lot to do with driver confidence. Set up can make the driver feel more like hanging it all out, if he feels confident. Only the really special guys can push that hard in a car they don’t trust

6

I’m not sure if any team actually goes in for sandbagging as such, or put another way deliberately go slower by virtue of the throttle to hide pace. They would simply put more fuel in if they wanted to hide pace as they can extrapolate the corresponding more lightly loaded pace as they know what each kilo of fuel equates to. That said heavier cars do handle differently, but again they would be able to factor that out to understand where they are. What it really means is that for us it is one big guessing game until we reach the first qualifying session. – I can’t wait, but if Red Bull end up on pole by some margin there will be one almighty groan from this household.

7

To see my pics from all 4 testing days, follow link below:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/76209009@N03/

8

very nice pictures Sammy. Thanks for sharing them with us.

9

I was at the circuit – I can tell you that all laptimes from Rosberg on day 4 are in-accurate as he was holding his foot from the throttle every lap in turn 3. As for Ferrari, I spoke with some mechanics (same hotel) and they seemed to be very confident in this years car. Next week they will do some runs with low fuel and super softs just to see where they are and to give the Italian press something to write about.

I think the top teams are just sandbagging, none of them actually know where they are at the moment – compared to each other.

10

Hi Sammy. What evidence makes you say Rosberg was holding back on turn three? Just curious.

11

We were standing in turn 3 during the whole day and you could clearly hear he was lifting a lot when he was in the middle of the corner. The other cars where almost flat, building up speed so they could shift from 4 to 5…

Keke Rosberg was standing next to us for about half an hour and when I asked him why his son was lifting, he was just smiling…

12

Possibly, yes.

I remember he has done a race simulation on that day, so his times were irrelevant.

13

Uhh maybe they were testing some kind of exhaust blowing when off throttle ??

14

I cant believe how silly some people here can be.Looking for meaning in speed traps. RBR, Mclaren were not the fastest in straight line in 2011, & yes Teams like Torro Rosso were. Even if they were all flat out in testing (laughs) what does it mean- nothing!

Of the new cars that Mercedes is a stunning package- very compact!. I definitely think it will be on the podium often in 2012.I notice some pics show the Merc & (to a lesser extent) -Ferrari have a shorter wheelbase. James can you notice this in the pit lane ?

Does anyone remember last year.Mclaren were seconds off the pace & what happened first race!. Its just waste of time trying to work out. I reckon for sure Mclaren RBR, Ferrari, and even Mercedes wont show full pace till Melb.

As for HRT, fair go people- does anyone think the team like spending Xmillions of dollars & coming last.Besides they have new management so its a new challenge again. I m sure if they dont make progress they will pull the plug themselves. !

As far as V8 supercars go..HRT is rubbish also- go ford ! & for the “Red neck” westies reading here- You were smashed by Nissan and I pray you get smashed again when they race under local formula this time round.!

Bring on the next test & news of Lotus chasis issue?.. Call me sceptical but I think Lotus are changing a “design feature” on that E20. Again this package along with the Maclaren& Merc “looks” great!

15

Ferrari’s wheelbase is larger than last year.

16

Oh ok..the pics on other sites show it smaller than the other 2012 cars.

17

HRT are all passed test now and will be there for 2 of the 4 test days next week according to Autosport?

18

While it’s interesting to speculate we really can’t read anything into the times without understanding the programme each team is on with respect to fuel load and tyres. Testing is notoriously misleading a good example being Ferrari last year looking strong in test, but lacking pace on the race track. The final Barcelona test will be interesting to see if anything is fundamentally different as they edge closer to Melbourne race trim. McLaren must be in a better position than last year having completed some meaningful test programmes. Everyone thinks Red Bull are very strong and it is a good bet, but I’d say let’s not pre-judge. Ferrari are an unknown quantity as are Mercedes, but I suspect the slower of the two may have their hands full battling with Lotus come race day.

19

James,

What do you think about some rumours that Mercedes hiding something “like double diffuser”? Is it true that mechanics were ereceting huge screens in front of the pits between test runs in Barcelona?

20

All teams hide behind big screens in testing.

I’m told that the diffuser is very interesting on the Merc. I posted that on Wednesday

21

I think one of the Big-Four is hiding something big. Is it Ferrari? McLaren? Red Bull? or Mercedes? We won’t be finding out until the 17th of March — when the Polesetter will then reveal it all.

22

Force India is third fastest form my observations. Then ferrari and merc.

23

When you make claims like that you should really, really try and back it up with some data/stats/propaganda.

I would happily place quite a large sum of money on FI *not* being the third fastest car!

24

“The Pirelli tyres are clearly lasting longer than the 2011 models, although they still degrade, so there’s no return to Bridgestone type performance. “

This shows what I said previously about Pirelli being incompetent in making a strong, durable tyre rather than trying to make ‘racing exciting’ is correct. They are just plain incompetent, not as they claim trying to improve the spectacle. I’d appreciate it better if they just admit to it rather than just tell lies to cover up and get teams on their side to agree to this false claim.

25

pirelli were asked NOT to just make a strong , durable tyre a la bridgestone , and , thank heavens , they haven’t ; personally I think they did an amazing job for their first season

on the subject of tyres , it seems to me to be likely that the top teams have been saving a lot of their limited allocation for the final barca tests….they all plan to have major upgrades then so will need all the tyres they can get !

26

Yer, that’s how it was if you believe in their PR and press releases.

It was Pirelli who said it was the teams who asked them, the teams said nothing of this to the public prior to Pirelli released this. From their degradation and other issues over 2011, it’s more likely that they were just incompetent rather than unwilling to make a durable tyre comparable to the Bridgestones.

And IF the tyres were intentionally made to last for 10 laps at most, racing is even more artificial than what everyone already complains about with that cliff-hanging tyre idea behind the concept of ‘racing’, as mentioned in my comments from JA’s previous articles. You seen how racing was many years ago? Some one here posted a video not so long ago. Tyres should last all the way so drivers don’t need to nurse them to make racing flat-out fighting, rather than “ohhh it’s falling off i can’t push”. That’s almost like making the driver to drive with one hand tied without the ability to push as much as he wants.

27

No I really do not recall they were ‘every bit as durable as the Bridgestones’. The ‘delibrately’ went conservation as I said is what they made people like YOU believe.

28

You are aware arent you that the Pirelli test tyres used in 2010 where every bit as durable as the Bridgestones being raced that year? Or that they deliberatly went conservative with side wall construction last year as they dont have any information to fall back on about tyre loudings?

29

A question from the ill informed to all of you.

Is this how it stacks up for the motors being used by the respective teams?

Are all Renaults/Ferraris/Mercedes the same as other motors of the same brand, i.e. is a Ferrari Ferrrari motor the same as a Torro Rosso Ferrari motor?

Will Cosworth stay on?

And Anand, I too am on the western edge of the pond.

Ferrari Ferrari

McLaren Mercedes

Mercedes Mercedes

Toro Rosso Ferrari

Red Bull Renault

Lotus Renault

Caterham Renault

Force India Mercedes

Williams Renault

Marussia Cosworth

Sauber Ferrari

30

From an operations point of view it makes sense that the engine specs and build would be the same between the works and customer engines. It wouldn’t make sense to change the factory tools just to elaboratly give someone else a disadvantage. Mclaren dont seem to suffer any against the Merc GP team

I suspect though that the works teams have better maintainence and wear monitoring staffed in their garages throughout the race weekends. Also if there happens to be one of those ‘reliabilty’ upgrades, then the works team would get the first taste of the new engines.

31

Thanks Double Eyepatch.

32

James,

As Jenson and Lewis has been running the Jessica Nose – Has Seb been running the Witchipoo Nose ?

Any names for Seb’s new car yet.

Congratulations to Merc getting on the pace so quickly with long runs – Shows the big team ethics coming through.

33

Hi James

I’ve been reading the many comments about the new Ferrari (and apologise of you’ve answered this already), but was wondering if you have any insight into their chang of philosophy on the new car? To a fan looking from the outside in, the Ferrari of the past two years has seemed a good car. And after the performance at Silverstone last year seemed like the ban on the blown exhaust would favour them and their car. So why the massive change? Seems a bit overkill.

34

It wasn’t a bad car, but it wasn’t fast enough. So it didn’t win.

They felt they needed to take some risks with the design to get ahead of Red Bull. It hasn’t happened straight away, but the car clearly has potential

35

Hi James, when you say clearly has potential, what are you looking at or how do people come to that assesesment? I remember at one point last year the same was said of the 150th Italia (don’t remember when exactly) but it turned out not to be fast enough.

36

James

One of the responses posted earlier showed a link of an analysis of lap times over the week and it painted a picture that the current pecking order is RBR, Ferrari and then the rest. It also painted a picture that on similar tires the difference between Vettel / Alonson was less then 3 tenths. How accurate is this in your opinion?

Also i read another article where a reporter said he witnessed ferrari fitting a nose to their car and it took 4 engineers to lift it and fit in in place. Is this normal or is it a possible sign that Ferrari are sandbagging?

Thanks

Shane

37

The second point is almost certainly nonsense.

The first one, its hard to be that precise because of fuel loads (unknown) and DRS use.

38

James, what kind of topspeeds we are having for each team?

39

Mercedes 320.5
Toro Rosso 319.5
Caterham 318.5
Force India 317.5
Sauber 315.8
McLaren 314.9
Ferrari 311.2
Williams 311.2
Red Bull 310.3

40

Hmmm was hoping for good things from Caterham this year, but 3rd best in a straight line and worst on a lap time, no mater how you play with fuel loads, not looking to good

41

Hmm that totall tells a picture… its clear how the main teams are hanging back in their performance in this game of chess…

42

That is VERY interesting reading. There’s no way I believe that the Caterham will be faster in a straight line than everybody bar Mercedes.

I think this goes to show how much more potential Red Bull, McLaren & Ferrari in particular have left to show. Not looking quite so positive for Mercedes, then.

43

Thats an interesting statistic.

I wonder what DRS set up Red Bull will be favouring, whether they run a set up for qualifying or the race.

44

But that could be with wing open or closed, no? Seems like a continuation of last year, when Mercedes and Toro Rosso always topped the speed trap charts, with Red Bull always near the bottom, with their higher drag.

45

What is it with HRT and their continuous struggle to get a car ready each year? Once was heroic, now it seems like folly.

46

So i guess Ferrari won’t be ready for the first race… some heads are going to roll if that’s the case.

47

Not ready for the first race???? Of course they will be ready for the first race; maybe just not as quick as they would like to be.

48

designers? engineer? team principals? drivers?

49

I think the whole lot, you just get the feeling that a lot of people are expecting a lot more from them that they are giving right now. It turns out that Alonso is not the bringer of hope that Ferrari had hoped. (one man does not make a team)

50

Do Marussia and HRT get an extra day at the next test much like Mercedes have and Lotus will?

51

Doubt they can afford it

52
Grayzee (Australia)

Excellent analysis, once again, Mr Allen.

I would also like to thank you for your efforts in replying to so many of our questions.

53

Should a car really be allowed to shake down at the first race of the year? Personally, I really think it dangerous.

54

I believe the 107% rule is there for this reason.

55

It presumably won’t make the 107% rule, as per last year. Friday practice and Saturday quali will be used as a late chance test session.

56

HI James, thanks for the comprehensive articles of the past 4 days.

It has been great to see how many replies to direct questions you have responed to. Keep up the great work, your an asset to the F1 community.

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