In today’s second day of testing at Jerez ahead of the start of the 2012 F1 season it was Michael Schumacher who set the pace, following on from Kimi Raikkonen’s performance yesterday. This test marks the first occasion the pair have shared a race track since 2006, when Schumacher retired and Raikkonen took his drive at Ferrari.
The seven times world champion was at the wheel of the 2011 Mercedes, the only top team not to bring its new car to the first test.
After some early fast laps by Red Bull’s Mark Webber, Schumacher lowered the bar set by Raikkonen yesterday to the mid 1m 18s, substantially faster than the same car managed at an early stage in 2011. This shows the development a car goes through in the course of a year. Red Bull’s Christian Horner has estimated the improvement of a car from a front running team at around two seconds from pre-season test to last Grand Prix of the year.
Schumacher was using the old Mercedes to evaluate the new Pirelli tyres and today soft and medium compounds were tried out by many teams. These are new tyres for 2012, with only the supersoft from 2011 remaining in Pirelli’s range this year.
Yesterday’s pace setter Raikkonen spent much of the morning in the Lotus garage after going off track into the gravel on an early run.
Webber was second fastest while Toro Rosso’s new boy Dan Ricciardo continues to go well in third ahead of the Force India car which was driven today by reserve driver Jules Bianchi. But the times are not yet really significant as there are various programmes at work in these early stages with the new cars.
Ferrari and McLaren continues to take their time to get up to speed. Everyone has different programmes to work through in these early days, depending on the nature of their car. Ferrari, for example, has more work than the others in terms of measuring the car’s behaviour and understanding it because it is a completely new design, a total break from the past. Most other cars are an evolution of a design philosophy from last year.
The teams need to make sure that the aerodynamic data on the track matches the data coming from the wind tunnel – this was an area where Ferrari struggled last year, for example at this early stage. Then there are new electronic systems to check over, loads passing through Ferrari’s radical new pullrod front and rear suspension need to be measured and understood. There is a lot to do before the team can start to chase some performance from it.
One area where there will be a lot of development for everyone over the next month is in the position of the exhausts. These have been moved by regulation, to outlaw the exhaust blown diffusers of the last two seasons. Now they must be placed, higher, further towards the front of the car and the exits must be round.
Everyone was cagey about this before testing started, with McLaren even launching its car with fake exhausts! Engineers say that the final position of the exhausts for most teams won’t be defined until the end of the testing season.
There are a number of different interpretations on view in Jerez, although nothing radical so far. Ferrari designer Nicolas Tombazis told Gazzetta dello Sport yesterday that there is nothing on any car which Ferrari hasn’t thought of.
Red Bull has the lowest exhausts, below the rear suspension arm, still working with part of the floor at least. Many teams are blowing across the bottom element of the rear wing, McLaren have their exhausts well forward in the sidepods, Lotus Renault have a straightforward exhaust exit of the kind we saw in F1 a few years ago.
Jerez Testing: Day 2
1 Schumacher Mercedes 1m18.561s 132 laps
2 Webber Red Bull 1m19.184s +0.623 97 Laps
3 Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m19.587s +1.026 100 Laps
4 Bianchi Force India 1m20.221s +1.660 46 Laps
5 Raikkonen Lotus 1m20.239s +1.678 117 Laps
6 Di Resta Force India 1m20.272s +1.711 69 Laps
7 Massa Ferrari 1m20.454s +1.893 95 Laps
8 Button McLaren 1m20.688s +2.127 85 Laps
9 Perez Sauber 1m20.711s +2.150 67 Laps
10 Maldonado Williams 1m21.197s +2.636 97 Laps
11 Kovalainen Caterham 1m21.518s +2.957 139 Laps
12 De la Rosa HRT 1m22.128s +3.567 64 Laps