The winter testing season is at an end; the next time most F1 teams will fire up the engines will be on Friday morning practice in Melbourne less than two weeks from now.
And the picture that has emerged from testing is pretty much as it has seemed throughout the month of track action: Red Bull lead the way and are likely to fight against McLaren initially, while a group of four or five teams look quite close together on pace with Mercedes and Lotus at the head, Force India in the mix and Ferrari struggling.
Ferrari has looked in trouble ever since the car started running, but this week confirmed that the technical team has yet to get on top of its complex new car and with Red Bull unveiling a B Spec car which has a radical exhaust concept, something Ferrari could not get to work, the feeling of drift has been exacerbated.
Asked if he felt Ferrari were contenders for a podium in Melbourne, Ferrari technical director Pat Fry said, “At the moment I’d say no.
“We are disappointed with the performance level seen at these tests and I think we have a lot of work ahead of us. It will only be in Melbourne that we will get a clear answer as to whether we have to be very disappointed or just a little, how far we really are off the front runners and consequently how much ground we have to make up to get there.
“Clearly the decision relating to the exhausts that we took last week meant we took a few steps backwards in terms of development. How much? Difficult to say right now.”
The final day was short on revelations: Red Bull had some problems following an off for Sebastian Vettel which damaged the front wing, and did not at any stage of this test go for a flat out qualifying lap, preferring to run with fuel, as it has all winter.
Meanwhile HRT, which has missed all the testing due to problems passing crash tests and preparing the cars, will at least do a filming day at Barcelona on Monday, which is allowed under FIA rules.
Lotus once again went for a time, Kimi Raikkonen signing off his first winter test season since 2009 with the fastest time,
“The fastest time at the end of the day looks good but no-one will know how fast any of the cars are until we get to qualifying at Albert Park,” said the 2007 champion. “All the changes we have made over testing have been improving the car, so we’ll have to see what happens in Melbourne in a couple of weeks’ time. I’m feeling positive.”
Lotus team boss Eric Boullier said that after the disappointment of missing the second test due to a construction issue, the third test had been a boost for the whole team, “We’ve been able to confirm that the changes made to the car fixed our front suspension problems. We were confident that the redesign was well conceived and well executed, but we have demonstrated the integrity of the modified part,” he said.
BARCELONA TEST, Day 4
1. Raikkonen Lotus 1m22.030s 121 Laps
2. Alonso Ferrari 1m22.250s +0.220 115
3. Senna Williams 1m22.296s +0.266 53
4. Hulkenberg Force India 1m22.312s +0.282 101
5. Kobayashi Sauber 1m22.386s +0.356 72
6. Hamilton McLaren 1m22.430s +0.400 115
7. Petrov Caterham 1m22.795s +0.765 101
8. Schumacher Mercedes 1m22.939s +0.909 100
9. Maldonado Williams 1m23.347s +1.317 48
10. Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m23.393s +1.363 100
11. Vettel Red Bull 1m23.608s +1.578 23