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Analysing a few pointers and trends from First F1 test of 2013
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Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Feb 2013   |  8:48 pm GMT  |  116 comments

The first F1 test of the 2013 season at Jerez provided little in the way of concrete pointers for the season that lies ahead; we do not know who is favourite for pole in Melbourne yet. But one would not expect to at this stage, as it was only the first test and the cars will change a lot before the season proper starts again with Melbourne qualifying on March 16.

Many of the cars started the week looking like 2012 models, but the wind tunnel models will look quite different already.

However, it is possible to read some trends and some signs from the testing done so far; to look at the kind of car some of the teams are dealing with, to look at early indications of how they are using the tyres and at some trends on single lap and longer run pace. So here are some pointers, with the thoughts of JA on F1’s technical adviser Prof Mark Gillan.

The first thing to say is that it is clearly going to be very close this year at the front and also between midfield teams, so we should have a really exciting championship and points will be hard to get for the midfielders.

It will come down to development, as always, but with no rule changes the gains the teams can make are constantly diminishing in size, so it could come down to tiny margins later in the year.


Red Bull

The new Red Bull looks a step forward from the car that ended the 2012 season fighting for wins with McLaren. Aerodynamically it is efficient, as Adrian Newey’s cars always are. It’s not done any eye catching times yet; this is classic Red Bull, they don’t show their hand.

As has been the trend in recent years, the Red Bull is the second slowest car on the straights: Vettel was clocked at 291km/h in the speed trap, compared to 305km/h for Force India and Lotus.

Last year their double DDRS system increased their straight line speed without sacrificing downforce in the corners towards the end of the season, but without it (and without being able to use DRS anything like as much under 2013 rules) they are back down the list.

This doesn’t matter if you are the quickest car and start from pole. But if you are in a battle, being 10-15km/h slower than your rivals could prove your Achilles Heel in a race.

The Red Bull’s longer runs on the Red Bull look consistent and fast, so they are on target. But they have lost something due to new rules on aeroelasticity on the front wings (i.e. flex wings) and one of the key areas engineers will be studying from the test data is how much performance has been lost there.


Ferrari

The Ferrari set the fastest time of the four day test in Jerez, with Felipe Massa dipping into the 1m 17s on Day 3. The new Ferrari is a good step forward from last year’s car and clearly is not riddled with problems, as last year’s was on its debut. This meant that Ferrari was able to crack on with testing development parts from as early as Day 2. They ran different exhausts, floor, diffuser and front wing in Jerez and many new things are no doubt planned for the Barcelona tests.

The Ferrari is using a DRS booster system using a Fluidic Switch, which channels air flow above a certain speed to increase the drag reduction system. It’s a difficult thing to get working right on a race track, but could be a useful gain if they nail it. Most of the top teams will probably evolve one as the year goes on.

It looks like this innovation could be the first “must-have” technology gizmo of the 2013 season.

The goal for Ferrari was to start the season with a car that is at or close to the pace of the front runner, as that will provide a platform for Fernando Alonso’s relentless consistency to mount a title campaign.


McLaren

McLaren maybe just shaded Round 1 – this first test – but it’s debatable.

Jenson Button’s lap in the 1m 18s on hard tyres on a dirty track on Day 1 was an eye opener. The McLaren hasn’t done anything eye catching since, but it got all their competitors wondering. At this stage the car looks better on the hard tyre than the soft, but there is a lot of new parts and set up changes to come so that may not be a pattern for the season. If you take a one second delta for the hard to the soft tyre, then this equals the Massa’s time on Day 3 when allowing for the tyre difference, but Button did the time on a dirty track on Day 1, whereas the track was clearly faster when Massa did his time. So it’s close, but the McLaren looks fast.


Lotus
The Lotus was arguably the most consistent car across the 2012 season and this year’s model looks like a nice improvement. They will be there or thereabouts, which is good news for Kimi Raikkonen fans.

James Allison’s technical team approaches things in a sensible, pragmatic way if new ideas aren’t working out. The feedback so far has been good and the car looked fast on the single lap runs on the soft tyre. Qualifying was a weakness of the 2012 car, so this is an area they have to get right this year if they are to better their 2012 results.


Mercedes
The Mercedes had reliability setbacks on the first two days, but they also didn’t look as strong as the front running Red Bull, Lotus, McLaren and Ferrari in the two high mileage days. The car is definitely losing its tyres on the longer runs, so they still have a lot to do, but Hamilton is making all the right noises and it’s really down to development from here.


Sauber
Sauber is always a dark horse, they were impressive last year in terms of capability to manage the tyre. They are on a similar budget level to Lotus, but have always done a good job. They aren’t far away and look to be ahead of Mercedes at this early stage.

Gutierrez caught the eye with some fast, consistent longer runs at the end of the week. It’s easy to go well in testing; for him the mental pressure of stepping up to having to deliver on a race weekend will be the challenge, it’s a big step up that some drivers don’t manage and we will watch that with interest.

What are the teams trying to achieve in a test?

F1 Teams are very regimented, they run 4 fuel levels: 20kg, 60kg, 80kg and 140kg. Most of the running you see at tests is done in 60-80kg loads. The only time they will do 140kg full tank runs is when they do a race simulation. The only time they will do less than 20kg, is when they simulate qualifying prior to the race simulation run.

Serious teams don’t run less than 20kg, which is a six-lap run. They have to be careful because the tyres don’t last more than a couple of timed laps.

Temperatures this week were 15 degrees, which isn’t too bad for winter testing, but it’s still not representative of the race weekend running which is usually 30 degrees plus and this is always one of the unknowns coming away from winter testing.

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1

If you look up Sauber’s new nosecone, it resmble the concave curve similar to HRT’s nose cone last year, and we all know how that ended.

2

Same thoughts here. Even the livery is similar to HRT!

Not sure why they think they’d gain anything out of HRT…….. o_O

Just hope Pete Sauber didn’t leave his team in the wrong hands……. 🙁

3

James, can you expand at all on your tweet about the McLaren/Cosworth rumours? Multiple sources etc.

Is there an element of truth there, or was it quashed entirely by McLaren as fanciful speculation.

4

Am I dreaming here? Everyone seems to to basing their predictions on the Jerez fastest times.

Same thing every year, RedBull sandbag the blow everyone away then everyone plays catch up.

RedBull again unless Mclaren have a good car like 2007 and 2008.

5

.. or 2012?

McLaren started out very strong early in the 2012 season before shooting themselves in the feet as the season goes on.

6

It would be great to get your analysis of the Torro Rosso. They looked to have strong performance through testing and have made significant progress on last year.

It is a shame they haven’t reversed the red and the blue on the design of the car to differentiate themselves from the Red Bulls.

Thanks

7

Sauber has bucked the 2013 technical trend for high noses and deep undercuts to channel air to the diffuser.

Their approach is a low nose and an overcut on the air inlets to channel air to the diffuser area.It is an approach that has produced what is easily the most beautiful 2013 car.

It would be interesting to see how their philosophy does against the rest of the field.

8

Which team has more advantages/disadvantages? Sergio Perez sharing his Sauber secrets with McLaren, or Lewis Hamiltion taking with him some McLaren secrets to Mercedes?

9

RBR / Newey, without the need to know other teams’ secrets. He has his own!

10

What about the back end teams, How are they getting on James? Or will this be for another article?

11

James, maybe you can unriddle this…

Why is everybody so hyped about this ‘amazing’ laptime of Felipe Massa (or anyone else’s), if….

– last years best testingtime at Jerez was 0.2 sec quicker (Nico Rosberg)

– with an average 0.15 sec development gain each race during last season, cars should already have been 2-3 seconds faster, even without the work done in the winter, due to the stability in regulations.

I think times are fairly slow…Is this the new tire, or what am I missing..??

Thanks

12

Nico Rosberg set that time with the 2011 car, second fastest time was Grosjean’s 1:18:419.

13

Ok thanks, mist that one.

But it really doesn’t make a lot of difference to the point I was making..

14

What I don’t understand is that the Mercs are still eating tires four years in a row. What’s wrong with their R&D?

15

Thanks for the great analysis recently!

16

@ James Allen

Why Mclaren had no parts in Jerez this week?

I read an article about Sam Michael saying that they will have new parts only at the last two days of testing in Barcelona. I know that all the teams will bring the latest package for Melbourne, but until than all the teams test some new parts either in Jerez, or at the second test in Barcelona.

So, why Mclaren so slow in bringing new parts?

If you know something please post here, I’m a loyal fan of this site 🙂 Thanks

17

The Mclaren is the fasttest car. On a dirty track and on hrd tyres it should be quicker by half a second than the Ferrari ( 1 second difference between hard-soft, and 0.5 seconds the dirty track)

18

I have not seen ferrari trying a passive DDRS yet. Lotus tried the merc’s version and Merc the lotus version. None of the other teams have tried one in this test.

19

Would you really see it as such anyway though? If it’s a hidden fluid switch that triggers stalling of the air over the rear wing or whatever, you’re not necessarily going to know any team are using it unless maybe one run they’re doing 300 down the straight and the next time they go out they’re suddenly able to clock 320. Or perhaps if a car becomes randomly unstable at the rear, while they’re still sorting the system out. But even those are not guaranteed to be a passive DRS system at work. Lotus obviously have the air intakes there in place like on the 2012 car, but whether they’ve actually been running the system, who knows…?

Aside from perhaps other things being prioritised, one reason I can think teams would be not testing it at Jerez is that it’s not really a representative circuit. So maybe they’re saving it for Catalunya, where they’ll be able to test it on a track more relevant to what they’ll actually be racing on.

20

I can’t agree that the teams are that regimented, they’d have set fuel loads, I just can’t; there is so little point not telling a cars fuel load if we already know it’s going to be one of 4 or 5 loads. The simple truth is, no one knows what loads people had. Some teams didn’t even go for a headline time. The only analysis that has come out of this test is that there is no analysis to be done. This was more about testing the car works out of the box, and the real testing starts on the 19th in earnest, now all of the teams know, possibly bar Marussia, that they have a workable design. Unlike in previous years when Mclaren and Ferrari knew straight away, that they had dogs.

21

i think it’s impossible to see which car will be faster than an other. It’s could be only a feeling and according to me :

1- Mc Laren (Button)

2- Lotus

3- RedBull (Vettel)

4- Ferrari

5- Mercedes

6- Toro Rosso / Williams

7- Sauber / Force India

8- Caterham

9- Marussia

22

I love that comment about Ferrari´s fluidic switch as the new must have for others. It means that Newey is going to figure out a way to improve it for the second half of the season. And Vettel is going to win the WDC again

🙂

23

This will be a very good year judging from testing time sheets. But as usual we’ll have to wait for Australia and Malaysia for a more accurate result and further development race by race. The vanity panel sure make the cars look so much better and pleasing to the eyes.

Lewis Hamilton will be the highlight for me though. Kimi will also be in contention for WDC I hope.

My only fear is Red Bull’s sandbagging then run away with both championships. I sure hope not, like “oh no not again!”

24

I think red bull sandbagging is just their SOP though. Sadly for the rest of the teams – the rb9 is a faster version of the end of year rb8 which was a very winning car.

I’m obviously hoping that the change in DRS rules eliminates some of vettels quali advantage so he can’t just bag pole all year and keep out of trouble. Nothing against Seb – but frankly I’ve seen that year and I’d like one with a bit more drama!

25

Of course in 2012 when it came to race one, McLaren 1-2’d quali, and on race pace probably really should have taken 1-2 there too. It was a few races before Red Bull really showed any pace with Vettel at Bahrain.

So even if they are sandbagging a bit, doesn’t mean when they really go for it that they’ll find themselves out front. The RB9 might be a step forward, but McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus at least all seem pretty chuffed at the moment too.

26

RB have been slowed a bit by the various albeit minor aero rule changes and not being able to use DRS all lap, so even if their car is a development of their 2012 car, it need not actually be any faster.

27

Thanks for a great review Jerez and hopefully we get more in Barcelona.

The more I see the Lotus the more I appreciate what a great looking aggressive package it is. I realise the Torro Rosso is another Red Bull backed team but I like the look of the new car too and hope we could get more analysis on it and a few of the mid field teams later on.

Something that has slipped my mind -will it only be Melbourne before we see each driver in his own car ?- wouldn’t it be interesting to see both drivers in both cars on the last few days of testing. It would be terrific benchmarking prior race 1.

28

It would also be more far expensive to test two cars. Isn’t there supposed to be cost cutting going on in F1?

The other thing is, regarding seeing each driver in “his own car”… a team doesn’t necessarily even have two distinct cars. They have the bits to put together two (well, more really) cars, and after each weekend they’re pulled apart, parts cleaned up/fixed/replaced/whatever, and two cars are built for the next race weekend. The two cars won’t necessarily have the same parts as the previous race weekend. Even the monocoque a driver is sitting in might not be the same one he was in the previous weekend.

29

i completly agree with you concerning this stupid rule whiwh is to run only one car during the winter tests. Most of all it coud be better for the teams to have their 2 drivers on the track to manage different test programs before the 1st GP

30

My prediction for the fastest cars at the start of the 2013 season is:

1. Lotus

2. Ferrari

3. Red Bull

4. Mclaren

5. Mercedes

6. Sauber

7. Williams

8. Torro Rosso

9. Force India

10. Catheham

11. Marussia

31

Please define *fast* friend.

32

@ Glennb

Well in this instance, my definition of fast would be that car that’s quickest over one lap.

Not sure if you understand what I mean.

33

“Fast” can be in a straight line from 0-60 (or whichever speed), or as you say over one lap. Still, given that different circuits have different characteristics, the same car cannot be fast around all sorts of circuits. For instance RBR would be slow on Monza due to long straights which exposes its weaknesses, and Ferrari / McLaren would most probably be faster than them. Put the cars on Turkey or Australia, RBR would probably be the fastest.

34

Red Bull

Apparently the Red Bull of Vettel did set the fastest times on the hards during the Jerez test so they may not have set the quickest time overall but this is usually an indicator of raw pace.

But one has to wonder if reliability won’t bite the Red Bulls later on in the season, I mean nothing is this plain sailing.

Ferrari

The Ferrari looks strong too but taking into account Rory Byrne’s quotes during the launch it seems Ferrari won’t be throwing the kitchen sink at the 2013 season for it seems the 2014 one is their target so I don’t expect a lot of developments coming from the team especially if Alonso isn’t leading the standings.

Mclaren

For sure, the Mclaren of Jenson looked quick on day one but I still stand by my assessment that teams that show their hand early especially on the first day usually are trying to cover up the fact, they aren’t too strong as shown by previous seasons and with the Mclarens of late, till they cross the finish line, reliability issues are always at the back of one’s mind.

Lotus

The Lotus maybe an improvement qualifying wise from the 2012 car as shown by Kimi’s thumbs up, but if it’s still kinder to it’s tyres then Lotus achilles heel will still be the weather in that if we have cooler track conditions then this maybe be bad news for their tyres.

Mercedes

As for Mercedes, could it be that they were losing their tyres faster be attributed to the fact that they did the most laps of anybody?

Anyway as Lewis said, down force is what they’re lacking at the moment so they’re bound not to be as fast as the others but hey, the car is a big step from last year and all it needs during this winter testing is Lewis technical input to get them to the top.

Williams

Seeing as this season will be very tight then drivers’ skills will really shine especially in qualifying.

So irrespective of what 2013 car Williams put out, I expect Maldonado to carry this team on his shoulders

35

The ability of the Lotus to heat its tires should be as pronounced as it was last year due to the change in construction, and compounds. This might help Button in the McLaren as well.

The number of laps that Mercedes did was not among the highest totals for the week, and what was being specifically referred to in the article was how fast their tires seemed to go off over the course of a series of consecutive laps.

36

That first line should read “not as pronounced” as the the new tires are supposed to be more consistent in that characteristic.

37

IS the suspension geometry on the Merc THAT bad? Or is the tire wear a result of a lack of rear downforce allowing the rear to move around?

38

Lewis has been tweeting about getting his aero guys to increase downforce, so you might be right.

39

“this is classic Red Bull, they don’t show their hand.”

Everyone has been saying this.

But no one has shown their hand.

So it that classic everyone?

Why make a smirk-y deal about RB not showing their hand if no one else has done (now or before)

40

I think the point is, as with tests for the past few years, red bull do no headline grabbing times and never attempt all out quali style laps until the final testing day or so.

It’s almost as if they refuse to push the car – reliability wise they do – but speed testing they just seem to keep it low- key.

Ferrari, with a poor car, have gone for glory runs when the Italian media starts baying for blood. Mclaren seem bizarrely open about their cars strengths and weaknesses.

41

Just to confirm I was talking about Ferrari last year – not this year in regards to an off the pace car.

42

I agree other teams won’t have shown their hand either, but Red Bull are notorious for sandbagging to the extreme. Right up until Q3 on Saturday.

43

Firstly, It was sad to hear about Kimi Breakup.

Secondly, Massa’s 1,17 lap was phenomenal which shows the potential of the car over a single lap and long runs too look quick enough to threaten.

Redbull as always and as mentioned are good in concealing thing till the first race and yes, very interesting observation made in terms of its straight line speed deficit and I am sure they’ll find a solution for it, maybe like Mclaren you will see an entirely new car in Australia.

Mclaren look solid and quick, but since Lewis’ departure the driver deficit looms over it.

Mercedes they are racking up miles, they have the joint-fastest driver (along with Kimi) in their stable, now its time to deliver atleast a third fastest car on the grid, if they can manage to do that then I think Lewis can deliver race wins on a consistent basis.

Lotus, they have been consistent, posting fastest times are not too much to read into for they were some way off Massa’s 1,17. But, what was interesting to note was they spent a lot of time in the garage, which could mean that the innovators are upto something again and were analysing and fine-tuning whatever breakthrough innovation they have under their E21. And like Mercedes all Lotus needs to focus is on giving Kimi atleast a third fastest car on the grid and like Lewis he will do the rest, which he did so rather remarkably last year. It would be easier for Lotus to give Kimi the third fastest car on the grid than for Mercedes to give Lewis the third fastest car on the grid.

Well, lets see what Melbourne has in store for us 🙂

44

Whats in store for us is another Vettel Alonso title battle! Redbull wont sort out there top speed deficiencies because they haven’t been able to sort it since 2009, also Lewis and Kimi are on a similar level and that level is lower than Vettel and Alonso, beating Rosberg would be a success but even that won’t be easy.

45

I think Hamilton will be a revelation this year. I assume him to be in more individualistic mettle.

Well, the usual suspects are expected to fight it out for the title which are Vettel and Alonso (as you rightly stated) but what would make it interesting is the pace their individual teammates are able to extract out their respective cars, by all means Massa did overshadow Alonso on pure pace since Japan with Brazil being the his best performance since his near fatal accident. If, Massa continues this trend it would be interesting to see just how the internal dynamics of the Ferrari react, which by going by plausibility it would be more Alonso favored, but Massa has beaten his faster teammates in the past and by no means both Michael and Kimi were no pushovers…. He has the ability as proven in the past to beat his teammate without upsetting the internal dynamics of the team, but Alonso is another specimen and we all know just how he reacts to a faster teammate…. just ask Hamilton and Mclaren.

Would love to see the individual teammates step up their respective games and give us a four-way title showdown, rather than playing bridesmaids to their respective teammates…. four way duels are better than two ways duel don’t you think?

46

But Massa has been slower than Alonso in the last 3 years and the last two races of 2012 are not enough evidence to say Massa will be quicker than Fernando this season.

47

Thanks James and Mark, especially with the fuel load info as never heard that before.

48

James,

Your thoughts on Sahara Force India. They seem to have done decent mileage with good lap times. Are they potentially a dark horse for this year?

49

no.

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