F1 Winter Break
Teams prepare for final pre-season test before season curtain-raiser
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Feb 2013   |  10:33 am GMT  |  88 comments

All eyes will be on Barcelona on Thursday when the 11 Formula 1 teams bolt on the definitive specifications of their new cars and target performance gains in the final four-day pre-season test before they head to the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

On the evidence of the first two tests, this season is set to be another close run thing, with teams very close in terms of pace.

Red Bull, who have won the constructors’ championship for the last three years, appear to be the frontrunners after eight days of testing, but they hold only a narrow advantage over Lotus with Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes just behind.

Lotus look particularly good in terms of race pace and consistency. Romain Grosjean’s long run in Barcelona, when he ran with Hard, Medium and Medium tyres, looked more consistent and better on its tyres than anyone else in the field. Team owner Gerard Lopez told JA on Monday night that the team is delighted with the step up in performance revealed so far.

Williams’ new car caught the eye too, with Pastor Maldonado demonstrating that the car was most consistent across the different tyre compounds.

Ferrari started last season with a car that was some way off the pace, but this year look to have a better base to start from and the car is much more user-friendly. The team has focussed on short runs so far and one lap pace looks reasonable. The team is likely to do some race distance running this week, when it will bring its definitive Melbourne specification parts, including exhausts. There will also be some development parts tested out for later in the season as well as a fix for overheating of electronics experienced in the tests so far. Felipe Massa was quickest after the first test in Jerez while Fernando Alonso was second fastest overall, behind Sergio Perez’s McLaren, in Barcelona.

However, on Monday night at the Motor Sport Hall of Fame team boss Stefano Domenicalli said the team are unlikely to have the quickest car in Melbourne,

“I would be very surprised if it was the quickest car at the first race,” he said. “But if we are all close together in a couple of tenths, then the season is really long and everything is possible.”

McLaren have looked quick at times, but Jenson Button has admitted that so far they have not fully understood their new car, as it is a significant departure from the 2012 model. This means that they probably will not set the pace in Melbourne, but believe that over 10 months they will have more development potential than their rivals – it’s a tortoise and hare scenario.

Red Bull, meanwhile, have yet to reveal their exact pace in testing, but rival team sources suggest that they are the benchmark currently.

Further down the grid, Marussia look to have made a step forward with Max Chilton clocking a fastest lap that was one second quicker than either Caterham driver – Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic – could manage in Barcelona.

While in the first test the teams focused on basic system checks on cooling and brake systems as well as taking aerodynamic measurements, the second test focused on reliability and getting an understanding of the new Pirelli tyres.

This year’s tyres have been designed to degrade quicker, which in turn will create more pit stops during a race, and they seem to be doing so as many drivers, including Sergio Perez who was very good at tyre management last season, have complained about graining.

However testing has been conducted in cooler temperatures with warmer conditions expected when the season gets under way.

The final test is the most crucial as it focuses on performance. With the teams so closely matched, Saturday afternoon’s qualifying sessions will prove even more important as starting one at the sharp end of the grid will be key.

So expect the teams to focus more deeply on tyre understanding, especially on low fuel, single lap pace as well as looking to keep the rear tyres in on race runs. They will also try out any new components which they want to bolt on the car in Melbourne.

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I'm eager to see if Saubers slim side pods give them any significant advantage


Maybe less drag, therefor less fuel onboard, which means a lighter car, which potentially could be a "big" deal.. with current tyres?

Or am I completely wrong?


Less drag maybe, but no matter how much faster that might make them they still have to complete 300+ kilometres and so carry as much fuel as anyone else to finish the race!


"Maybe less drag, therefor less fuel onboard, which means a lighter car, which potentially could be a “big” deal.. with current tyres?"

There will be a difference, but I highly doubt that it's enough to give the team a significant advantage in terms of carrying less fuel on board.


Maybe less airflow to cool the engine, gearbox and KERS, therefore reduced engine performance and reliability issues, which could be a big deal, maybe!

Hope I'm wrong 🙂



I would LOVE to see the Hulk on the top step this year. The Sauber is the only really interesting car this year with the slim pods and scoop nose.


Really looking forwards to this finial test, we normally get some kind of idea who is who at the end of this finial week so bring it on.


James, any news on the Red Bull/Lotus exhaust mapping saga which came to light at the end of the 3rd test?

Many claimed that Renault thought that the rule that was put into place after Germany last year only applied to that season and both cars have built the car around that, but apparently that's not the case?



FIA told that mapping same as 2012. No new mapping for 2013 allowed. Blow to RB and Renault since they already spent days testing for new exhaust layout and mapping.


I wish you wouldn't make so many of the teams sound like they have a promising season ahead of them. It makes it that much harder to wait out these final two weeks until the lights go out in Melbourne.

Looking forward to the prospect of Lotus taking it a step closer to the head of the pack. It would be great to see Kimi qualify higher so that podiums are as much work as they were last year.


Well he can't very well say that this team and this team have a chance, while these other teams have no hope!

But yeah, I would like to see Lotus right up there this year 🙂


It's already a torture. But we're almost there! Why not go into the season with optimism. Everyone has 0 points and is even for WDC.

There are so many story lines this year it makes your head spin just trying to think about it. One thing is for sure, 2013 is going to set comments count record on JAonF1.


I dub thee Sebee the official ridgy didge 2013 comment counter. Take a bow! 🙂


Aw now I got tears.

You're a true inspiration Sebee 🙂


This is so unexpected. I didn't even prepare a speech. But here goes.

I want to thank my manager agent. Without you I am nothing.

Also to all the central banks and your QE and money printing, keep at it. Without you how could we pay for those GPs that add so much to GdP. Bernie never thought you would find a way to get discounts on hosting fees. Well done.

Mom and dad of course.

And last, to all the little people. Keep the deam alive and you too can BS your way to the top.


Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen or Button will be WDC imho...


It's pre-season so one must be confused!! But i'm reading a lot of different opinions from different F1 experts. However i'm guessing the biggest change 2012 - 2013 is the use of the DRS wing, hence I believe Red Bull have lost more performance relative to the other teams ala "Double Diffusers" and I remember reading somewhere that Ferrari were working on a new innovation with the rear wing so i'm guessing they've gained more relative to the other teams. Coupled with the fact that they are yet to do race distance runs as you can cross-correlate low fuel runs to heavy fuel runs I believe they are really hiding their hand. Either way I hope the best driver wins in 2013!! Ok let me be a bit clearer. I hope Fernando Alonso wins in 2013!! lol


James, what about Mercedes? There was no special mention about them like Lotus or Williams. Is it possible that Mercedes are not looking competitive at the moment?


James, do you think it is true, 'cause I have found some sites that prove it, that Ferrari has some serious problems with tyre deg?Or is it really hard to tell because of the temp difference between the testing and actual race conditions?


Felipe, Alonso is faster than you 🙂

Another year of same same?


Felipe, slow down Alonso is supposed to be faster than you. 🙂


🙂 you got it !


Depends on Felipe.


Nothing has changed. Alonso is alpha dog and Ferrari will ensure that Felipe is not a distraction. Felipe=Goose. 'fraid nothing more is possible 🙁


Ferrari didn't prevent Felipe from beating Alonso in quali. Of course once he fell back, they focused on their only chance, Alonso. This is a new season, and if Felipe is competitive in the first races, he will have a chance.


Sauber?? They've been very quiet throughout these tests overall.

Whats the situation with them?



If true, could the Renault engine mapping discussion change all this?


I was pretty excited to see an advert today indicating that SKY F1 are going to be covering the test session live!


James, I did read that one of the team principals (can't remember which) said that Melbourne is an odd kind of track and added that if you are quick their you are not so likely to be quick everywhere else as it puts different demands on the car ant tyres. I this a fair assumption?


This gets brought up a lot but results don't really bear this out. Look at the Melbourne winners for the last few years:

2012 - Button/Mclaren - arguably the fastest car over the whole season, Lewis was on pole too

2011 - Vettel/Red Bull - WDC, dominant all year

2010 - Button/McLaren - inherited the win from Vettel/Red Bull, who were the fastest combo that year

2009 - Button/Brawn - WDC and fastest combo especially at the start of the year

2008 - Hamilton/McLaren - WDC and fast all year

2007 - Raikkonen/Ferrari - WDC (although not pacesetting until later in the year)

2006 - Alonso/Renault - WDC, fast all year

2005 - Fisichella/Renault - Fisi didn't win another race but Renault won WDC/WCC that year

2004 - Schumacher/Ferrari - WDC and dominant all year

2003 - Coulthard/McLaren - The last time there was a Melbourne winner that was completely out of sync with the rest of the season.

It doesn't look too surprising to me.


It used to be said that the winner in Melbourne would end up the season as the champion and statistics surely show that to be a near sure forecast . Marc


Exactly, and the list goes on right back to 1996 in the same vein.


I know mark webber made similar comments last week. He said although he'd love to win his home GP the Melbourne circuit is not really going to show the 'adaptable' cars which will be built for other tracks.

I'm guessing the Melbourne circuit being temporary with its unusual corners is still not indicative.


I read the same thing but think it was actually Webber when asked about his chances of winning his home race for the first time. He was saying that due to the characteristics on Melbourne the Red Bull may not be quickest as the car is designed as you'd expect to be as quick as possible for the whole season rather than focusing on being the quickest at the first race.


It's well known that Melbourne is a very particular track, seeing as it's in a park, and tends to throw up some unusual results.


lotus should start strong along with Red bull/Mclaren just behind....

Alonso/Ferrari may give a good tight run till mid season and take a call ...

Williams/Suaber may spring a suprise and give up on the race 2nd part of the season .... i think nico hulkenberg may have a suprise win for Sauber ... just like pastor had last year ....

REd null should be winning 4th time in a running .... a major overhaul like 2014 would shake things at the top level


James everywhere you read on the internet no one says Redbull are the strongest team what makes you think Redbull are leading the way?


I thought red bull and Vettel were still odds on favorites reading most sites? I guess you'll always get a variety of opinions but its frankly ignoring past evidence to assume red bull will have fallen by the wayside.


Talking to engineers from other teams


+1 thats why i read your site


How about some of the facts from the actual times in the eight days of testing so far?

So easy to say RBR are the frontrunners again, but so far no facts back that statement. The engineers should have their reasons for saying that, right? So what are those reasons?

I'm not looking to be harsh, but just trying to figure this out.


I think one of the drivers (Max Chilton or one of the other rookies) also said that going through corners it seems that Red Bull is easily the fastest and that Lotus looks very stable mid-corner. If i find the quote, i'll post it.


In terms of times, I doubt they're just going off who posted what time. For one, it's easy enough to nail two sectors and then back it off in the last sector to post an overall averagey lap time. When the teams look at other teams, I imagine they'd be looking in a lot more detail at times, and things like consistency, tyre deg, spying on each other's flow-viz displays, car behaviour, etc.

If, for a simple example, the Merc posted a great lap time, but through the whole lap it looked like the thing was understeery on entry, oversteery and spinning its wheels on exit, sliding about in high speed corners, etc.... and then on the other hand the Red Bull wasn't far behind the Merc's times but cruising around the circuit in a perfectly calm fashion... even if the Merc's posted time was faster, one might be inclined to think the Red Bull is the better car, with more pace available if pushed harder.


Well I think Lotus are the fastest so far but we will see the new aero packages in the last teat also Renault engine mapping changed so the way I see it is that Hamilton could be the dark horse at Melbourne, and so far Redbull seems to be struggling, even worse than this stage last season.



what about the engine-mapping controversy? Heard anything about that?

Appreciated if you could shed som light on the matter(for us fans that are stumbling in the dark).


I read that Allan Parmain stated that it will have no impact on the performance, ultra marginal...and they are not even worried and thinking abou it.


They should get rid of pre season testing.

Cars' first impression is at P1 of the first race. Now that would be an exciting and unpredictable first quarter of the season with lots of things going wrong for the teams and the best ones will rise to the occasion.


Not sure I fancy the prospect of only 5 cars finishing the first race, if you are lucky!


That's like saying football teams are not allowed to have trainings and have to come to official matches with no prior preparation.



More authentic than trying to make it artificially exciting with gummy tyres and "push a button the other guy does not have to take over" scams.


You allude to it later in the article, but I'd like to mention that Ferrari is on record saying that their definitive spec for the first race will be bolted on in Melbourne on Friday, not "in Barcelona on Thursday when the 11 Formula 1 teams bolt on the definitive specifications of their new cars".


Any idea who will be driving the force india yet?


To save costs, maybe the big man himself VJ!


Adrian Sutil has been confirmed. With Bianci as test


Quoting Jenson:

''The 2009 world champion admits he has been checking out the other teams in testing and names Mercedes, Ferrari, and Lotus as the teams that have looked quick so far.''

Interesting observation by Jenson, not only the order with which he thinks the fastest cars are but also he didn't include Red Bull.


Yes, but wasn't it Jenson who after the first 2 or 3 races declared that he wasn't worried about Ferrari or Alonso last year?


Jenson also famously claimed that Ferrari wasn't a title threat last season. The rest is history.

Sometimes there's politics and mind games in drivers statements, sometimes they are making a mistake or a gaffe.

We really can't tell who is where in general terms until the final upgrades have been mounted. Teams traditionally concentrate on partial aspects of their cars until the last minute.


That's because the Ferrari really was a bad car at the start of the season. Nobody could have rationally predicted that Alonso would nearly win the title come Brazil.


News from some quarters suggest that Sutil has been signed by Force India. Any truth?


Completely unrelated - but I will be in Spain for the first race of the season, anyone able to tell me which channel will be broadcasting the race??


Antenna 3, qualy and race, and maybe practice as well.


Looking forward to watching the test in 3D 🙂

James, are you planning to do a competition for the first race?

Mark in Australia

Us Aussies would love a JAonf1 comp for the Australian race, bring it on James!!!

unF1nnished business

Even if they do all run the Melborne spec on the final test I wonder how much will be revealed from this as Catalunya is a much different track from Melborne.


Mr Allan, could you please shed some light

why this year the tyres are 2 kg heavier than

last year?,is the wheel rim bigger!

As for Red Bull surely the implimatetion of

front wing flex of 10 mm instead of 20 at any

given time in addition the use of DRS in the

alocated zone only it must play to some degree

in their front running performace.

Your thoughts if any, please.


James wrote: "The tyres are two kilos per set heavier than last year’s, due to a change in the carcass in order to increase the footprint of the tyre. Extra support material is needed to avoid sidewall buckling. The larger footprint will increase braking stability."



The best thing that could happen for Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren is for Lotus and Mercedes to be quick.

The best thing to happen for Williams and Force India is for Sauber to be quick.

The best thing to happen for Caterham is for Marussia to be quick.

Getting beat is the ultimate motivator. I'm hoping the established powers get beat and F1 gets better as a result.


Kind of makes sense, but I'm not sure that they'd agree 😉

But yes, it is good to mix it up every now and again 🙂


Kimi we're waiting for your wins this season


Hi, anyone knows the drivers agenda for Ferrari for the last test days?





Regarding the Force India driver situation, is there any probability of the team alternating between the two candidates (Adrian Sutil & Jules Bianchi) at the start of the season?

Red Bull did something similar in 2005 with Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Klien did the first 3, Liuzzi the next 4 or 5, then Klien took over again and - in the end - kept it till the end of the season.


James what is you general feeling about the pecking order ?

Do you really see lotus as serious threat to front runners ? How Mclaren and Ferrari compare against the likes of RBR ?

I am very curious to know how closer ferrari will be in relation to RBR come the Aussie GP ?


Patience Padawan - only 2 weeks 🙂


So, RB & Lotus have built their success around the Renault engine. No wonder, Toro Roso isn't that successful!


"Jenson Button has admitted that so far they have not fully understood their new car, as it is a significant departure from the 2012 model."

I thought the 2013 McLaren is an evolution from last year, and from what I saw, it ain't much different from the end of last season. With Perez able to drive it around without problems, is this more of a Button issue than McLaren?


The Renault is a good engine, but there's not much wrong with having a Ferrari engine sitting behind you.

With the exception of Monza 2008, Toro Rosso have never been particularly successful, but that's not what they're there for. They're there as a development team for new drivers to make their their way to RBR - at least that's the theory.

In practice I don't really get the point. With the exception of Vettel they've ditched every single driver they've had so far. I can't see why Dietrich bothers running a second team when it would be simpler and easier to just recruit a driver from another team (or even a decent GP2 driver) like everyone else.

Fair enough I don't have mega-wads of cash like he does, but if I did I could think of better uses for it 🙂


That was supposed to be a reply to Methusalem (comment 30)


Is Razia testing in the final test.... is it true that he may not make it ... if so does it not give Chilton an edge on who ever partners him


I haven't heard anything about this. Why would he not make it?


his sponsors are not able to pay what was promised.... and it seems now Heiki (probabnly due to Marrussia-MClaren teamup) plus his willingness to drive for free is a top contender for the seat .... narain is also with a shout thanks to his Indian sponsors .... nothing against Razia but all this mess puts him in a backfoot ...and gives Chilton extra mileage on a car which he hardly knows.... maybe Marrusia could have kept Timo and worked as normal


Thanks for the info Ram.

I know the team needs money, but fingers crossed for Heiki 🙂

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