The first pre-season F1 test is always an eagerly anticipated event. F1 fans looking to get their fix can finally rejoice as the new cars have been launched, news and gossip quickly follows and the whole F1 circus begins another year of high octane entertainment. We make the same mistake every year by building ourselves up for information and insights on who is going to be quick this year by watching results from the first F1 test to find that a lot of the lap times don’t really show us anything.
Felipe Massa stole the headlines from Jerez with the best time of 1.17.879 but that didn’t tell the full story. In his post test interviews he didnt look like a man who had led the way as there were some factors as to why he set the best time. We know that he did that time on the soft tyre though Jenson Button did a time just 6 tenths off Massa’s best on the harder tyre when the track was still green. We of course don’t know the fuel levels but no one will have really shown their hand just yet. A clearer picture of how things will shape up for Melbourne will come at the next test in Barcelona.
Drivers and teams tend not to give too much away at this time of year. They all seem confident in the work they have done over the winter and all say their car looks promising and that they have more pieces to arrive on the car and that no one really knows each others fuel levels so they don’t know where they stand at the moment. Its up to the journalists to create a story by reading as much as they can from the non-committed responses of the drivers and by analysing their body language to see if they can see whether they are happy or not with the car so far.
The only clues we have really seen so far is that Mercedes is still a bit behind the major players on the grid and are still playing catchup from last year. Neither Lewis nor Nico seem confident of mounting a title challenge this year which is understandable given the car was over a second off the pace by the end of the 2012 season. Reliability issues hampered the Mercedes team on the first 2 days of the test so it hasn’t been a great start but given their resources and expertise we could be in for a surprise from them come Melbourne.
The more technical minded folk will have noticed some nice innovations from the team this year. We have so far seen compact sidepods from sauber, updated coanda exhaust systems, the newly dubbed monkey bars and vanity panels all of which seem nice ideas but we have yet to see anything that has broken the mould.
In 2009 we saw the introduction by 3 teams of the double diffuser which certainly worked well on the Brawn car. In 2010 we saw the F-duct by McLaren which again was quickly copied by other teams. Nothing quite that innovative has yet to be shown on any of the cars so far. Perhaps with the lack of rule changes this year the teams have less scope to create a real piece of magic on the cars.
From what we have seen so far the cars are very similar to last years vehicles and we can expect a close field – closer than the 2012 season. I was watching a clip from the 1993 Spa qualifying session and couldn’t believe the speed difference of the cars. Jean Alesi qualified 4th but was 2.2 seconds off the pole mans pace. This year we should see the slowest teams be a lot closer to the front runners pace and thus creating a tightly packed field.
The test session at Barcelona kicks off this week where we should gain a real indication as to where the teams are at in relation to one another.