Hello to everyone out there. I have to share my disappointment with you, today, as I was expecting to get some good full race simulations and, hopefully, some quali laps from the top teams, but we ended up with nothing of the sort. Instead, let’s see what we got:
Hamilton and McLaren continued on their usual testing regime of short stints in the morning, and they also did some back to back heavy-fuelled stints in the afternoon, none of which were really impressive or conclusive. His first 2 stints suffered from severe degradation, his next 2 were absolutely great in that respect. Ferrari didn’t attempt a race sim, and neither did Mercedes, apart from a few heavy fuel stints. Red Bull did very few laps due to a problem, and that prevented them from testing their new package properly (combined with Webber’s limited running yesterday as well). Lotus’ race simulation was nothing to write home about, being somewhat inconsistent and definitely slower than expected (at an estimated race time of 01:39:45.992 including 3 pitstops it’s 49 seconds slower than Grosjean’s race simulation from 02 March). As for the rest of the team, we haven’t seen anything today to change our perceptions or to better our understanding.
Therefore, I am not going to post any analysis today, because I think it would be cheating you, and you would spot it immediately. This post will be argumentative (rather than analytical and mathematical) and I apologize in advance, but there’s simply nothing more to be said, except to make a brief synopsis of the testing so far and, at the same time, present our (perceived) pecking order as follows:
No1 – McLaren
McLaren have been hiding their car’s true pace all testing long. They haven’t gone for any low fuel run and they haven’t even attempted any revealing race simulations. From the few bits and pieces that we have seen, it seems that they have a fast, reliable and very consistent racing car, with which they can challenge for victories from the very 1st race.
No2 – Red Bull
I place the Bulls 2nd in my pecking order, because they have had some reliability issues throughout testing and, especially during the last 2 days, when they failed to properly go out and test their Melbourne-spec configuration. The delay of this specification may well turn out to be a wrong decision, creating problems for the first fly-away races. However, like McLaren, they have been extra careful to reveal their car pace, which is a sign of confidence. I have a feeling though that McLaren may have stolen a small march on them this year. Vettel will be even stronger this year, so he may well be the deciding factor that tips the scale in Red Bull’s favour.
No3 – Mercedes
They have been the fastest team in race-simulation trim from all the other teams, bar McLaren and Red Bull who didn’t attempt any. They have been the fastest in heavy fuel loads, and Nico’s 01:22.9 yesterday on a 15 lap stints confirms that they should be bloody quick in qualifying too. It will be interesting to see if they can mix it with McLaren and Red Bull. Their tyre degradation issues, as we have explained, have been blown way out of proportion. It’s telling that they attempted a race simulation on the 24th of February, and then spent the 2nd Barcelona testing pretty much hiding from the top of the time sheets, just like McLaren and Red Bull.
No4 – Ferrari
I say Ferrari, but in reality I mean Alonso, because in the hands of Massa I see Ferrari behind Lotus, at this moment. They have a lot of work to do to recover, and their position is actually closer to the midfield than it is to Mercedes. If our predictions come true, expect a political shitstorm of epic proportions. Fernando will wrestle with the car and will keep motivating the squad to recover, but it will be tricky if heads start to roll in Maranello. Having said that, the first race in Melbourne is usually not a good indicator of a car’s performance and Ferrari may be able to get a lucky break, or even a podium. Ferrari fans should do well not to hope for much more, at this stage.
No5 – Lotus
As I said, I would be placing Lotus above Ferrari at this moment, if Alonso wasn’t part of the equation. At this moment, Lotus is more consistent, faster and kinder to the tyres, especially in the hands of Romain Grosjean. Kimi has been fast during pre-season testing but inconsistent, a sign of a talented driver that has been out of the game for quite some time. I expect Romain to have the upper hand at the beginning, and quite comfortably, with the odd flash of speed coming from Kimi’s side. They start the season in a good position, but their in-season development pace is what will determine the outcome of their campaign.
No6 and No7 - Sauber / Williams
Perez will shine for Sauber this year. The Swiss team have come up with a competitive, contemporary package, that has shown promising signs during pre-season testing. Williams are up there too, with a FW34 that is apparently very kind to its tyres. It may lack a bit in terms of raw pace compared to Force India, but should have the edge in the races.
No8 and No9 – Force India / Toro Rosso
Force India may have a bit more raw pace in comparison to either Sauber or Williams, but we have seen a worrying pattern of heavy tyre degradation during their longer stints. They may find themselves qualifying reasonably well but falling behind in the races. Toro Rosso has also shown some good speed during low-fuel quali laps, but their race pace isn’t 100% there at the moment. I have to say though that positions 6 to 9 are very difficult to decipher, and I expect the teams to drop from 6th to 9th in the pecking order on a race-by-race basis. It seems that everybody has been able to produce good, quick, reliable and sensible racing cars, and that shows in the time sheets; it’s very difficult to separate between these 4 teams.
No10 – Caterham
Caterham have definitely made a big step forward this year, as evidenced by the 01:22.6 lap time that they achieved on a low-fuel quali simulation. However, their long stints pace is behind the other midfield runners at the moment, and although they have closed the gap to them, they haven’t quite bridged it yet. They can, however, proudly claim that they are now part of what we call “midfield runners”, in dire contrast to HRT and Marussia who continue to disappoint in their 3rd year in the sport. HRT, in particular, are expected to not reach the 107% laptime from pole in Australia, and given that they have done no testing at all, I don’t see them racing down under.
So… That’s it on what has been a relatively short, but interesting nonetheless pre-season testing. I am thrilled that so many of you took the time to visit my site and post your comments. It’s needless to say that we will continue posting articles and analyzing the races, all season long, along with other articles and technical features, and we will also be doing our Fantasy League that has generated a lot of interest so far. I have to apologize again for not posting anything on today’s testing times, but it would feel like I’m cheating you guys, and that’s not what I want to do.
We will only be posting something when it makes sense to do so…
Stay tuned… :)