Today was the final day of testing @ Barcelona for this week, and most teams were focused on full race simulations, completing many miles in the process. Testing resumes at Barcelona on Thursday, where we are (not really) expecting to see the new HRT and Marussia cars. Ferrari and Red Bull have decided to skip Thursday and run, instead, on Monday, alone. Today’s test provides some interesting insights in what the teams are doing. Let’s go…
Mercedes did a full race simulation again, although unlike yesterday they chose to run in the morning, when conditions are more favorable in terms of temperatures and grip. Rosberg was able to do a 65 lap race simulation, however it’s really interesting to compare it with yesterday’s race simulation by Schumacher, in the drawing below:
As we can see, Nico’s run was considerably faster than Michael’s. In a hypothetical scenario, they would have finished the race 73 seconds apart, i.e. Nico would have theoretically almost lapped Michael. Naturally, this is not a reflection of the drivers’ relative ability, but it bodes with Ross Brawn’s statement that Mercedes did a full race run yesterday to get the reliability checked and to establish a good baseline, and that they would be focusing on performance from now on. It’s clear that Mercedes are feeling more comfortable with the reliability of the car, and are starting to work on setup optimization. This is clear in the laptimes:
After this long run, Mercedes focused on 12 lap stints, working on tyre degradation and setup optimization. From the way Nico was sometimes pushing and sometimes holding back a little at the beginning of each stint, we can tell that Mercedes were looking at the best way of managing their tyres throughout a stint, as well as setup options that were going to help the driver in this situation. You can see the graph of Nico’s runs below:
Red Bull focused on shorter stints, apparently working on setup optimization and different solutions. Later during the day, they did a couple of long stints (pictured below), where you can see that they had very good results in terms of tyre degradation. Of course, these runs could be steady-pace runs, so it’s difficult to draw any conclusion at the moment. In general, Red Bull are keeping the cards close to their chest, even though I am sure McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes know exactly the fuel loads Red Bull are running, from sonar analysis and clever reading of the sector times. I’m afraid such analysis is unavailable to us.
McLaren focused on long stints as well, working mainly with tyre degradation and setup work. Button embarked on 6 long stints (pictured below):
The 3 first stints seem to be steady-pace stints, a la Webber (that we discussed above). Let us focus on the last 3 stints, which seem to be more performance-oriented. As you can see, Button did 3 stints, each of which consisted of 15 timed laps (+1 in lap / +1 out lap). He averaged 01:28.690 on the first stint, and suffered a degradation of 2.637 seconds. On the second stint, McLaren were able to improve the degradation dramatically (1.990 seconds) and keep the same level of performance (01:28.632). Finally, on the last stint, McLaren were able to maintain the degradation levels in check (2.081 seconds) and improve the overall performance (01:28.457). I am sure they have lots of nice, juicy data to go on with, but it’s hard to put these numbers in comparison with what the other teams are doing.
Ferrari once more focused on long(ish) runs, geared towards data acquisition and setup work. At this stage, it’s very risky to compare lap times and we won’t do it. In general, they were testing softer compounds today, hence the improvement in the overall lap times. There is a very interesting comment made by Peter Windsor on Episode 58 of the Flying Lap. It appears that Fernando Alonso has reverted back to his old “whack-the-steering-wheel” driving style. For those who don’t know exactly what I am referring to, they can refresh their memory with this very good example… Maybe this is a way for Alonso to deal with the new pull-rod suspension characteristics and/or the squarer profiled Pirelli tyres, or it may be just his way of testing things, from a driver’s perspective, ahead of the new season. It’s going to be really interesting to see what comes out of it…
For the rest of the teams (Williams, Toro Rosso, Force India and Sauber) I will be posting tomorrow. Thanks for taking the time to visit this blog, and for all your kind comments so far…