That’s it – testing for 2012 is over! The next time this year’s batch of cars hit the track it will be Melbourne, but what did the final test in Barcelona tell us, if anything? The Badgerometer gets out it’s magnifying glass and fine-tooth comb to find out!

So, who’s the fastest overall?

Ummm…

OK, this is the big question being asked by everyone associated with F1, and for once there isn’t a clear favourite at the front. Or to be honest, even a clear gap between the front and the midfield. The weirdest thing is that there has been thousands of miles and lap times generated in 12 days of testing, and even the smartest of boffins can’t get their head around the numbers.

But, that’s a good thing right?

If there isn’t a car, team or driver that show speed that looks ominous – like Red Bull for the past two seasons, and Brawn the one before that – then that mean the field is bunched up, that means we’ll be in for a close and entertaining season all through the field.

Right?

testing-barcelona
Four cars on track together at testing, an unusual sight! credit: OctanePhotos.co.uk

HRT and Marussia break cover (eventually)

The grid is splitting into three sections for this season: the front (Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes), the middle (Lotus, Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso and maybe Caterham) and the mobile chicanes that will eventually be HRT and Marussia.

That might sound a bit harsh, but it’s a credit that these two teams have managed to cobble a car together on a shoestring budget in time for Melbourne, let alone testing. F1 needs these backmarkers in the sport, plucky little outfits that will develop cult followings, and maybe the odd surprise result too.

Red Bull change it up

All eyes were on the champ’s garage on Saturday morning, as the team rolled out a revised rear end to the RB8; in this day and age it seemed unprecedented that such a radical re-design was necessary. Did the car need it? Was this the plan all along? The questions were tumbling out so much it was almost dizzying.

Some thoughts from the Sett about Red Bull’s upgrade:

  • It seems McLaren forced them into unveiling early.
  • It may have backfired: Vettel spent a lot of time Sunday in the garage with a gearbox problem, and only managed 20 odd laps.
  • Mechanics using umbrellas to hide the car is both ingenious and hilarious in equal measure.
Red Bull RBR8
Red Bull practicing pit stops in Barcelona. Credit: OctanePhotos.co.uk

Ferrari admit the worst – finally

Each Badgerometer after every previous test questioned just how fast the Ferrari is this season. The drivers seemed to be finding different ways to say the phrase “we’re not the best” with a positive spin, and the team were so sick of being asked the same question, they banned the press from talking to Alonso and Massa over last weekend.

The real sign that all is not right or the Prancing Horse was the almost sacrificial nature of putting Pat Fry in front of the media. It was a way of saying “you designed this car, you take the flak”.

Asked where he felt Ferrari stood and if he was excluding podium finishes at present, Fry was quoted as saying: “At the moment, I’d say yes. But I suppose I’m always slightly pessimistic.”

It has to be said the man is honest, if nothing else. The best part of his interview was when he was asked about where exactly the team was in terms of a pecking order for 2012.

“We knew historically what fuel levels people have run, so we’ve got an idea where they are, but if they’ve changed what they’ve done for the last two or three years, I could either be depressed, more disappointed or less disappointed, I don’t know. I think we’ve still got a reasonable amount of work to do.”

To us, it looks like a transitional year for Ferrari. No wonder Fernando looked so glum.

Fernando is unhappy
Difficult times ahead for Ferrari and Fernando? Credit: OctanePhotos.co.uk

Reading into the Lotus position

To the neutral, Lotus are the form team of 2012 so far. Just look at the fastest laps times over each day’s running – Lotus had topped the time sheets (discounting Mercedes using their 2011 car) on 5 of the 12 days.

But, look into it deeper and you’ll know why.

After pulling out with a suspension coupling problem on the very first day of the second test, the final few days were crucial for the team. They have signed a former World Champion, have sponsors on board that are expecting results, and are owned by a car company that have invested heavily in trying to promote their brand. The pressure is there – failure is not an option.

And lo and behold, look who goes fastest the day the get back on track! And the next day too!

All it took was some soft tyres and a little less fuel and all seems right with the team, like the chassis issue was just a flash in the pan. Will it be the same after first practice come Melbourne?

That will be the true test of the E20.

Lotus E20
The E20 topped more time sheets than any other car in testing. credit: octanephotos.co.uk