The second pre-season F1 test is over, with the teams now departing Jerez after four days running at the Spanish circuit. Ultimately testing doesn’t give us anything like a genuine picture of what will happen at the season-opening race, with some teams opting to do low fuel quick laps to grab the headlines and others happy to stay out of the limelight and focus on long-run pace.
However after the barren winter months it is at least something for us to start getting excited about. Read on for Badger’s look at some of the key stories to come out of the test and the full combined times from the four days of running at Jerez.
In the days of 23-year-old world champions it’s quite refreshing to see three veterans emerging from the test on top, with Rubens Barichello setting the fastest lap of in Jerez and German duo Michael Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld hot on his heels. Rubens will turn 39 in May, Michael is now 42 and even bearded baby-face Heidfeld is approaching his 34th birthday. There’s life in those old dogs yet.
However, despite Rubens’ best lap of 1m19.832, his Williams team didn’t enjoy the best of times at Jerez. Rookie Pastor Maldonado was severely compromised during his two-day stint in the FW33, completing only 52 laps after rear-wing and KERS problems kept him in the garages. Barrichello was affected too, with the KERS also playing up for the Brazilian. His fastest lap suggests the car may well be pretty quick, but it’s perhaps also a little on the fragile side.
Sticking with the veterans, Nick Heidfeld stepped in to the Renault team on Saturday and was instantly impressive, recording the quickest time of the day and – most importantly – providing the engineers with the sort of quality feedback that 177 grand prix affords you. Heidfeld is now all but guaranteed the Renault drive – we’re just waiting for official confirmation. Meanwhile Bruno Senna also drove the car, completing 68 laps on Sunday. Despite having a full season’s racing behind him this was only Bruno’s second test in an F1 car, the previous one having come in late 2008 when he tried out a Honda.
We all know it’s going to be a crucial year for the Toro Rosso drivers, with both needing to prove they are capable of one day ascending to the senior Red Bull team. The man who comes out on top in 2011 will enjoy a major boost, and the battle has already kicked off. The winner? Sebastien Buemi, but no by much: he was a full 0.001 – or one thousandth of a second – faster than Jaime Alguersuari.
What of the big boys? We’re pretty sure the pace is there for Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, though only the Italian squad has really felt the need to display it thus far. Felipe Massa topped day one and ended up fourth overall, with team-mate Fernando Alonso just eight-hundredths shy of the Brazilian. Red Bull’s pairing of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were only 13th and 14th respectively but we’re not reading much in to this. They’ve no need to show off and are focusing on getting the RB7 as finely tuned as possible. It’s surely going to be a strong contender for pole in Bahrain. McLaren meanwhile gave their new MP4-26 its debut at Jerez, Jenson and Lewis ending up seventh and eighth respectively. There’s more to come for this rather radical car, of that there’s little doubt.
What of 2010’s new teams, Lotus, Virgin and Hispania? Well the latter weren’t at the test, so we’ve nothing to say about them (expect that we’re pretty sure not running the new car until Bahrain is going to be a bit of a disaster). Of the other two it was Lotus’ Heikki Kovalainen who recorded the best lap, a 1m21.632s leaving him 15th. Timo Glock was next with a 1m22.208s whilst rookie Jerome D’Ambrosio and veteran Jarno Trulli were 22nd and 24th respectively. It seems that the second year squads may be a little closer to the midfield in 2011, though neither has yet done anything to suggest they’ll be anywhere near troubling Q1. That’d a bit much to ask anyway.
Finally a shout out to Scottish rookie Paul di Resta, who got his first run in Force India’s new VJM04 at Jerez. His cousin, three-time Indycar champion Dario Franchitti, was watching from the sidelines.
So what have we learned? Not much in all honesty, certainly a lot less than the teams and drivers will hope to have learned over the past few days. But it was fun nonetheless, and with just one month to go before the new season kicks off its certainly whetted the appetite. F1 2011 is very nearly upon is…
Combined times from Jerez
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