The second test is over and done with, but with it came even more stories and intrigue as the 2012 season slowly builds towards Melbourne. The Badgerometer fires itself up to deliver the Top 5 from Barcelona!

 The lame Prancing Horse

Ferrari was the main talking point after the Jerez test and, while its rivals arrived in Barcelona and started to work on their cars with set-up and aerodynamics, the Italian team was still placing flo-vis paint and aero sensors all over the F2012. On Wednesday, with 6 days of pre-season testing completed, Alonso stated: “we’re not the fastest, or the slowest.” Cripes.

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So, what happens next? Well, by the end of the test the team had managed some set-up work and Felipe Massa seemed a little bit more upbeat. The F2012 is looking like it’s going to be a complex machine, but only in the sense that Ferrari is going down design routes it hasn’t before – ones that McLaren and Red Bull are slowly beginning to master. Pat Fry is an experienced technical director with years of experience at McLaren, but whether he can change the Italian marque’s way of thinking, let alone take them back to the top, is the real question right now.

 What does fastest mean, anyway?

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: times mean nothing in testing these days.  Doesn’t mean they can’t pique our interest though, right?

There have been 8 days in total now, and 8 different names at the top of the time sheets on each one. In Barcelona you had Sebastian Vettel (standard), Nico Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado and Kamui Kobayashi all claiming top spot. Those last two are the more interesting though, as it raises so many questions.

The Circuit de Catalunya is a punishing aero track, so having the Williams and the Sauber near the top means that they have a firm grasp of dealing with high speed corners this year. Williams themselves are happy with their car, and they’ve completed a hell of a lot of mileage in comparison to 2011.

But then that’s where the comparisons sound the warning buzzers. Who was fastest overall in 2011 testing? Rubens Barrichello. And Williams didn’t have the greatest of seasons, did they?

 It’s going to be close in the midfield…

Let’s not forget Williams’ rivals though – the cars that finished last season in a scrap for sixth in the constructors’ standings heading into the new campaign with confidence. Force India have made a massive step forward in terms of car design – it’s a radical change to last year’s more “boxy” effort – and Hulkenberg and Di Resta are happy with the balance.

Both Williams drivers are positive – but the car needs improving in slow speed corners according to Bruno Senna. Toro Rosso have an exciting machine, albeit one prone to breaking down a lot. Meanwhile, Sauber set some encouraging times with both Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez.

With the ban on exhaust blown diffusers the midfield may well close up even more tightly than usual. Everyone’s in the same boat with loss of rear traction, meaning it will be all about racing rather than development. We can’t wait.

…and maybe even closer at the front.

On Wednesday last week, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton had a few laps nose to tail. Both completed long distance runs – 66 laps – the same as the Spanish Grand Prix, and both had time to look at each other’s cars. Vettel seems to think McLaren are strong over long runs, while Hamilton is confident his team’s car has a solid baseline in comparison to 2011.

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The thing to look for in terms of how well a team is doing is the statements they issue. Three of the top four – Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes – all have good things to say about their new chassis, while not going overboard. One though – Ferrari – is still being a bit coy, and not really committing themselves to anything. That, unfortunately, speaks volumes.

It seems that many insiders think that it’ll be a straight fight between the top two heavyweight outfits for the 2012 title. Here at Badger, we hope that’s the case.

 From top to bottom in 7 days

What a difference a week makes. After the Jerez test Lotus couldn’t wait to get the season underway, topping the timesheets and making most teams cast an envious eye over the E20. After seven laps on Day 1 though, that all changed for the worst.

Romain Grosjean reported that the car felt “strange”, and stopped out on track. It was soon found that there was a manufacturing issue with not only that car, but with the other one they had too, and the team pulled out of the test altogether.

Now, if it’s a small fault that can be rectified then the team should sort it out pretty sharpish and be back on track for the third and final test. But, if it’s a manufacturing error, that could mean going back to to the drawing board. Or, in other words, a complete disaster.

Imagine how Kimi is feeling right now!