The first test of the 2013 season has been and gone, and with it we’ve been able to gather some sort of idea of what to expect. What were the Top 5 stories to come out of Jerez? Buckle up – the Badgerometer is back to find out!
McLaren look in good shape – for now
We’ve always said that people shouldn’t read too much into times during testing, and we stand by that. Still, it was hard not to get excited when Jenson Button topped the timing sheets by some margin on the first day.
A fuel pump failure a mere 30 minutes into the session did nothing to deter the team, who tallied 37 laps as Button posted a 1:18:861 on the first lap of his last run, on hard tyres. It certainly caught people’s attention, particularly Felipe Massa’s, who called the time ‘incredible’. Though neither Button nor Perez came close to getting another fastest lap in the following days, the MP4-28 was reliable and put in plenty of mileage, which bodes well for the coming months.
Although having said all this, McLaren were regularly doing well in last year’s testing, and the season didn’t exactly go to plan… Badger advises caution, or at least waiting until Melbourne, before you part with your hard-earned cash.
Clever stuff from Williams?
A few people were surprised to hear Williams would be running a modified version of the 2012 car at Jerez, choosing not to launch this year’s challenger until next Tuesday. After all, if everyone else was able to launch their new cars on time, why couldn’t such an established team like them do it? Hold on there – it could end up turning out to be a rather shrewd move.
As the 2013 regulations have only slightly changed, this season is looking likely to be shaped by the performance of the Pirelli tyres again, especially now that some of the compounds will become more aggressive. It was also this lack of tyre knowledge that caught out some of the teams in the first half of last year.
With that in mind, running the new tyres on last year’s car to see how they’ve changed, and maybe making some modifications in time for Barcelona to compensate, could end up giving Williams an upper hand over the rest of the field.
It makes perfect sense!
Mercedes make up for lost time
2013 hasn’t exactly started well for Mercedes. Norbert Haug stepping down as head of motorsport, arguments with McLaren over whether they can or can’t have Paddy Lowe, and the W04 having some serious teething problems have made things difficult for them to say the least.
Maybe Nico Rosberg tripping over the rear tyre during the launch (yes, Nico, we did catch that!) was a sign of what was yet to come. Just an hour and a half into the first day, the car suffered an electrical problem that caused a small fire, and on Tuesday Lewis Hamilton went straight into the barrier with rear brake failure, both incidents causing the team to lose time they can’t really afford to lose now that testing is so limited.
The next two days, however, produced the polar opposite. Thursday saw Rosberg rack up a whopping 155 laps (or the same distance from Silverstone to Spa!) with no problems whatsoever, and it was much the same story for Hamilton on Friday. They even trialled a fancy 5-part front wing with no issues. Amazing how things can change in just a couple of days.
All eyes on Caterham’s rear end
A pre-season test wouldn’t be a pre-season test without some rumblings over a new car development, and the 2013 award for First Team to Cause a Technological Row goes to Caterham.
The focus is on the CT03’s exhaust, more specifically a ‘flow conditioner’ vane that channels gases from the exhaust to the back of the car floor, effectively acting as a substitute for the blown diffuser, giving the car more downforce. Clever stuff, but they may have stepped out of line if the vane is deemed to be inside the exhaust channel ‘cone’ (a more technical explanation can be found on p.24 of the regulations here, under Article 5.8.4).
Caterham are adamant that the vane is legal, adding that they tested it last year without any protest, although it wasn’t fitted to the car last Friday. That could point to Charlie Whiting having words with them, but if the vane is deemed legal, it could it be the advancement that gets the team that all-important first point.
But we have been saying this for a while now.
The Prancing Horse’s Comeback
What a difference a year seems to have made. Despite them keeping their cards close to their chest, Ferrari are looking like they’re in a relatively good place right now.
They haven’t been without problems, with some cooling issues on the Tuesday and the car’s gearbox bursting into flames on the Friday, but it’s still a step forward compared to last year, when it was still running large swathes of flo-vis paint by the time everyone got to Barcelona.
That’s not the case in 2013. Long runs on both the hard and medium tyres showed that the F138 at least looks more competitive than the F2012. It also set the benchmark of a 1:17:879 on soft tyres, the fastest time of the whole test, although not knowing fuel loads makes that largely meaningless.
It’s very early days, but if they keep up this sort of performance when Alonso takes over in Barcelona, Ferrari could be the dark (prancing) horses to watch out for.