We’re two-thirds of the way into pre-season testing, but what caught our attention at the first round of running in Catalunya? Hang on to your hats people, the 2013 spec Badgerometer has roared into life!

The usual suspects will be up there… mostly

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about them. It’s just that things seem to have been going so well at the top end of the pit lane that it’ll probably be close at the sharp end of the pack again.

We might not be able to read much into times, but you can read a lot into how people act, and the happy demeanours of Red Bull and Lotus in particular suggest that they’re doing well. Bar a few niggles for both teams reliability is generally good, and both cars were close to the top of the charts on the first two days.

Having said this, there could be one or two catches to spice things up. Nico Rosberg was happy as Mercedes bounced back from Jerez to top day one, while Pastor Maldonado has said that the new Williams is ‘a new generation, and it’s looking good’.

Quite frankly, it’s hurting this writer’s head trying to make any sort of prediction.

DNS for Razia

An odd scenario down at Marussia – Max Chilton was left to do all four days of testing, with no word or appearance from Luiz Razia anywhere. Not all that surprising given that Felipe Massa covered most of the Jerez test for Ferrari, but it’s a bit strange for a team with two rookies that need all the mileage they can get.

It’s now come to light that at least one of Razia’s sponsors didn’t forward the money to Banbury in time, for reasons as yet unknown, but Luiz is confident that the ‘conflicts’ will soon be rectified so he can take part in this week’s final test. It’s not ideal given that Marussia have got the least mileage out of all the teams, but no dollar, no drive, which is fair enough for a team that are struggling financially.

But it does mean that Max has more experience in the car now, which could end up becoming a major advantage in the battle for the number one driver moniker.

McLaren’s mixed messages

They say that a picture can speak a thousand words, but the picture that Jenson Button’s painting of the MP4-28 is a very confusing one indeed. From being very happy with their performance at Jerez, come Barcelona he’s admitted that McLaren are struggling to find consistency.

After day three, Button claimed that they’re spending more time on learning how the car works rather than getting any actual testing done, as unlike with other teams, the McLaren isn’t a straightforward evolution of the 2012 car. They’ve shown promising pace with Perez setting the fastest time of the test on the last day, and Jenson’s happy that they’re setting some good times, but he’s confessed that:

At times the car feels good, at other times it doesn’t … we don’t know where we are and there’s no point trying to compare us to other people

That’s slightly worrying, and it’s sounding a lot like last year – fast, but lacking the consistency needed to challenge for the regular high points finishes. Not good.

Button, and McLaren, seem perplexed - @CraigNormanF1
Button, and McLaren, seem perplexed – @CraigNormanF1

It’s all about tyres again

Everyone has an opinion on Pirelli and their easily worn tyres, to put it politely. But if you thought tyre degradation in 2012 was bad, it’s looking like it’ll be a whole lot worse in 2013.

Despite Pirelli themselves having said this year’s batch will be more aggressive, even the drivers seem to have been caught out by just how much graining they’re developing in such a short space of time. Sergio Perez called the wear ‘extreme’, and Jean-Eric Vergne likened them to cauliflowers after just one lap. Mmmm, tasty.

It’s not all bad news though. Temperatures during testing are cold compared to a normal race weekend, so wear shouldn’t be as bad when they’re running on the hotter asphalt of a spring/summer day. And it’ll mean more pit stops and more overtaking, as well as allowing drivers to be more aggressive in qualifying.

Personally, we can’t wait to see if they change the order.

Sutil – will he or won’t he?

Getting back into an F1 car after over a year out of the sport can be difficult, so fair play to Adrian Sutil for wanting to prove himself. We still have no idea if he’ll get the Force India drive though.

Picture: Octane Photography
Picture: Octane Photography

Lots of factors are making whoever gets this last seat a hard one to call. On the track, Jules Bianchi didn’t get a fair crack at setting a fast time, due to the wet conditions on the last day. Off track, however, things are a lot more serious. Vijay Mallya is having more than his fair share of money worries, with staff at his Kingfisher airline having not been paid properly for months.

Then there’s the engine battle for next year and the considerable future – Bianchi’s links with Ferrari, and Sutil’s with Mercedes, boiling down to which one will be the most value for money. Money, money, money. It’s all the rage at the moment.

So who’s going to win, Sutil or Bianchi? There’s only one way to find out…