Thursday, 28 February 2013

Barcelona Testing: Round 2

Winter testing in Barcelona
Winter testing in Barcelona

And so to Barcelona for the second extended peak at all the new F1 cars for the 2013 season, or in the case of Williams, our very first look at the new FW35 (more on that later). Still lets not be too hard on Williams, at least they now have a car and two drivers which beats Force India who at the time of writing* have only formally announced one driver (but looking increasingly likely that Sutil will get the gig). Way to go guys.

*STOP PRESS* I had the best of intentions to post this blog last night but due to attending a Numeracy Session at the 5 year old’s school (and suffering the slight humiliation when I was unable to complete a puzzle that small children probably manage in 10 seconds), I didn’t quite get around to it.

Anyhoo, it may be the worst kept secret in F1 but Force India have FINALLY appointed Adrian Sutil as their second driver. It was clearly a close run thing between Sutil and Jules Bianchi who had impressed at the first test in Jerez. The word on the street is that Force India thought it might be a bit soon for Bianchi to take the big step up. Well, he is 23 so hardly a wide-eyed spotty teenager and I suspect that his manager, Nicolas Todt (son of Jean) isn’t deliriously happy at the turn of events. Still it is rare in F1 to be given a chance at redemption and the Sutil 2.0 Update will hopefully bring a welcome injection of personality and controversy into this year’s line up. Might be best if he steers clear of Hamilton given that messy business when Hamilton failed to turn up as a witness in Sutil’s trial for GBH. But the on-track fighting will be fun to observe.

Adrian Sutil - the man of the moment!
Adrian Sutil - the man of the moment

So lets have a quick canter back through the second test not least because the third test got underway today! If nothing else it will bring the husband up to speed!

First Caveat: Rely on pre-season testing times at your peril but interestingly Sergio Perez topped the timesheets overall last week just ahead of Fernando Alonso who had taken a break from posting on Instagram Olympian style fitness training to do a spot of driving. Ferrari definitely look like they’ll be in the running from the off unlike this time last year where they were reeling from the trauma of discovering in winter testing that their car was basically crud.

Alonso back and raring to go
Alonso back and raring to go

Both Red Bull (Webber) and Lotus (Grosjean) did full race simulation runs which are a much more accurate barometer of where the cars will all stack up come Melbourne. The Red Bull was slightly quicker in the first stints and the Lotus in the closing laps. What it does tell us is that on the face of it (insert the usual non race conditions/colder track/tyre degradation caveats here) Red Bull and Lotus look extremely close in terms of pace. And when Vettel and Raikkonen are behind the wheel they will go even faster.

There is a lot of talk coming out of Mercedes downplaying the team’s chances this year. Lewis in particular suggesting he will be scrapping with Caterham for the odd crumb in terms of points. So you would be forgiven for doing a double take at seeing Rosberg’s name top of the timesheets on the first day of testing, and Hamilton’s name topping the final day’s times. Admittedly the weather was pretty dire on the last day (torrential rain with some hail thrown in – I’m almost amazed we weren’t holidaying in Northern Spain at the time, such is our catastrophic luck with holiday weather!) and Hamilton set his time in the tiny window of slick tyre running. But still.

Lewis getting to grips with the new Mercedes
Lewis getting to grips with the new Mercedes

Mercedes is not alone in (ahem) managing expectations. Button has been lamenting “the tricky winter so far” at McLaren and saying he is finding it very hard to understand the car. Does that mean Perez is understanding it better than him or they’re still heavily refining aspects of it. In other news at McLaren, their technical director, Paddy Lowe, has been pinched by Mercedes for the 2014 season. It doesn’t take rocket science to deduce that Ross Brawn may well be enjoying Ferrari’s finest hospitality come the Monaco Grand Prix. To quote McLaren’s Managing Director, Mercedes have clearly decided to adopt the ‘Roman Abramovich’ approach to winning – just chuck telephone directory salaries to get people to join your gang. Just as with Chelsea, it might well work for a time but no one will like you very much. Least of all their managers apparently.

Lewis Hamilton and Paddy Lowe - soon to be reunited
Lewis Hamilton and Paddy Lowe - soon to be reunited at Mercedes

Red Bull are still in full ‘lockdown’ mode guarding the RB9 behind special screens the very minute it returns to the pits before covering the car up with blankets. A strange image of Christian Horner as Jack Bauer has just entered my mind so I shall swiftly eject it and move on! Either Adrian Newey has been interpreting the old rules and regulations a bit liberally (again) or they are trying to spook the other teams that their car is yet again brilliant and The One To Beat.

"Bauer do you read me, this is Christian..."
Jack Bauer - any old excuse

Not too surprisingly, the Williams racked up the most laps in Barcelona and while no earth-shattering times were set, the core reliability of the brand new car was impressive. Apparently they will be bringing upgrades to every single race which is no mean feat. Both Sir Frank and Mike Coughlan have been full of praise for the tremendous job that Maldonado did last year. Music to the husband’s ears. What will 2013 hold for the New Senna?

The new FW35
The FW35

Looking down the lower end of the grid, is anyone else perplexed as to what ‘conflicts’ are preventing Luiz Razia from driving for Marussia? To date Luis has completed just two days testing since his drive was announced. Kind of ironic that the reason for his appointment (in part) was his sponsorship backing which is the very thing stopping him racing.

The final 4 day test begins today in Barcelona and towards the end of this test we should finally see a lot of the cars running Melbourne-spec. That will give us the biggest steer (pardon the pun) yet of how they will all line up in Australian in under 3 weeks time. Excited much!

All I need to do now between now and Melbourne is work out who I’m rooting for in this strange post-Schumacher world.

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