It is now only a bit over a month to go before the 2009 F1 season kicks off. There were some interesting developments since the 50 days mark and the teams also did some serious testing. Here is the summary:
ING announced they will withdraw from Formula 1 after 2009 season. Bad but expected news for ING Renault F1 team and several F1 race organizers … At least Renault would be able to do something about their livery in 2010 …
Toro Rosso finally confirmed Sebastien Bourdais as their second driver (not meaning no 2) for 2009 season.
Red Bull Racing revealed their 2009 car – rather nice looking (considering the limits given by new regulations) RB5. Also Mark Webber returned to cockpit for the first time since breaking his leg during Tasmanian charity race.
The only unconfirmed race seats remain at the team formerly known as Honda. The rumours however surfaced last week suggesting that the team will be on the grid in Melbourne with Jenson Button and Bruno Senna driving for them. There are however conflicting reports about the teams finances – some saying the team is safe thanks to Brazilian money, some saying it is safe but only for 4 races, some say Bernie Ecclestone will get involved with the team in some way, some rule Ecclestone’s involvement out.
While F1 still faces danger of having only 9 teams on the grid in 2009 there has been some serious talk about new US based F1 team – USF1. We are to learn more about their plans after the official announcement planned in about a week time.
Eight teams were testing last week although Toro Rosso still with modified 2008 car only. Toyota, Ferrari and BMW Sauber escaped to Bahrain hoping to avoid bad weather only to loose 2 testing days to severe sand storms. Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Renault, McLaren and Williams stayed in Europe and tested in Jerez. Here is bried summary:
All three teams only had one proper day. The fastest overall was Kimi Raikkonen in Ferrari but the others were not too far behind:
Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) – 1:33.325
Jarno Trulli (Toyota) – 1:33.429
Timo Glock (Toyota) – 1:33.501
Felipe Massa (Ferrari) – 1:33.615
Christian Klien (BMW Sauber) – 1:33.666
Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) – 1m33.702s
In Jerez Renault seemed to be quite a bit off the pace until Fernando Alonso clocked the 2nd best time on the third day of testing. Lewis Hamilton in McLaren lead the pack but Red Bull and Williams were not that far away.
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) – 1:19.632s
Fernando Alonso (Renault) – 1:19.846
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) – 1:20.738
Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren) – 1:20.799s
Kazuki Nakajima (Williams) – 1:20.898s
Nico Rosberg (Williams) – 1:21.217s
Mark Webber (Red Bull) – 1:21.313s
Nelson Piquet (Renault) – 1:21.908s
Nico Hulkenberg (Williams) – 1:22.443s
Here are the times of Toro Rosso drivers that somehow show how much slower the 2009 cars compared to last year machinery.
Sebastien Bourdais – 1:17.472s
Sebastien Buemi – 1:17.591s
It is interesting to finally have chance to see how the cars compare but I would not read too much into the last week times. The teams play around with set ups, drivers are getting used to the slick tyres and new car balances, some teams still combine new cars with some old wings, some focus more on KERS development, some on long stints and reliability, some on raw pace, some may be sandbagging etc etc.
Here is the total test mileage covered by teams last week:
1350 miles – Toro Rosso
1016 miles – Williams
980 miles – McLaren
900 miles – Renault
825 miles – Red Bull
815 miles – BMW Sauber
750 miles – Toyota
740 miles – Ferrari
The countdown will be back in 10 days.