2009 Winter Testing – Barcelona November test summary

2009 Style Formula 1 Front Wing - BMW Sauber

Only two weeks after the end of 2008 Formula One season all the F1 teams except Toyota returned to the track to begin preparations for 2009 season. Thanks to major rules and regulation changes this winter season promises to be exciting one. It will take a while before teams roll out anything that is close to the cars they will race next year. At the moment each team seems to be collecting different sorts of data and in different ways. This means that the times we see on the timesheets mean very much nothing. So let’s look at what the teams were up to in Barcelona this week:

McLaren

McLaren worked with 2 cars. Both of them with simulated 2009 levels of downforce, one of them with KERS (the MP4-23K). Both cars also ran the slick tyres that will return to Formula 1 next year. Gary Paffet tested for all three days, Pedro de la Rosa on Monday only before moving to the Force India garage for the other 2 days of testing.

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Photos – Valentino Rossi tests Ferrari F2008 Formula 1 car at Mugello

Moto GP Champion Valentino Rossi started his Formula 1 Ferrari test at Mugello track. Rossi drove the Ferrari F2008 F1 car for 20 laps on his first day of testing. Same as the recent Sebastien Loeb’s Red Bull F1 test this Rossi’s test is a gift for the World Championship title, Rossi’s 6th in MotoGP.

Here are few photos from Rossi’s Ferrari F1 test at Mugello:

Valentino Rossi tests 2008 Ferrari F1 car

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Jerez Test – Photo Gallery

F1Wolf reader from Spain and F1 blogger himself, Draconte, sent me a selection of his photos from the final test of this season in Jerez. Here is the photogallery that also includes photos of Williams sporting that tiny 2009 style rear wing and the KERS testing Honda of Alex Wurz with funny coloured tyre side walls. It is interesting to see that half of the driveres testing that day were from Japan- Takuma Sato, Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima. Click on the thumbnails to see the full photo, click again on the photo to enlarge it if you wish.

Photos: Draconte, thanks !

Who will be the winners and loosers in Barcelona ?

The testing last week did not reveal too much. Not that we ever can tell too much about the form of teams from a test, but we can tell pretty much nothing after the last Barcelona test :-) . Here is my view of what may have changed.

Sebastien Bourdais STR03

First look at the top 3:

Ferrari looked to be damn fast on slicks and with the hole in the nose. But not that different times were later achieved for example by Barrichello and Alonso, also on slicks. Ferrari’s speed early on in the test does not reveal much … McLaren cars were quite slow last week but both de la Rosa and Hamilton did lots of laps on their test days and outright speed might not have been their focus. Quite the same can be said about BMW Sauber. All three top teams are optimistic on their own form but cautious at the same not knowing the true gains of the other 2 …

Down to midfield now:

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Barcelona Test April 2008 – Day 3

Toro Rosso STR03Day 3 in Barcelona was about new BullRosso car that was supposed to run for last 2 days of test. Unfortunately Mr. Bourdais smashed it beyond repair and we probably will not see STR03 again for the rest of the Barcelona test.

Fernando Alonso must have felt like at the end of 2006 season, his Renault finishing just ahead of Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari.

Not sure what exactly are McLaren and Toyota testing, they did not show much pace yet in Barcelona. Well, important will be the pace they show next week on the same track…

Most important development yesterday was however related to the team that does not test in Barcelona at all – Super Aguri

Barcelona test April 2008 – Day 3 times:

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Barcelona Test April 2008 – Day 2 – Fin and Ears

The day 2 in Barcelona felt a bit like deja vu. First either Adrian Newey did some freelancing for Renault, or Red Bull showed some aero love to their engine supplier, or Renault simply copied what they have seen in the next garage. Well, I though that the Renault car can’t get any more ugly that it already was. I was wrong apparently :-) .

Reanault Engine Cover Fin

It looks like in Honda they not only decided not to do much upgrading this year. They took it one step further, they are going retro :-) . The Dumbo ears back almost exactly a year after their premiere in Barcelona in 2007. Honda never used them in a race, but at least we had some Dumbo jokes :-) …

Honda Dumbo 2008

The only other obvious new develpment I spotted on Tuesday was what looks like a new front wing for Ferrari.

Ferrari Front Wing

Let’s see what today will bring besides Michael Schumacher … Toro Rosso are to test their new car so we may see yet another ugly fin covering the F1 engine …

For an in-depth report on all that has been tested in Barcelona so far I recommend checking out the comment from Kotenok below the previous post.

Just for the record, below are the times from day 2 of Barcelona tests. But as teams are testing very different packages, the times are of no significance. But it has been a while since Barrichello and Fisichella were on top of the timesheets.

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Barcelona Test April 2008 – Day 1

Ferrari holeIt looks like the first day day of Barcelona testing was all about the new Ferrari hole. The fact that the combination of the new hole in the nose part of Ferrari car and the slick tyres resulted in 3 seconds gap between Massa and the second fastest car, Honda of Alex Wurz, is one of the reasons the expected hole got so much attention.

McLaren slow times should not be taken too seriously though. If you look carefully at the pictures from Barcelona, you can see the tiny almost Monza like rear wing on de la Rosa’s car. McLaren obviously spent the day focusing on 2009 season rather than updates for the next race. BMW Sauber did not run on slicks yesterday, so Heidfeld’s times can’t be compared to Massa either …

One thing remains fact nevertheless, the Ferrari was scary quick on Monday in Barcelona.

While browsing the pictures from yesterday’s test, the only other ineteresting thing I spotted were the front wheel covers on Renault. If I am not wrong, that is new.

There is a nice picture gallery from Barcelona here. The site is in Spanish.

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Test Review – Jerez

All the teams except Toyota and Ferrari, but finally including Super Aguri, tested in Jerez last week. Williams and Red Bull tested for 4 days, the rest for 3 days only.

As usual it is hard to read into the times. But there are few things that are becoming obvious:

McLarens did look like the fastest cars out of the Jerez pack, although on Wednesday Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg, Kazuki Nakajima, Fernando Alonso and Robert Kubica all managed better times than quickest of McLaren’s – Lewis Hamilton. A day later however it was Heikki Kovalainen on top, and around 1.5 second faster than Lewis Hamilton. This big difference suggests that each driver was on different program… They also tried out some weird looking wheel covers.

How close to or ahead of Ferrari they are is everybody’s guess…

Red Bull and Williams did very well. The ugly fin on Red Bull seems to be working and looks set to stay … Nakajima is quite impressive in Williams and I would lie if I say I expected him to be pretty much on par with Nico Rosberg. The races may be different story, but so far so good for Williams and for Nakajima. BMW and Renault are 2 other teams that form the very strong upper midfield group. These four may be a bit behind McLaren at the moment, but it looks like the days of top 6 pre-booked for Ferrari, McLaren and BMW drivers are over. The Q2s are going to be very intense with 12 cars at least fighting it out for 10 places in Q3 …

Then there is Toro Rosso somehow standing alone between the top and the bottom. Vettel seems to be a tenth or two faster than Bourdais. They are still running the old car, the new one not expected before the beginning of the European F1 season. But judging from their current form, starting the season with an old car is not going to hurt them.

Force India car, despite getting a facelift, remains firmly among the backmarkers. There however seems to be quite a difference between performances of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil (and Tonio Liuzzi). Looks like Fisi is out to prove his critics wrong …

Honda still lacks the speed and the three second gap between Button and Kovalainen on Thursday looks scary. But the guys at Honda seem to be happy and quite upbeat after the Jerez test. Clearly clocking quick times was not why they went to Jerez. The updates expected for the final test in Barcelona are supposed to address all the issues with the car the team has identified, so let’s wait and see …

Super Aguri made it clear to the world they still exist. Both Sato and Davidson (although still without contract for 2008) took the car around the Jerez track. They were slower than Honda proper, but the gaps were just around a tenth of a second. Unfortunately these days being a tenth slower than Honda is not a exactly good news.

Ferrari on fire in Bahrain

Ferrari F1 Team LogoIt is a pity we did not have chance to compare the pace of Ferrari with McLaren last weekend in Barcelona. Ferrari chose to test in Bahrain this week and along with them came Toyota.

Without comparison with other teams it is difficult to judge where these 2 teams stand. But the gap between Ferrari and Toyota on day 1 and day 2 of the Bahrain test is scary …

Bahrain – Day 1, February 4, 2008
1) K. Raikkonen – Ferrari – 01:32.079
2) L. Badoer – Ferrari – 01:33.323
3) T. Glock – Toyota – 01:33.418
4) K. Kobayashi – Toyota – 01:33.656

Gap Raikkonen to Glock + 1:339s

Bahrain – Day 2, February 5, 2008
1) K. Raikkonen – Ferrari – 01:30.595
2) L. Badoer – Ferrari – 01:32.230
3) T. Glock – Toyota – 01:32.889
4) J. Trulli – Toyota – 01:33.379

Gap Raikkonen to Glock + 2:294s

Yes, I am comparing Ferrari and Toyota and F1 champion with GP2 champion. Also both teams may be on totally different test programs. But still, almost 2.3 second gap is either sign of seriously slow Toyota or very formidable F2008 …

For comparison, the gap between fastest Mark Webber and slowest Jenson Button on Sunday in Barcelona was 1:423 second (on about 10 sec a lap shorter track).

While Ferrari are clearly set for another year at the sharp end of the grid, Toyota seems to be heading in Honda’s direction …

Racist abuse is unacceptable and must be stopped right away

Hamilton AbuseAs those who read this blog regularly may see, I am not the biggest fan of Lewis Hamilton. I do not have much against him but simply there are other drivers I like better. But what has happened in Barcelona last weekend goes beyond the liking or not liking. The expressions of hate mixed up with racial abuse are totally unacceptable. You can just click on the image on the right that links to an Pitpass article to see how disgusting some “fans” were. If these people keep presenting themselves as fans of Fernando Alonso, then Fernando has to come out and distance himself from them, and do it pretty quickly.

The FIA has to clamp down on this right now and tough. To their credit they were quick to come out with a strong warning:

“The FIA is surprised and disappointed at the abuse directed at Lewis Hamilton. Abuse of this kind is a clear breach of the principles enshrined in the FIA statutes and any repetition will result in serious sanctions.”

The important thing is, that the serious action will indeed follow should the same happen again. I am not saying that because of few idiots F1 should now leave Spain, absolutely not. That would be total over reaction. The passions following last season are still high especially in Spain and they die down sooner or later. The sanctions should first of all be aimed at these “fans” … As a warning all these “people” caught on many of the pictures that circulate around the web should be identified and banned for ever from entering any F1 venue. This is the kind of “fans” F1 does not need and FIA needs to make it clear. Instead of threatining the tracks with loosing F1, FIA needs to sit down with organizers of the tests and races and work together on making sure that these now isolated incidents do not appear again…

Isn’t it better to express the allegiances this way:

Alonso Fans

Alonso Fans

then like this…?

Barcelona Test – The Summary

Red Bull FinEight teams have finished their weekend of testing in Barcelona. Three days and three different cars on the top. Hamilton (McLaren) on Friday, Vettel (Toro Rosso) on Saturday and Mark Webber (Red Bull) on Sunday.

In absence of Ferrari it was expected that the McLarens will be topping or be very very close to the top. Hamilton topped the sheets on Friday. On Saturday however Toro Rosso’s were both quicker than both McLarens and on Sunday Mark Webber managed to beat the silver cars. Overall the McLarens look good.

Toro Rosso team will not introduce their new car until few races into the 2008 season, so what they test now is an updated version of their 2007 car. Their Saturday impressive run might a bit misleading, as they an the car very light. However they did not do too bad also on Friday and Sunday. This definitelly was an encouraging weekend for the team.

Red Bull came up with a revolutionary design - implementing an ugly fin on the engine cover. And unfortunatelly it seems to be working Mark Webber’s fastest time on Sunday shows. If other teams get the hint, we may see more cars getting ugly.

BMW seem to have overcome the problems they experienced last week and they seem to be around 0.3 off the McLaren pace now. Renault is also clawing back, either the car has seen quite an improvement from last year or Fernando Alonso brought his famous 0.6 second with him. They do not seem to be 1 second behind McLaren any more. It looks pretty even between them and BMW Sauber.

Giancarlo Fisichella impressed o Friday with the 4th fastest time. Force India only tested with 1 car and neither Liuzzi nor Sutil were able to get anywhere near the time Fisi posted on Friday.

Williams did not do much in Barcelona. After Kazuki Nakajima’s crash the team did not continue on Friday. And when they realized the problems with their front wing mounting need more thorough fix, they decided to abandon the Barcelona test completely. A bit of a turn in their fortunes after the excelent form in Valencia. But one of the purposes of the tests is also to find out what does not work.

Rubens Barrichello, Honda RA18, Barcelona
Photo: HondaRacingF1

And this leaves the poor Honda. The car simply is not good enough yet and the team has lots of job ahead to move up from the back of the field to midfield at least. According to Jenson Button the car “lacks the driveability” and the new ECU and the fact that the car is brand new are mentioned as the main reasons. The gap between Honda and the top is 1 and half second at the moment. If I was to bet on who will copy the ugly fin from Red Bull first, Honda would be my candidate.

On Sunday there were 7 teams within 1 second and if ad the impresive run of Fisi in Force India on Friday we can say the field is very tight at the moment. The only team visibly lagging behind right now is Honda. We have no comparison with Ferrari and Toyota this time, these 2 will be testing this week in Bahrain. The lack of news (other than takeover and driver rumours) from Super Aguri is a bit worrying.

Unfortunatelly it will not be the racing that will be making the headlines after the Barcelona test but the racist behaviour of some Spanish fans towards Lewis Hamilton

Barcelona Day 1 – Red Bull Given Fin

I will summarize the Barcelona test when it is over after the weekend. Here comes only brief summary of what was new on Friday.

All teams showed up, except Ferrari and Toyota (heading to Bahrain instead) and Super Aguri (who knows where they are going).

- Red Bull came up with a radical engine cover. The purpose of this ugly fin is to provide more balance to compensate for TC and engine breaking ban. How this will affect the car if the wind blows from the wrong side, that we will see. It is hard to blame Adrian Newey now that the new Red Bull is not radical enough :-)

Here is the finned Bull:

Red Bull RB4 with fin

And this is the usual Red Bull look for comparison:

Red Bull RB4 normal

- Lewis Hamilton was the fastets guy on track.

- Fisichella was flying in his Force India car. Fourth fastest and less than a second slower than Hamilton.

- Nakajima hit the barriers hard. Williams cut their first test day short to work on the problem with the wrong wing mounting that apparently cause the crash.

- Hondas are still at the bottom but not sounding too worried, yet…

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