F1 Testing 2013 - The story so far after Jerez
HOT or NOT! A look at the testing form so far...
Last week, a new wave of Formula One testing got underway, which sadly meant a return to the puns that are associated with the trips to Jerez and Catalunya.
As all eleven teams looked to ‘dust off the cobwebs’ that have gathered in the pits since Sao Paulo, the early running remained a good chance to acclimatise with the new Pirelli tyres, and adapt to the slight tweaks in the 2013 regulations.
The main focus of attention in South-western Spain was on Lewis Hamilton, in Mercedes overalls for the first time. Hamilton’s attitude of apparent regret and nostalgia towards the back end of his McLaren era seemed to be in the past; this was an eager Hamilton, admitting: “I couldn’t get to sleep at night because I was so excited about getting to Jerez.”
If excitement was initially keeping Hamilton tossing and turning, it was soon to turn back to trepidation. Fifteen laps into his debut a break problem sent him helplessly into the barriers, just a day after teammate Nico Rosberg’s progress was halted following a fire on the W04.
The Silver Arrows managed to make up for lost time on the last two days of testing, completing 293 laps and most importantly, consecutive days of impeccable reliability. Hamilton was satisfied for now, but was keen to stress the car needed more downforce.
Two teams outright pace from testing has landed them the predictable tag as early season favourites for the long-hauls. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel’s quickest lap of 1:18.565 was only seven tenths shy of Felipe Massa’s fastest overall time of the week. The German’s effort was on the hard tyre, whereas Massa was two compounds faster, on the softs. Of course we don’t know the fuel loads, but with the softs being 0.9seconds faster than the hards, that lap time already looks ominous from Vettel, and the Red Bull will improve.
Despite Sebastian’s strong pace, it is McLaren who have the best package at this stage, with Ferrari not far behind but third best at this stage. Jenson Button’s opening day lap of 1:18:861 was branded “incredible” by Ferrari’s Massa. With Alonso skipping Jerez, Massa looked to build on the strong running he showed towards the end of last season, and saying Alonso will be faster than the Brazilian doesn’t wash through just yet. The Maranello teams’ performance was strong and they aren’t far off, and with upgrades in the pipeline you feel this season it is essential they aren’t playing catch-up from Albert Park.
Naturally, ‘nobody is showing their cards’ at this stage, but that lap by Button’s McLaren may have slipped out a little too early. What makes it even more incredible is that it was set on day one, with the track still ‘green’, and Button also had the newly coloured orange harder tyre on at the time. Some lap.
Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean both declared themselves satisfied with the Lotus, with the Finn in particular clocking the week’s second fastest time. Traditionally, the Enstone outfit have always started well. 2010 saw Robert Kubica claiming second at Australia (which was the season’s second race), which was followed up with Vitaly Petrov finishing on the podium a year later. Romain Grosjean qualified on third in 2012 but retired early on, and again you feel Lotus have had a solid start again this time round, and maybe it will take a fired up Grosjean down under to deliver that first lung busting lap from the new car.
With Williams waiting until Catalunya to test their new car, the midfield looked to gain an advantage on them by clocking up the miles. Sauber’s radical yet beautiful overhaul of the car’s design looks to have extended beyond the paintwork, as old boy Sergio Perez claimed he was “firmly convinced” they would win races. Lackadaisical pre-season mistakes don’t come much stranger than Nico Hulkenberg’s feet being too big to fit in the Swiss car. Nonetheless, Sauber have started well.
Jules Bianchi may miss out on a drive with Force India in 2013, but still managed to complete some solid work for team. A quick low fuel lap of 1.18.175 isn’t representative of where they are at; big work is required and they aren’t as quick as Sauber. Bianchi has kept Adrian Sutil’s seat warm and Force India’s hard work starts now.
Jean Eric-Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo won’t be delighted with the Toro Rosso’s early pace. A best of 1.18.760 by Vergne on the soft tyre looks to put them behind at this stage, but this was said last year and they finished well at the season opener.
Caterham and Marussia have both lost experience drivers for 2013, something both look like they now desperately need. Caterham were forced to remove an exhaust filter on the final day, and a new big update appears months away. Marussia meanwhile completed ten times more laps at Jerez this year than last, clocking 1000km by the close of play. With KERS and two exciting rookies, don’t be surprised to see the Marussia ahead of the Caterham come Q1 in March.
Sometimes ‘clichés’ are exactly that - because they are right. ‘We won’t know what teams have until qualifying in Australia’ is used every year, but is always true. Go back two years and you’ll remember McLaren looking way off the pace, yet arriving at Albert Park with the second quickest car. It’s not do or die at this stage, but you can see the order forming already. Catalunya will give us more subtle clues as to who’s strong this campaign.
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