During the second pre-season test in Barcelona, the cards began to unfold. With Barcelona came yet another dispute, an unknown engine manufacturer filed complaint against other manufacturers who apparently found a loophole in engine mapping regulations. The FIA soon stepped in, and is now developing an updated Standard ECU – which controls the engine maps – prior to the Australian GP, therefore closing any potential loopholes.
Here’s a review of each team’s Barcelona experience.
Red Bull Renault
The Austrian outfit seemed very strong throughout the 4 days of testing. The RB8, according to track observers and journalists, is a very solid car. Red Bull’s testing program didn’t go uninterrupted though, with Webber forced to stop his race simulation on day 3 due to gearbox problems. Both Vettel and Webber were happy with the car, but the most notable comment came from rival Lewis Hamilton who reckoned Red Bull is still the team to beat this year.
The MP4-27 racked up the most mileage out of all the teams in Barcelona, which accentuates the team’s confidence in the car. Their times on long stints were comparable to Red Bull. Both drivers were very happy with the car, with Button specifically stating that there would be no excuses for being unable to mount a genuine title challenge this year. Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion, was among the many who were very impressed by the McLaren’s pace.
The Italian squad isn’t quite resting on its laurels. Ferrari didn’t do any proper race simulations during testing in Barcelona which only proves one thing; the car is not up to their expectations. The F2012 has apparent issues. Sebastian Buemi, a track side observer and former Toro Rosso driver, commented: “Oh dear, that doesn’t look so good. He’s (Fernando) playing with the throttle because there’s no traction.” after Alonso’s Ferrari passed by. Alonso expressed concern, revealing that the car is not going to be the fastest come Australia, while Massa soothed down further speculation, saying the car has progressed compared to its form in Jerez.
Mercedes rolled out their W03 for the first time in Barcelona. Not much can be said about the Mercedes, since their program mainly focused on getting to know the car more and ironing out any issues. Team boss Ross Brawn stated that the W03 is not a race-winning car yet, but a step forward from the W02. After four days of almost trouble-free running, Mercedes is now hard at work to improve its car’s overall performance.
After impressing in Jerez, Barcelona proved a disaster for Lotus. Romain Grosjean managed to lap the track only 7 times on day 1 before having to halt his program after complaint of strange car feeling. The team then had to withdraw from the test after discovering a chassis fault on their car. This is a huge bombshell for Lotus as it will surely impede their progress. To compensate for their track-time loss, Lotus were granted an extra private day of testing prior to the second Barcelona test.
Force India Mercedes
Force India shocked the F1 paddock with its reliable and very steady car. The VJM05 is a stark improvement over its predecessor. Nico Hulkenberg and Paul Di Resta felt positive in the car; the former was able to top the timesheets on the second day of testing. “Hulkenberg can brake late and get back on the gas early” were Buemi’s comments after observing the Force India on track.
The Swiss team experienced mixed fortunes. Sergio Perez faced a lot of reliability issues on the first two days of testing rendering him incapable of proper long runs. His Japanese teammate, Kamui Kobayashi, enjoyed much better running as he topped the timesheets on the 4th and final day in what appeared to be the fastest time in all 4 days. The Hinwil-based team has high hopes on the C31 as the car that will put them on top of the midfield.
Toro Rosso Ferrari
Red Bull’s Italian branch enjoyed low-key testing sessions in Barcelona. Both rookie drivers were upbeat about their chances of moving up the pecking order this year despite being hit with reliability problems.
The FW34 made the headlines as it took the number 1 spot on the third day of testing in the hands of Pastor Maldonado. The Williams proved a reliable car, managing a total of 454 laps, the second most mileage after the McLaren. The team is confident the Renault-powered FW34 is a step forward and will be the car to put their recent miseries behind.
Caterham’s testing endeavor in Barcelona was a complete fiasco. The CT01 is plagued with reliability issues. The car managed 240 laps, almost half of what the MP4-27 has achieved, throughout the 4 days. If the Malaysian team is to put up a solemn fight to midfield teams, they better get around their issues, and quick.
It is worth noting that Marussia ran their 2011-spec car, with their 2012 challenger expected to debut on March 1 during the second Barcelona test. No information regarding their rivals HRT as their 2012 car is yet to pass mandatory safety regulations.
By: Joe Baaklini