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Monday, February 25, 2013

Confusing, Compelling and Counterproductive

Below are a number of different statistics based on the 8 days of testing we've experienced.  The data is interesting but as always relatively useless.

Photograph © Lotus F1 Team/LAT Photographic

have come out today to dismiss their laptimes as a false dawn that should not be taken as a serious indicator of where they are, however we can assume that they have a quick car.  These times have all been achieved without their passive DRS system so we can expect that there's more to come in qualifying and race trim - maybe a couple of tenths extra.  If they thought it wouldn't work it wouldn't be creating extra bumps on the car!

Photograph © Mercedes AMG Petronas

is another team that it's difficult to call, they too are downplaying the laptimes and yet you can sense a little bit of excitement in each of their interviews.  It's almost as if they are so excited that they feel they must downplay their own expectations.

Photograph © Scuderia Ferrari

Apart from Felipe Massa's stunning 1m17.879s lap of Jerez on Day 3, Ferrari have been hiding their speed to a large degree.  Alonso went fastest yesterday but second fastest overall.  I feel there's no conscious effort being made to squeeze a lap out and they are happy concentrating on the innate speed and balance of the car.  It will be interesting to see where they come out in the mix because they are always there or thereabouts, never too far back, and seem to be relatively content.

Checo Perez at Circuito de Jerez
photograph © Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

I am unsure about.  The talk, as with all of the teams, is cautious and also optimistic.  It is as if they feel they have taken a small step back but sense they have a car that will be capable of huge development over the season which will put them ahead of the others on the grid.  Yet they too seem relatively strong on laptimes, capable of mixing it up with the front runners if they wanted to.

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Photograph © Getty Images

Red Bull
are talking evolution.  They say the car is a few steps up from Brazil 2012. The same Red Bull with a slight modification.  I simply can't believe that.  The idea that Adrian Newey would sit back and allow an evolution to occur without sticking an AN2013 brand on the new car is unthinkable.  I get the impression that tinkering with designs is what he does instead of crosswords.  To have two months to play with this car must have produced something which he just hasn't shown us yet.  The basics may be on show but I expect something special to appear in Melbourne next month.

Then we come to the Midfield.  I know that technically Mercedes is the midfield but I've included them above simply on the sense of their repressed excitement.

I expect Force India, Sauber, and Williams to be fighting over 5th and 6th.  Even though testing is meaningless, for assessing Williams it is even more so in that they only launched their 2013 FW35 on Tuesday last, missing the first test completely with the new car.

Photograph © LAT Photographic/Williams F1 Team

I have to confess I'm a big fan of Williams and hope they do well this year.  Impartially it is interesting that they brought the old car to Jerez just to use it to assess the new Pirelli tyres, no other reason.

I find that very intriguing and hope that it has provided them with an insight that will put them up at the front over the first four races.  If they can start well on the fly aways then the motivation will be there to continue that run of form.  The other thing is that they are saying that 80% of the car is new, not evolution.  That too shows that they intend to make a strong assault on the top 5 this year. I hope they can achieve it.

Photograph © Sauber Motorsport AG

The Sauber looks like a very neat package and all of the commentators are Oohing and Ahhing over it, in particular those extremely narrow sidepods and Nico Hulkenberg, if he can mine the rich vein of form which saw him lead, on merit, in Brazil last year could show himself to be the driver that Michael Schumacher has always said that he was.  It was not for nothing that Schumi gave Nico his old neck training device  when he decided to pick up a new one when joining Mercedes from retirement.

Photograph © Sahara Force India F1 Team

Force India
Difficult to know what Force India is doing, from second drivers all the way through to just what the car is going to be like.  I don't like the design for this year and I'm not just talking the paint job! I know that it's every team's job to get as much money on the car as possible but most cars alter their paint jobs somewhat to accommodate the sponsors.  When the team owner is the sponsor I guess you can leave it green white and orange and just slap on the names of your beer, spirits, etc. without worrying about how it all looks - like the north end of a southbound mule. It's like they don't even try.

For them though the up side is that nobody can look at the car for more than a few seconds at a time so its quite likely that underneath it's a tasty little package, we just don't hear too much about the car design because it looks so damn ugly. I mean think about it, no-one really mentions the Force India car, they talk about the drivers and the times that the car did, but not about the actual car itself.  It even got lost in the car launch season by virtue of the fact that Ferrari launched on the same day with the McLaren the day before.  Is it a tactic or just a sheer lack of appreciation of any advertising nous?

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Photograph © Getty Images, Courtesy Scuderia Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso
Is it me or does this year's Toro Rosso actually look good in testing?  In average times over both venues it has outperformed at least two or three other midfield teams.  Only in terms of fastest laps at Barcelona last week has it shown itself in its usual position behind everyone other than Caterham and Marussia, two teams it is well ahead of.  Either it will be a surprise package or it has been running light over the entirety of the testing regime.  Only Melbourne will tell.  The real question I have is how many bits has it nicked from last year's Red Bull?  I'll have to do a side by side on it for my next post.

Photograph © LAT Photographic, Courtesy Caterham F1 Team

Caterham & Marussia
At the back, and on the back of the performance of the Marussia toward the end of last season I don't think we can separate the two teams making up the last two rows on the grid.  Where are Caterham and Marussia in comparison with the rest of the grid?  The answer is nowhere.  It looks, based on testing times, as if they have remained firmly rooted some 1.5 to 2 seconds behind the cars ahead.  Marussia look to have made some progress in catching up to Caterham but Caterham do not appear to have progressed to any extent which would see them racing with Toro Rosso.

Teams Barcelona Test Days 1-3 (Day 4 WET)
(Average laptime based on fastest laps per day)
Photograph © Lotus F1 Team/LAT Photographic

Lotus - 1.22.502
Mercedes - 1.22.651
Ferrari - 1.22.691
Red Bull - 1.22.728
McLaren - 1.22.944
Williams - 1.23.323
Toro Rosso - 1.23.656
Force India - 1.23.664
Sauber - 1.23.830
Marussia - 1.26.013
Caterham - 1.26.651

Teams Jerez Test Days 1-4
(Average laptime based on fastest laps per day)

Photograph © Lotus F1 Team/LAT Photographic

Lotus - 1.18.840
Mercedes - 1.19.063 (3 days)
Red Bull - 1.19.166
Force India - 1.19.206
McLaren - 1.19.245
Toro Rosso - 1.19.385
Ferrari - 1.19.661
Sauber - 1.19.701
Williams - 1.20.745
Caterham - 1.21.670
Marussia - 1.22.552

Average Laptime over both venues
Photograph © Mercedes AMG Petronas

Lotus - 1.20.671
Mercedes - 1.20.857
Red Bull - 1.20.947
McLaren - 1.21.094
Ferrari - 1.21.176
Force India - 1.21.435
Toro Rosso - 1.21.520
Sauber - 1.21.765
Williams - 1.22.035
Caterham - 1.24.160
Marussia - 1.24.282

Fastest Laps Jerez
Photograph © Scuderia Ferrari

Ferrari - 1.17.879
Lotus - 1.18.148
Force India - 1.18.175
Red Bull - 1.18.565
Sauber - 1.18.669
Toro Rosso - 1.18.760
Mercedes - 1.18.766
McLaren - 1.18.861
Williams - 1.19.851 (FW34)
Caterham - 1.21.105
Marussia - 1.21.226

Fastest Laps Barcelona
Checo Perez at Circuito de Jerez
photograph © Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

McLaren - 1.21.848
Ferrari - 1.21.875
Sauber - 1.22.160
Lotus - 1.22.188
Red Bull - 1.22.197
Mercedes - 1.22.611
Williams - 1.22.675
Force India - 1.22.877
Toro Rosso - 1.23.366
Marussia - 1.25.115
Caterham - 1.26.177

Laps completed
Photograph © Sauber Motorsport AG

Sauber - 773
Red Bull - 694
Toro Rosso - 659
Mercedes - 657
Ferrari - 641
Williams - 632
McLaren - 614
Caterham - 602
Force India - 565
Lotus - 519
Marussia - 461