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F1 teams ready for pre-season showdown

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Andrew Benson | 10:30 UK time, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Formula 1 teams are gathering in Spain this week to make their final preparations for the most eagerly anticipated new season for years.

With star names such as Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso all in attendance, the four days of running at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya from Thursday to Sunday are a final chance to judge form before the opening grand prix in Bahrain on 14 March.

The three tests so far this winter have produced fastest laps from a wide-ranging number of people, including unfancied teams such as Sauber and Toro Rosso. Despite this, there is a consensus on the story behind the headline times - Ferrari have so far had an edge over all their rivals.

New signing Alonso and team-mate Felipe Massa headed all four days of the first test in Valencia nearly a month ago.

But most observers share Button's belief that Ferrari have had the quickest car at the two most recent tests in Jerez given that both Alonso and Massa have been consistently fast while carrying a heavy fuel load.

As for McLaren, whose drivers set the fastest times of the last two tests in Jerez, and Red Bull, they have so far seemed to be in better shape than Mercedes, who won last year's titles in their previous guise as Brawn and now have the sky-high expectations that come with having Schumacher in their ranks as the German legend makes his return following a three-year retirement.

Fernando Alonso in a Ferrari at last week's Jerez testWill Alonso and Ferrari carry their pre-season pace-setting form into Bahrain? Photo: Getty Images

But things can change very quickly. None of the cars has so far run in the specification in which they will compete in Bahrain, and all of the teams will have updates for this week's runs in Barcelona, and yet more for the first race of the campaign. The difference those updates make to each car's performance could easily shuffle the competitive order significantly.

At the same time, the banning of in-race refuelling this year for the first time in 16 years makes testing particularly hard to read.

The difference in lap time between a car laden with enough fuel to complete a race distance and one on qualifying-style low tanks is more than five seconds. That makes it easy for teams to disguise their true performance - Alonso, for example, has made it clear that Ferrari have been doing exactly that.

But while all the top teams appear to have been concentrating so far on race simulations, all will want to go to Bahrain having done at least some low-fuel runs aimed at understanding their cars in qualifying trim.

The difference in weight between a car in qualifying on Saturday and at the start of the race on Sunday will be in the order of 150kg - which has a huge effect on ride heights and therefore on aerodynamic performance.

So tuning the cars so they perform well enough in qualifying to produce a good grid position while not compromising their speed in the early stages of a race will be one of the biggest challenges facing teams this season - and all will have to do some work on this in Barcelona. That should give observers a chance to see all the top cars running on low fuel.

Behind the top four, a number of other teams have hinted at potentially strong form.

Renault, who are starting a new era after selling 75% of the team to a venture capital company and with Robert Kubica attempting to fill the void left by the departure of Alonso, and Williams, with veteran Brawn refugee Rubens Barrichello joined by highly rated German rookie Nico Hulkenberg, have both looked quick on occasion.

As have Sauber - now back under the ownership of founder Peter Sauber following BMW's departure from F1 - Force India and Toro Rosso, who are building their first car since their former days as Minardi four years ago.

For new teams Virgin and Lotus, meanwhile, Barcelona will be a case of taking a few more steps on the lower slopes of a very steep learning curve.

Virgin had a torrid time at their debut test in Jerez, with a front wing breaking and running limited to about 20 laps over the first three days. But things improved markedly for the second Jerez test last week, where Lotus made their debut.

The Lotus was impressively reliable at its maiden test, doing 140 laps on one of the days - an incredible achievement for a team that did not have an entry until mid-September. The car was less impressive against the stopwatch, though, being about a second slower than the Virgin.

The progress of both teams will be watched closely at the Circuit de Catalunya, which hosts the first European race of the season, the Spanish Grand Prix on 9 May.

It is a demanding track that comprehensively tests a car's all-round capabilities - another reason why these next four days will be watched particularly closely by those eager for an insight into pre-season form.

Despite the difficulties in reading the lap times, the Barcelona test should provide a reasonably accurate guide to form for those who know what to look for - such things as consistency of pace over long runs - and where to find out the information that fills in the gaps.

BBC Sport will have an extensive presence in Barcelona, with expert analysts Martin Brundle and David Coulthard, commentator Jonathan Legard, pit-lane reporters Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie and journalist Sarah Holt all attending.

They will all be feeding into our coverage on the BBC Sport website, which will include live text commentary on all four days and extensive end-of-day reports.

At the end of the test, on Monday next week, we will have video interviews with all the leading drivers, as well as analysis of what it all meant from Ted.

Then it will be a question of waiting until Bahrain to see whether Barcelona provided the insight we all hoped it would.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Andrew

    who do you think will win the championship this year? Looking at the grid its going to be an interesting season with some very strong drivers across the field!

    I've got a gut feeling that it might be Massa's year, theres been so much hype about Alonso at Ferrari and theres no doubt that Massa is a very good driver, i think he'll quietly bide his time and then pull out some good results, likewise I can see Hamilton outdoing Button this year!

    I think we could see Niko Rosberg doing well this year, being alongside Schumi will do him the world of good!

    Whats your thoughts on who'll win it? potential dark horses? etc

  • Comment number 2.

    According to many it will be an opportunity for the top teams to bring their updates so we can finally see whether or not the pecking order is what many of the engineers and drivers have been hinting at.
    I've got my fair share of reservations relating to the final Q3 Qualifying tyre being used for the race as well.
    I thought that the whole reason for running low fuel in qualifying was for us to finally see which drivers and which cars are quickest on a hot lap. This throws yet another uncertainty at the matter as drivers will be conserving their tyres and investing in the race performance; which I think is a pitty.
    Hopefully by the Barcelona test it will be clear to us which teams will be on the grid, and who won't.
    Can't wait for the test and for the season to get underway!

  • Comment number 3.

    Agree with the Massa comment, he has been in teh shaddow and no pressure on him, so he could perform; but then again Alonso says he's really happy with the car and Ferrari.
    Can't see Hamilton turning over Button that easily as the long wheelbase car suits a progresive driver rather than an agressive driver; so either Hamilton will have to calm the steering inputs down a bit, or his team mate will sail past him ..

  • Comment number 4.

    Really pleased to see the presence from BBC Sport - although I do wish FOM would allow the BBC to stream live video from these tests or at least produce summary video clips from each test day. It's not like the BBC haven't given Bernie a truck load of money for the rights!

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Andrew, I enjoyed reading the blog.

    I would also like to see Massa put one over Alonso. It would be nice to see the tension rising at Ferrari. As Martin Whitmarsh said it will all be fine as long as Fernando is winning....

    It does seem that Ferrari have the edge at this point but it is difficult to read. McLaren seem to be behind them with Mercedes following them. Not sure where Red Bull come into it, can't see them in 4th place.

    I am expecting a strong season from Webber. He will know that he would have to beat his teamate this year to retain a drive if Kimi comes back. Remember that he started last year without much testing due to his injury. When he came good he won races and also beat Vettal a few times who in my opinion made too many mistakes. Important ones.

    The top order, if I had too, mortgage on it....

    1. Alonso
    2. Hamilton
    3. Vettal

    Just a guess, MSC will be up there if the car is good enough.

    Bring it on!!!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    pbcunha.. how I see it is they kept the Q3 tyre for the race to increase strategy variation. Otherwise the race should pretty much finish as the qualifying did, simply because there isn't any fuel strategy anymore.

    This way there's still all the uncertainty and hype pre race RE: who's chosen the right tyre according to the circuit / strengths of the car and those around it etc.. time lost during tyre stops should be minimal, but should be interesting as I'm sure the cars will want to be as good as possible on the harder compound as well as getting the most speed from the softs..

  • Comment number 7.

    This should be Ferrari's year. They must be hungry after the dismal season last year and they have the best driver on the grid in Alonso who will ring the neck of that machine. Schumacher is a great story, but Alonso must be desperate to get back on top after his lean years at Renault and the tarnish of his one season at Maclaren.

  • Comment number 8.

    Andrew,

    What's the latest with HD coverage? Are we just skipping HD and going to 3D in 2020?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Comment number 9.

    Agree with the above quote, however I think top 3 will be:

    1. MASSA
    2. HAMILTON
    3. ALONSO

    I agree, if things don't go Alonsos way then he will crack, happened at McLaren, will happen at Ferrari

    I would like to see Webber do well, he's been in the sport so long that i think he almost deserves a bit of luck!

    I think red bull will surprise us all to be honest, but no one knows what the future holds...........maybe bernie will tell us that cars have to have 8 wheels or that you can't race unless he likes you :p

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi all,

    Thanks for your initial comments - and I'm looking forward to reading some more.

    On this year, Matt Bennett, I really don't know what to say. If Ferrari continue their apparent form, you'd have to fancy Alonso. But who knows where the teams will be in Bahrain - and through the rest of the season? All I know is that on paper we have the most mouth-watering year in prospect for as long as I can remember.

    With regard to HD, Ginger, I'm afraid we are dependent on FOM, and they have decided not to broadcast F1 in HD this year.

  • Comment number 11.

    This should really be Ferrari's year, and note that I say should rather than will. There's no doubt that we are about to witness one of the most exciting seasons in years, with all the good drivers in good cars, and I guess there are a couple of F1 champions out there who must prove their worth in the face of proper competition.

    I reckon Vettel is going to be a regular in the podium, and perhaps Nico will finally pull a victory, or a few. But then again, there's Schumie, Lewis, Jenson, Webber, Massa, Alonso... Can't wait to Bahrain!

  • Comment number 12.

    Im not sure about your theory. If it true that Ferrari are hiding their cards I do not understand why Alonso would say so as he would be blowing their cover. Considering last year he claimed his Renault was tops I think one should distrust all he says . Besides, what about the rumours that their fuel consumption is bad? They might not have been running on high fuel loads for long! Besides, if their qualifying time is not good enough they may waste their best stint behind trafic.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Andrew
    I agree with comment number 4. I find it hard to understand why in this day and age there are not any video highlights, or even live streaming of the tests themselves. Surely the attendance at the venues (40,000 in Jerez/Valencia) proves the huge demand for viewing of these pre-season tests. Bernie has removed home from youtube the home-video footage that people from Jerez had been posting. If this is the sport with the largest viewing figures worldwide, why is it that he doesnt want people to watch it??? It is just ridiculous!!!! Please can the BBC do a bit more to get video of these tests???

    On another note regarding viewing, has there been any confirmation that the FOM have implemented the HD feeds for this years championship. I also find it hard to believe that I can watch "DARTS" in HD, but not my beloved F1, the supposed pinnacle of technology and motorsport!

  • Comment number 14.

    I think people are asking the wrong questions here. The thing is with the testing venues used they are quite easy on fuel consumption, tyres etc. This year so much emphasis is put back on driving style. Those who are hyping up Alonso and Massa at Ferrari only need to look at the styles of driving compared that of Schumacher or Button. What i think is certain is that at every race the field can be reversed amongst the top runners becasue of this. On the stats at the end of the season expect 1, 5, 1, 9 position finishes all over the place. So for me whoever consistently finishes in top 5 will have the best chance of the title and for me that will be either Button, Schumacher or Webber. I am not discounting Ferrari but think they will be a disapointment compared to others...

  • Comment number 15.

    FOM have missed a big opportunity, this is a big year for F1 and missing out on HD is a huge error of judgement by them. Come on guys buck up your ideas and move with the times

  • Comment number 16.

    Stop with the HD already- Bernie will end up just selling it to someone else and pulling qualifying or something to make it a package. Dont give him ideas! We have the red button coverage which is more than post game waffle its excellent and its informal and people there ,not just talking heads drop in. The only improvement is to do it in the paddock as often as possible.Brazil was amazing.

  • Comment number 17.

    It is going to be a very exciting and competitive year for sure. Ferrari have looked strong, but nothing stays still in F1, and we'll all be waiting for Bahrain with bated breath to see which team is on top. Still difficult to read at this point, but given competitive cars I think the WDC will be between Hamilton and Massa as too very fast drivers. I think Button may do better than we all expect so third place may be between Alonso, Button, and Vettel.

  • Comment number 18.

    Pre season form hmm. I dont think we'll know until March. Still they all seem to work without falling over a lot. I am more interested in how, to keep it a race, they deal with slow cars in qualifying and the race.2 seconds behind a lotus could lose the race for you.

  • Comment number 19.

    I would disagree on either Alonso or Massa this year. I think the egos will cause problems and the team dynamics at Ferrari will suffer as a result. I think Hamilton will be determined to retake his title and think McLaren will come good with the car to do it. People aren't really rating Button this year, which I believe is a big mistake, but I still don't think he has the raw speed of Hamilton. The first championship is always the hardest to win and now he's done that, so will now be able to just go for it. I don't think Mercedes will come out with a car to do the business so I don't fancy Schumi's chances this year. So My predictions.

    1. Hamilton
    2. Vettel
    3. Button
    4. Alonso
    5. Schumacher
    6. Massa
    7. Webber

  • Comment number 20.

    Do the teams have the option of changing the ride height in the pit stops as the fuel burns off? If it's that important and isn't precluded by the rules.

    Re the HD question - there are technical difficulties of sending the HD data feed from each car - it's a lot more data than standard definition, and mixing SD from the car and HD from the track-side cameras causes problems too. Also, the Middle East doesn't have much HD transmission so Bernie wont be bothered with it until they do! (or am I being cynical?)

  • Comment number 21.

    We must not forget that Ferrari looked strong in last year's pre-season testing, and then went on to have a miserable season. McLaren and Red Bull seem to be their closest challengers, and are sure to give the Scuderia a massively hard time in Bahrain. Ferrari will NOT have this easy.

    I'm keeping a keen eye on Lotus and Virgin and my fingers are crossed for USF1 and Campos (or whatever its name is now). I really hope these new teams make it and have a long and successful future in the sport.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi Andrew - Will the BBC be having any pre-season shows broadcast?

    Also can someone sort out EJ's wardrobe - unless his shirts come with volume control!!

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Andrew

    Hopefully USF1 and Campos Meta 1 will be on the grid or it could be Stefan GP. Looks exciting

    Pacesetters could be: Ferrari,McLaren,Red Bull, Mercedes but then again watch out for other teams it is wide open.

    Check out my blog about USF1 and feel free to leave a comment at:
    http://f12010latest.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 24.

    This applys to everyone

  • Comment number 25.

    I think there are some very good points here...
    Impossible to say where the field lie in terms of Speed. Although Ferrari have showed the consistency required to be a front-running team.
    According to all the engineers; McLaren have the most impressive car in terms of the aero-concept; so its all very close at the moment.
    Once again - i think that it will come down to car development in the end. RedBull managed to show the world last year that they can keep a reasonable development rate throughout the whole season. Whether they can keep up with Ferrari and McLaren is another question.
    McLaren have the most impressive facilities at their disposal; namely the tyre modelling software that all engineers have been quoted as saying is one of the most sophisticated software in F1 today.
    Assuming that McLaren dont start the season too far off the pace; I reckon they'll be able to clinch it; Button will be able to bring a wealth of experience to the team even if he finds it difficult to beat Lewis and bring home race wins.
    However, if recent championships have shown us anything, its that the car that begins the season on top is usually the one that takes the chequered flag at the end (Brawn'09,McLaren'08,Ferrari'07,Renault'05'06,etc)

    The most important thing for me to take from the next test is to find out how McLaren hold up in race simulations and long runs; as they havent proven their pace in this area yet.
    In the end I think that its between Ferrari and McLaren (irrespective of the order of the next test) with RedBull having a very quick car but struggling in long pace and reliability.
    Mercedes will show flashes of brilliance as their car is a fundamentally different design to many of the top teams; and Ross Brawn always has a cheeky ace up his sleeve.
    Bring on the new season!

  • Comment number 26.

    I think everybody seems to have overlooked Redbull especialy vettel althouhg being a brit and supporting button since 2000 i would like him to over shadow hamilton and the rest of the elite.Shuey,Hamilton,Alonso,massa and webber and not discounting rosberg. especialy with heavey fuel tanks this would favour button.so after catalunya i think we will see a better calculation whos on top. and adrian newey has taken more time to develop his car i think they will come on stronger and stronger the year goes on.one thing i wouldnt bet on is shuey not winning 1 race

  • Comment number 27.

    Does anybody know if Mercedes have run with their 2010 diffuser yet?

    I remember reading or seeing Ross Brawn say that the car has not run with the new diffuser yet. If this is true, I would expect something big from the MGP W01.

    The car has looked decent, especially on long runs, and if this is without the new-spec diffuser (them again!), the team could be sitting on something special.

    I just get the feeling that Mercedes are seriously sand-bagging. Time will tell!

  • Comment number 28.

    Who will? Who is? What's the....?

    Don't really matter what the question does it, the truth is nobody really has a clue. By Bahrain the cars will be different to what they are now, some cars will deceive by being fast with low fuel and a dog with full tanks, others vice-versa, so the beauty is it's anybody's guess.

    Except Ferrari will win of course. It is after all still an FIA event... ;-)

  • Comment number 29.

    Seems like one big Jolly for the BBC sports staff in Barcelona .. will there be enough of you there to cover a test ?

    Cant wait for the poney war to finish and the real thing to start .. it's going to be fun this year.

  • Comment number 30.

    Hi Andrew, great blog.

    It is impossible to say where the teams are right now, they all have something in reserve and until battle is joined, we do not know.

    What I do know, is that Ferrari were desperate to get back to the top and made a huge error by signing Alonso. This guy is dynamite........I mean he is an accident looking for a place to happen, and it will happen at Scudera.I have been saying it since the day he put pen to paper, you do not want this chap on your team.

    Now that he is there, Massa knows how to handle big egos like his, step forward MS, and he will do very well.

  • Comment number 31.

    One thing that people are not considering is that the weather in Spain has been very atypical this winter (very wet and generally cold) and that there has been little opportunity for dry running apart from the first test. Prospects this week for extended dry running this week depend on the weather stabilising finally.

    The teams have only got good data on their extended dry running capabilities in the first test. How applicable test data from a cold, wet (and now flooded) Jerez will be to the set-up required for Bahrain is not clear to me. This could shake up the grid a little unless the Barcelona weather is good and allows plenty of dry running. Right now the forecast is reasonable, with warm, dry weather expected, but also some very strong westerly winds.

  • Comment number 32.

    To Suntjorge i think ferrari will allways be strong but the sport has now veared towards the independants instead of the manufactures with reagrdsall the changes the sport has gone through in the past 5 yrs so come on williams lets have u back at the top

  • Comment number 33.

    Seems quite a few people are missing the point here.
    With the no refuelling rule, drivers are going to start 'managing' their cars again. Flat out speed in tests will not count for much when lights change at the first race.
    Because EVERYBODY on the grid is going to have to (re)learn this trait, there are going to be plenty of mistakes made because of racing too hard in the first third of the race and destroying tyres,using too much fuel etc, so having the fastest car in testing for this year at least means virtually nothing.
    The drivers who I see doing well in the first half of the year are those with smooth driving styles and those who raced Formula 1 in 'the good old days' Schumacher,Button and Barrichelo being obvious drivers to cite.
    Alonso's 'the ferrari is brilliant' comments are best ignored. Ferrari are still the political team they always were so always like to make statements like that and Alonso's ego will have been getting a right royal treatment there. Just wait until he can't qualify higher than fifth for a few races and see how quickly things go sour, especially if Massa can outperform him.

  • Comment number 34.

    Yianni i think where on the same level thats exactley what i was saying on my comment griffterlee speed is no longer as much of a factor and quali doesnt mean anything if you shoot your tyres to bits after 15-20laps

  • Comment number 35.

    march 12 come on life will be worth living again and will indicate racing season is on the way with all other catagorys BTCC,WTCC,IRL,GP2,DTM come on Paffet n Di'resta,WRC will KIMI stay or will he go also motogp

  • Comment number 36.

    Will there be a video of action at the end of each day Andrew with the team? :)

  • Comment number 37.

    Looking forward to a potentially fascinating season, though I'm not convinced the refuelling ban will produce good races. Monaco's going to be especially dull this year.

    Not looking forward to another season of Jonathan Legard's commentary, hasn't the Beeb found anyone better yet?

  • Comment number 38.

    (33) Yianni, you are absolutely right. Fernando Alonso has never reacted well to having a competitative No. 2 driver in the team. How he and Felipe Massa will get on is going to be an interesting experiment, especially if Felipe Massa beats him a couple of times early in the season. There will also be a huge weight of expectation and his reaction to any set-backs may not be terribly tactful, as Renault found. So far the Spanish media have played the "his team didn't back him" card in previous conflicts, but this won't wash if he has problems yet again.

  • Comment number 39.

    I can see ferrari being top fore the first third of the season (based on the winter testing so far) but only just top at that. if Mclaren can make up a 2.5 second gap in half a season then they can close the gap to ferrari. Red Bull are obviously quick and really expect them to be fighting for the championship. People are saying that P5 in the constructors will be hotly contested but I think P4 will since mercedes seem to be off the pace. all of the established teams seem to have at least podium potential as only renault and force india have yet to top a session out of the 09 teams. out of the new teams it is hard to tell between virgin and lotus (has anyone else noticed how good those two cars look? especially the lotus!) I think campos will make the grid but not USF1. i do like Stefan GP though as since they are running toyotas 2010 car they may be podium competitors since every reasonable driver on earth has been linked to them.

    as for drivers i have no idea who'll win the championship but i do think that if Massa beats Alonso the stroppy spaniard will quit.

  • Comment number 40.

    Massa will beat Alonso, Webber will beat Vettel, Schumi will come good but it will be too late, Barrichello & Rosberg will be consistently in the points & Button & Hamilton will be fighting it out throughout the season with Hamilton becoming the eventual champion. He's hungry, McLaren are hungry from their mistakes from last year & won't want to go through that all over again. Alonso will have another strop because he won't get on with Massa as he doesn't get on with anyone who's anyone & as todays cars dont use 'mass damper systems' as they were declared illegal, or have team mates that crash for you (also illegal) then I'm afraid Alonso will have another tough year. It's a shame really as I think that he's a talented driver but he just suffers from an ego problem. Massa's also hungry after missing out on so many races from last season due to his unfortunate accident & losing out to Hamilton in '08. I think Button will have the edge at the beginning of the season due to having a smooth driving style & being able to manage his tyres better then Hamilton will take note, adapt & eventually become at 1 with his McLaren & become almost untouchable. He's had his share of bad luck, made some mistakes (who doesn't?) & had some incredible drives with a dog of a car. This year is Lewis'

    Get ready for some spectular crashes!

    1-Hamilton
    2-Button
    3-Massa

    Can't wait for the season to get underway.

    As Murray used to say...GO GO GO!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    can someone have a word with those mad italians - what's with the white rear wing then ! gone are that days of ferrari sponsors actually being associated with the operation of the cas - that's all well and good - it's expensive and even Ferrari need these sponsors - but they must draw the line at changing the traditional red car to a red and white Santander advertising board ! it actually looks wrong !

    won't stop Alonso from winning the championship though will it - with Button & Hamilton taking too many points off each other to challenge ! (RBR's - fast but fragile - Newey special again !!)


    can't wait for the start of the season !

  • Comment number 42.

    One concern nobody has mentioned is just how slow these newbie cars are going to be.

    A rookie driver going round in a car 7 seconds or more off the pace is an accident waiting to happen, as we've seen a few times in the past. Add in a bit of heavy rain, wearing tyres etc and I'm not sure this is a good idea. I can see somebody being seriously injured as a result of this. And I sincerely hope I'm wrong....

    I know people have to start somewhere, but potentially 8 cars going round in slow-mo is probably 6 too many.

  • Comment number 43.

    Well 3 tests down and it really is very difficult to determine. Sure Ferrari and Mclaren look quick at times but then again so do others. Fuel loads are the great unknowns also many teams have been doing big mileages for reliability testing - like Williams. If you add the weather variability across the days, as well as which point they may have been in their programmes it really is a difficult call. Barcelona will see more new parts and modifications which further muddy the waters and these will change again by the time of Bahrain.
    It is also possible to have teams not showing their hand by not posting true performance times for the complete lap. We needed the sector times for the last test at Jerez - sometimes backing off in one sector is used so as not to show a teams ultimate lap performance. All sorts of smoke screens and woollen blindfolds will have been used.

    The variables presented by no re-fuelling will be quite hard to work out until a few races have passed. A low downforce superlight car claiming pole position could become a dead slow mobile chicane when fat with fuel and trying to preserve tyres - i suspect we will see some bunched up sparring for position with some suspect manoeuvres and wing damage in certain races. Tyre wear,fuel economy and reliability will factor heavily and all of these remain unknowns.

    Predictions for the season, Hamilton,Alonso,Schumacher,Vettel,Massa,Barrichello,Webber,Rosberg,Button,Kubica,Kobayashi,Hulkenburg,

    Bahrain - Alonso,Rosberg,Barrichello,Schumacher,Webber,Button

    All in all an exciting prospect - one can only hope we do get a vintage year and not a one horse race.

    HD - not really bothered about it yet - I would be more interested in coverage that was akin to the Sky service of Pay Per View of some years back where you could choose to watch different cams etc., that Bernie's TV service provided. I guess trying to get £12 a race for PPV was a step to far back then and really was just for the well heeled aficionado? Anyone have a view about this type of service today and what would you be prepared to pay and what content would you like to see?

    Anyway another great season of F1,MotoGP & WSBK along with all our national series is about ready to get underway - let's hope for a long hot summer of entertainment.


  • Comment number 44.

    Re #42 Telnolies

    I actually think traffic will be less of an issue than the last time this many cars were on the grid (1994 ish?). I'd be surprised if any car is 7 seconds off the pace, they'll probably be nearer 3 or 4 seconds away. And even 7 seconds would be closer than some drivers managed in the 80s/early 90s.

    With all these newer tracks it gives backmarkers much more room to get out of the way because they're so wide. I hope it is something that race stewards keep a very close eye on though, because with an unusally high number of rookies it's likely to be an issue at some stage; the FIA need to set a strong, fair precedent early on; a lot of the time on the racing ladder dangerous driving goes unpunished, these youngsters need to know what is unacceptable right from the start.

    26 cars (well, potentially 26) at Monaco could well make for a thriller, plenty of safety cars to bunch things up. Could well be a season highlight that!

  • Comment number 45.

    I didn't notice the Ferrari edge in the previous races.
    Different team swill have different strategies with respect to showing what they can do, versus, showing at the top to gain more sponsorship money, or close deals under consideration that have been in the pipe for a while.
    Precisely because of this, I don't think analysis of which team have the best car is particularly meaningful, yet.
    Yet, because with the last test before the first race, teams will have to test to race, that is try their best set-ups for race simulation tests; I expect quite a few long runs, including race distance simulations. We should have a good sign of who may be on top at the end of the Barcelona test; however, who knows, maybe it will pour rain the whole time, and we may not have much better understanding of how cars will perform in the HOT, and DRY.
    It seemed to me that the McLaren looks good, probably the best, with little to choose between the Red Bull and the Ferrari, both of which could be within range of being the fastest cars, and Mercedes and Williams similar over mixed testing.
    But the Red Baron and Ross Brawn have a history of playing down their speed in pre-season; it will be interesting to see where they really stand this weekend, because, they, like the other teams, will have to show it, to know it, for Bahrain, two more weeks down the road.

  • Comment number 46.

    I agree that Ferrari have the edge at the moment. Alonso will be more dangerous than Massa.I don't think Red Bull and Mclaren are far behind. It seems that Mercedes are next quickest. I feel that Rosberg will just about match the pace of Schumacher in the Mercedes.

    My prediction for the World Championship is:

    1. Hamilton
    2. Alonso
    3. Vettel

    I can't wait for the new season to start!

  • Comment number 47.

    For me ..apart from the "Clash of Titans" at the Top - the best scrap should be Tony Fernandes againt Richard Branson - both need to prove a point (and even score one !).

    Re: an earlier comment - (As I am based outside the UK) - It would be really nice to see the BBC VDO coverage of Practices, etc. via the BBC Sport Website.. - The live Text is OK - but kind of misses the point..

  • Comment number 48.

    Great Blog! First post..so here goes..

    I must say that, having watched Gp's from the early 80's, I, like many, eagerly await the new season. However, I really have to wonder how the racing will fare if we have cars that have qualified well on light tanks stuggle for pace when laden with fuel. Tracks like Spa and Interlagos showed us that overtaking was possible last season with some great moves but on the majority of other tracks overtaking can be near impossible. With everyone on the same fuel loads I just wonder how this highly anticipated season will turn out?

  • Comment number 49.

    With the rule changes are the cars to have a full tank for the Q3 in qualification or are they the same as the other qualify sessions?
    In your rules section its not clear.

  • Comment number 50.

    Tony in Q3 the cars will have qualifing fuel loads and NOT full tanks

  • Comment number 51.

    Can't wait for the new season. Mark Webber for the championship? Or is that just wishful thinking from a fan...

    www.stefangp.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 52.

    'Mark Webber for the championship? Or is that just wishful thinking from a fan...'

    Don't you just love guys with a sense of humour :-)

  • Comment number 53.

    "Don't you just love guys with a sense of humour :-)"

    Well, given today's times, yes, I know it was on low fuel etc, us Mark Webber fans could be celebrating a few more victories this year.

    http://stefangp.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 54.

    I was really looking forward to the prospect of having 28 cars on the grid but following the dimise of USF1 and the constant speculation over Campos it looks like it won't happen. More worringly though it seems that Lotus and Virgin are well off the pace and I do hope they aren't 3 or 4 seconds a lap behind everyone else in Bahrain. I'm all for new teams getting involved in the sport but I'd rather them miss a season to try to get the infrastructure of the team and design of the cars soughted out rather than just turning up and see what happens (which Campos may decide to do) at the first race. I hope they do prove me wrong though in two weeks' time.

  • Comment number 55.

    Hi Andrew,

    Will BBC Classic F1 be returning soon for Australia?

  • Comment number 56.

    So where do we stand?
    The pre-season testing is completed. Lewis Hamilton got the fastest lap, by a skinny margin, but what does this really mean? It means, at Barcelona, at that moment, on a low fuel load, McLaren and Lewis were the fastest package. That's it!
    The story is really about how competitive it is at the top. We could finally have a year in which eight drivers, from four teams all could win races and win the championship. The change to the points system, while maybe not perfect, has come just in time.
    I don't think that there will be one, or even two dominating teams this year. I think it will go down to how well the cars work on the specific circuits, and just how well a team and a driver can be prepared.
    Unless a team or two have kept something in the bag. I believe that Mercedes have held back some critical parts, and I wouldn't be surprised if Ferrari, REd Bull and McLaren have got some goodies before the first race.
    I'm still hoping for Williams competitiveness, as well, and Stephan GP (with the name of a title sponsor perhaps), with Jacques Villeneuve driving.
    Renault don't look strong, and Sauber are a long shop.

    But no one will really know what is where until the chequered flag in Sakir.

  • Comment number 57.

    Hi Andrew, when are you going to put up a blog post about the classic F1 races?

  • Comment number 58.

    Well the final test at Barcelona has now come & gone. There seems to be some pattern emerging but there will be lots of changes for Bahrain which may muddy everything up.
    Mclaren,Ferrari,Mercedes,Red Bull & Williams look to be the top ten with Sauber,Renault & Torro Rosso following close behind.
    Guess now we will have to wait until until a week on Sunday to know the position but all looks exciting and fairly open.
    USF1 and Campos look like dead ducks and Stefan GP are lobbying hard for a place.At least Virgin And Lotus made it out on track and got valuable testing data.

    Can't wait for it to all 'kick off'- an exciting year ahead me thinks!

 

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