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F1 pre-season testing provides poor guide to form

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Andrew Benson | 17:11 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

So, after four days of testing and nearly 3,500 laps of running at Jerez in sunny southern Spain, what has the first Formula 1 pre-season test revealed about the season to come?

The simplest answer – as ever – is “not much”. Testing – or the “winter world championship”, as McLaren chairman Ron Dennis famously described it – is a notoriously poor guide to form.

Or at least it is if you look only at the headline lap times. At the end of last year’s test in Jerez, the fastest man was Williams driver Rubens Barrichello – and his team were about to embark on the worst season in their once-illustrious history.

Likewise, if anyone thinks Lotus driver Romain Grosjean is going to win this year’s world championship after setting the pace in Jerez this week, they will be waiting a long time for those pigs to fly in front of that blue moon.

Fernando Alonso

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso set the fastest time on the final day of the first Formula 1 pre-season testing in Jerez, in Spain with a time of 1.18.877. Photo: Getty

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to say that Jerez has revealed nothing.

First of all, it has become clear the teams dislike the look of the new cars as much as anyone.

For them, the ugly step on top of the noses of all cars apart from the McLaren is an unfortunate necessity in the pursuit of the best possible aerodynamics, following a rule change requiring lower front noses.

"Performance comes before aesthetics," as Red Bull design chief Adrian Newey put it.

The teams head back to their factories with a mountain of data, on which decisions will be based about the direction in which to take the development of their new cars.

These gleaming machines are prototypes for their entire lives, but in terms of maturity right now they are still in the post-natal stage.

Nowhere, it seems, is that more true than at Ferrari, whose decision to start with a clean sheet of paper after a chastening year in 2011 has left them with a lot of work to do.

Fernando Alonso may have left Jerez with the fastest time from the final day - and the second fastest overall - but no-one was fooled by that.

Ferrari were clearly struggling to understand their new F2012 and spent most of the four days doing aerodynamic assessment tests.

The car, they said, was behaving inconsistently in the corners, and so far fixing its behaviour at one stage - the entry, say - messes it up at either the mid-corner or exit, or both.

This is not an especially encouraging sign for a team whose 2011 season came off the rails at the final pre-season test, when new parts that they expected to bring a chunk of speed actually made the car worse.

It turned out this was a result of a lack of correlation between the results that were being created in the wind tunnel and the actual performance of the car out on the track - a major problem in a sport where aerodynamics are critical to performance.

Ferrari spent most of last season trying to get on top of this, and by late summer they insisted they had. Yet when they introduced an update to the car at the Belgian Grand Prix in August, that too did not work.

Were they not concerned about this, I asked an insider a little later in the season. No, he said, they knew why it had happened - the wind tunnel correlation was fine.

Yet on Thursday this week, there was technical director Pat Fry admitting that there was still a small problem in this area. "There's reasonable correlation," Fry said. "I certainly wouldn't say it was perfect."

Despite that eye-catching lap time from Alonso, then, Ferrari's potential remains unclear.

"That time was on soft tyres," a source close to the team said. "It was not so special. The feeling is they are waiting for a lot from this car - but they don't know how to get it. It is impossible to say what will be the future."

But it is not just Ferrari. Over at McLaren, Lewis Hamilton has said his first impressions of the car were "all positive". But the more he talked, the more you wondered.

They had not found the best set-up yet, he said - unsurprising, perhaps, so early in testing.

"It feels like an evolution of last year's car in many ways but also there are some things that are not so good," he added. "The downforce on the rear for instance, is not as good through the high-speed corners as it was last year, but I'm sure we'll get that back."

Again, this was to be expected given the ban on exhaust-blown diffusers, from which all top teams gained huge amounts of rear downforce last year - and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel also noticed a similar experience in his car.

But perhaps Hamilton's most revealing remark was this: "You never know what fuel loads people are on. I think we've been quite aggressive with our fuel loads."

A translation of which seems to be that McLaren are running with less fuel on board than they might normally be expected to - which will make their lap times look more impressive.

Despite that, the car looked as if it was not quite as fast as the Red Bull, which Hamilton effectively admitted. "I think you can see the Red Bull looks quick," he said.

The Red Bull indeed appeared to do its times with relative ease, both in the hands of Mark Webber and, later in the week, Vettel.

Just as much of a concern for their rivals will be that pictures suggest the car seems to have retained what most believe to be its crucial secret.

That is getting the front wing to run closer to the ground than any other car, a critical aerodynamic advantage.

This is despite design chief Adrian Newey saying they had had to reduce the rake on their car following the ban on exhaust-blown diffusers and despite the introduction of a tougher front-wing deflection test.

And yet even Red Bull clearly have work to do. After three pretty much trouble-free days, an electrical fault appeared on the final morning, and Vettel lost an entire morning's running while the team fixed it.

In summary, then, Red Bull again look like the team to beat, and there is a mixed picture from McLaren and Ferrari.

Just as it did in 2011 when the team were Renault, the Lotus has left a good initial impression.

Toro Rosso and Williams also appear to have decent cars, while Force India fell back after a promising start, almost certainly because of losing a day to reserve driver Jules Bianchi's crash on Thursday.

There follows a 10-day break before the teams reconvene at Barcelona on 21 February.

The Circuit de Catalunya's mix of long corners of varying speeds have long been the ultimate test of an F1 car's all-round capabilities, so more pieces of the jigsaw should fall into place there.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Wouldn't be surprised if Red Bull and Vettel run away with it again this year. It's not something I would like to see as I want to see a much tighter season, yet by the looks of it McLaren and Ferrari are yet to get their acts together and produce a car which can match the Red Bull for pace. Until we see this, we are going to see a continuous spell of dominance from Newey and Vettel.

    Please, McLaren and Ferrari, sort it out for the sake of the fans. Because last year the sport was a bore in terms of having a title race. Which, in essence, is what its all about.

  • Comment number 2.

    The times in testing are never terribly reliable, unless you were in a Brawn a couple of years ago that is.

    I SWORE and PROMISED myself that I would stop watching F1 this season (well documented reasons), and yet here I am poring over photos and time sheets trying to second guess who has the early season advantage.

    So far it looks as thought McLaren and Ferrari are both running closer to their limit than Red Bull.

    Only time will tell.

  • Comment number 3.

    PS those new noses are pretty horrid, but not as horrid as I thought the new 'bog front wings' were a couple of years back.

  • Comment number 4.

    So in an article telling us not to make assumptions, it took till the 4th paragraph to make an assumtion.

    Grosjean might very well win the WDC this year, I don't know, no -one knows.

    Other than that, good article, people should never look too much into testing, especially the first one.

  • Comment number 5.

    Sorry but I wonder how you gathered that "being agressive on fuel" meant "less fuel"?
    In the context of the interview it could well mean the opposite.
    Today Lewis did a 1.19 at the begining of a 13 laps stint that was interrupted by a red flag. It appears that he was meant to run longer.
    He also meant that the car felt reasonably quick which is much more than what he said about the car this time last year.
    I think the analysis should be more balanced there. This said with all due respect.

  • Comment number 6.

    @5

    totaly agree, i take Lewis's coment about being 'agressive' on fuel as that they were perhaps running a little higer, as your evidence seems to back up.
    All in all, the red bull does even now seem the car to beat, just hoping Lewis/Jenson, and hopefully a suprise package can deliver some competition this year.
    oh yeah, and as much as it pains me, but i kind of hope Ferrari do too, not F1 without them up there somewhere!

  • Comment number 7.

    Blogs on tests are just so annoying. They all take a few hundred words to say the same thing - we haven't a clue. And we all read them, knowing full well that is what they are going to say, and then either moan because they have told us nothing, or moan because somebody has made a guess/opinion/assumption and we (correctly) pointout that actually - we haven't a clue!

    So... I'm going to moan because it's cold, and I don't like snow. Just to be different ;-)

  • Comment number 8.

    Ditto to many of the comments already mentioned...i was curious about the Hamilton phrase 'aggressive' and what that exacly meant in relation to fuel levels...as a bit of a McLaren fan I take comfort from the gradual dropping of average times each day through the four days (although again we have to take all of this with large pinches of salt). Also in Mclaren's favour is their proven ability to accelerate development through the year so if this is truly a more solid opening than last year that would be good upgrade wise

    At various times, for me, Torro Rosso, Lotus and Force India have impressed wih specific drivers.

    Williams seemed to have made strides in reliability especially the last wto days with Senna and I wondered today if they were experimenting with fuel limts around running very dry...

    Caterham are playing a steady hand, Ferrari is confusing especially as the messages yesterday were off underperformance and confusion and then Alonso topping the charts suddenly...is that too keep morale high?

    Mercedes are a mystery as are Marussia and HRT look like they are back where they were last year now that they have to re-sit crash tests and can only test in the third test outing....

    Red Bull look very solid and I reckon have the best package so far with the only fly in the ointment possibly being reliability which is a Newey issue when he tries to overly pair down the design of cars...

  • Comment number 9.

    the cars we see today wont be the same cars that run in the first race, there will be update after update before we even see the first quali session so anything we really see will change.

  • Comment number 10.

    Aargh... I do get very frustrated with bias and opinion! Mr Benson, are you on the Red Bull pay roll? Much the same thoughts as above really... Don't make assumptions followed by Grosjean won't win the title. Aggressive fuel followed by running low on fuel... Pot... Please report on fact... NOT OPINION!

  • Comment number 11.

    Good job both Ferrari and McLaren have cars in the free to view GT1 Championship, with no Red Bull and pretty cars. Shame the category has given up Silverstone as a race venue, but will watch on there website all the same.

  • Comment number 12.

    In Mr Benson's defence, I think we can all safely assume Romain Grosjean won't win the title. Then again, if he does, that would be absolutely amazing, although as a long-standing Kimi fan I would be a bit disappointed in that regard.

    I'm optimistically backing Vettel to crash and burn this season. Figuratively speaking, at least, and for no reason other than I think it would be funny.

  • Comment number 13.

    So it has started... F1 is go... pity the BBC has sold its soul to Sky Sports.. but there is some good news ... the Spanish TV station "ANTENA 3.ro" has the rights to show ALL THE RACES LIVE.. so we can watch all the races the BBC have given(sold) away and listen to radio 5 live commentary... as most of you have said we can not learn much about this first test session roll on the others

  • Comment number 14.

    can we have a new sports writer, this is the most boring journalism i have seen

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks for reporting it as the third top story then right now! F1 is pretty dull but even with Norman Mailer, the BBC couldnt make a runaway compelling.

  • Comment number 16.

    It is becoming clear that the top 6 teams will be running very close this year.The changes in the tyres will add that extra something.However whilst Red bull and Mcclaren look good out of the starting blocks Ferrari maybe held back like Mcclarens 2011 season early season by design issues.

    the interesting fight is mid field between mercades,lotus,FI,and williams.that right we can expect better performance from williams this year under Bruno towards mid season.also keep an eye on caterham who promise to devlope their car this year to challenge the mid feild.My only regret is rubens is not along side of Bruno this year to make a half decent pairing.The BBC are under pressure to appoint another lead commentator to refresh the programe line up in the wake of the sky deal.This is none too soon with the lack luster performance from last year which has put a great number of fans off.

    However anything can happen in F1 and it usually does!..look out Albert park!

  • Comment number 17.

    Come on Ferrari and McLaren, get those cars sorted. The calibration issues or whatever leading to misunderstanding the car, costing half a season are unacceptable now. Plus if any team are sandbagging it'll be the Bulls. Sort this out as I don't want my only hope for an interesting championship to be Mark Webber! The Beeb have already ditched the full F1 championship, so Ferrari and McLaren - don't give up like them.

    Wonder if the teams and drivers will bother to speak to the BBC as much this year, especially as they'll be pretending to get live interviews for their 7 million (cough) viewers, but everyone knows the interview will not be broadcast!

    Bit like Jools Hollands New Years Eve show, when they pretend it's the new year in interviews and do the countdown to midnight, but, we know they film it in October!! Pathetic job Thompson, pathetic.

    Actually Andrew, will DC et al, record the race as if they are interviewing and commentating live then you make a highlights programme from this footage and show it hours after the race has finished? If so that's a bit poor, what's the point if not broadcasting live!
    OR
    Will the F1 team just record the programme knowing it's just for highlights and not really make the effort to grab interviews for the urgency of live F1? The forum will be duff compared to the brilliance of BBC F1 2011. Oh well, I'm on RTL 5Live so who cares now.

    as #16 says, ...look out Albert Park! - the BBC will be missing from that one.

    Good luck to Williams for 2012, ditch Parr, and stick Rubens in the car with Senna just for Brazil, surely some Brazilian company will sponsor that!!

  • Comment number 18.

    Am I really reading this? McLaren and Red Bull have matched each other consistently for the last 2 days, the long runs were similar and the short runs were even closer. of course we can't tell fuel loads, but how can you come to the assumption that Red Bull are going to run away with it and McLaren are in trouble? Just because Lewis spoke a few words...Every time I read one of your write ups, you're favoring Red Bull. As somebody said earlier, you make a post about not making assumptions yet at the end of the article that's exactly what you did. Poor Mr Benson, really poor.

  • Comment number 19.

    McLaren and Ferrari both seemed to be doing the same thing as last year, catching up to Red Bull. I'm looking forward to seeing what Mercedes have done this year and I'm hoping they will shock us all with an immense design.

  • Comment number 20.

    We all know testing shows pretty much nothing, so why the guessing? Wait until Melbourne and all will be clear.

    I just hope Alonso, Schumi, Kimi, Hamilton, Button and Vettel all have a car that's similar in performance. I want some more WDC vs WDC wheel to wheel, not seeing blue flags waved at Schumi to let Vettel lap him :( Talking about Schumi, I reckon in a fast car, he can still produce wonders. Would love to see Vettel in an inferior car pushing it to the limit playing catch up, I still think Vettel needs to prove himself in a chasing car.

  • Comment number 21.

    Yes i agree that pre-season is not really an effective guide to which teams are going to be quickest. However, it does shed light on aspects such as reliability and possible direction of development throughout the ongoing season.
    This is especially relevant when you look at Ferrari (at Jerez). They appear, again, to have started on the back foot. Have they been too aggressive with the design of the car this year?? Lord knows they have to improve on last years display to retain the services of Mr Alonso.
    Reading between the lines i would say there is a chance that they are struggling yet again with wind tunnel/simulation/track time correlation. Nothing on its own would suggest this, however, the fact that they were really up on the time-sheets today compared to previous days would suggest the Alonso time (today) was a hail-mary, low-fuel run to try to help the team with moral. Neither Alonso or Massa have seemed confident when talking to the press this week and as we know, they need one hell of a season this year to appease the Tiffosi!! Only because of the massive spotlight on Ferrari do i suspect this....
    As far as the rest is concerned it is probably too early to say. I like the look of the Lotus though. Just looks like a quick car to me and i suggest, could well be up there with the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari this year (hopefully as i am a massive Kimi fan). I will also be keen to see how Caterham get on as i believe they have a great company structure moving into the future with some very good people. Also, we never know whether the quicker teams are holding back the reins a little (sand-bagging...RedBull ahem cough)...
    So to McMerc (Mclaren to most).. Not sure how to guage things at the moment. It is so interesting that they are the only team with a non-platypus/hammerhead front end. Whether or not that is important we will have to wait and see, although i have read elsewhere that this (Mclaren) front end slightly compromises aerodynamics, with the upside being an increase in mechanical grip! We shall see.
    I was always under the impression that over the past two years though the Red Bull had an obvious aero advantage, (blown diffuser integrated in the design from the start etc...) it also had (inherantly) massive mechanical grip! Maybe with the change of regulations this will come to the fore this year with less reliance on downforce....

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    I still think regardless of what the drivers say about fuel loads , that some teams will be sand bagging to throw others off this early on. Also am I right in thinking that during testing the cars are not weighed and a team could be running a lighter car than would normally be permitted , again this could be some very crafty ploy to impress say the sponsers early on?

    What McLaren seem to have shown is they can improve the times they set in a predictable manner , which would show the cars behaving as the number back at base predicted. For Jenson to say he is pretty happy that he has something he can work with , would make me think that there must be a good balance already in the car and that the back is being more predictable for him , where Lewis prefers a more loose feel and thus would not be so happy with that?

    Again credit where credit is due , Kimi has shown he is still able to punch the times in lap after lap and make the headlines for all the right reasons. If that Lotus can provide a good base for Kimi , I think Mr Vettles days of wagging his fingers on the top of the podium are going to be reduced more and more over the 19 races of this season ( maybe 18? ). Also that Lotus , even with the "step" nose at the front is actually a bloody good looking motor and is only 2nd to Jenson's and Lewis's this season.

    With Ferrari's comment about the way the car behaves in the corners , it reminds me of the exact say thing that was said about the much ill fated Williams FW16 ( 1994 ) which made it a ticking time bomb , which sadly we all know too well. If I remember correctly from the Senna film , was a car behaving like this is the most difficult and scary for any driver to deal with , as you are never sure what it is going to do at any given point of the bend. With all the technical experience they have , how on earth can they still be having issues like this happen some 12 months on with the wind tunnel not relaying correctly to the track ( even with in the margin of error you would expect ).

    I hope Triuli and Kovalian can get some points for the hard work they and the team have put in to get away from HRT and Virgin. I would love to see PDR also do really well for Force India too this season.


    A question to anyone who knows , why do the cars have those massive black things on them for testing each year? I noticed them for the first time last year and never found out the purpose of them , I guess it's something with telemarty , but I thought that would have been done via the standard airels on/in the cars.

  • Comment number 24.

    Really got the bug for the new season again now. Now that testing is upon us it feels like the (long) wait has been worth it. Just hearing the engines howl and scream again and seeing the cars in action made the hairs on my neck stand up to attention..
    I think we'll see many more changes and developments during testing alone and yet again, it is gonna be a race to master the new regulations, tyres and aerodynamic balance of the cars. Also i'm looking forward to see how the guys at Mercedes have interpreted the new regulations. Will they go for the hammerhead/platypus front end? Will Ross and co come up with another stroke of genius a la the "double diffuser". I, for one, can't wait to find out.
    Also, for the very few of you that have not seen it yet, it is worth checking out the Youtube highlights of the (fairly recent) Autosport awards. It demonstrates how revered a broadcaster the BBC actually is. The Vettel speech is hilarious, including the un-missable Kimi impersonation (for those that have seen it, how funny). The Jenson Button clip is also very funny as well as Martin Brundle's bit when they get some reaction in the crowd from the likes of Ted (Lenny) Kravitz and our Jake. Actually, gotta give a lot of credit to the guys that have gone to Sky for acting with dignity throughout this transition. Also special mention to Steve Rider because he is great in all these clips and takes the jibes/teasing on the chin.

    But the overriding impression i got from all the interviews and clips is that the BBC coverage of the last three years has been SECOND TO NONE and even Mr. Brundle admits that it cannot be surpassed in terms of quality.
    Come on BBC. Let's have another great year watching the best sport in the world, Formula 1 Grand Prix.

  • Comment number 25.

    what i dont understand is why everyone in the media keeps going on about the mclaren having a low nose and that because redbull have a stepped nose that is right if they look book to 2009 the brawn bgp 001 had a lower nose than the mclaren and any of the other cars on the grid even at that time you could of had the nose as high as you want honda spent millions of pounds developing that car and they went for a low nose i thing mclaren have gone down the right line and will win the chapionship this year close fight with red bull and lotus

  • Comment number 26.

    I cant wait for the new season, please, please let it be competitive. Really I dont believe anything at all can be read into these times, judging by testing results a 2011 Mercedes is going to win the championship this year. However it would be tough to imagine Mercedes haven't got some new parts on the car and I reckon with their budget and management they will be near the top this season. The lotus pace whilst interesting (great to have kimi back) rings of sponsor appeal, surely the main reason the kimi deal went through? Ferrari look to have been ambitious but the time from Alonso on Friday on softs looks to be hiding the reality of confusion over how to set up their car. As a Hamilton fan im willing the new Mclaren to have pace and Hamilton to win a close championship but anything other than the Red Bull procession of 2011 would be fab . The RB8 reminds me of the 2010 car with great pace but questionable reliability, giving us the best championship for a long time. Lets hope its the latter!!

  • Comment number 27.

    This is all an irrelevance as Mercedes are going to turn up at the next test with a car a full second quicker than anyone else and Schuey is going to win his eighth WC..... well I can dream can't I? :-)

    BTW for all those saying they will listen to the Radio 5 Live commentary with some foreign outfit's TV feed you are aware that James Allen is somehow involved on Radio 5 Live now... yes that James Allen ... I would rather read about it in next day's papers than iusten to him again!

  • Comment number 28.

    James Allen is alright, a good blend between enthusiasm and educated F1 fan though Ant, Crofty, Maurice etc are a tough match to follow. Some of James Allen's articles have been very good in recent years. Most of the annoyance towards him was because ITV had adverts interrupting the racing, he had to follow the great Murray and because he covered so many Schumacher dominated races, ironically an era we may have entered again with another all dominant car :(

    If McLaren are behind at all, form recent years they are the team most likely to catch up to the leaders. Ferrari need to wake up, Luca di Monty needs to not criticise the team to the Italian media at all during the season and they need to bring back Rory Byrne, the man who took Newey to the cleaners in the early 00's.

  • Comment number 29.

    Andrew Benson | 17:11 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012
    "In summary, then, Red Bull again look like the team to beat, and there is a mixed picture from McLaren and Ferrari."

    Hang on, didn't you tell us just before that "testing provides poor guide to form"? And even if you changed your mind you haven't really backed your claim up have you?


    18.At 23:38 10th Feb 2012, Sast wrote:
    "Every time I read one of your write ups, you're favoring Red Bull."

    He's not really favouring them, he obviously does it to infer Lewis and Jenson are "amazing" when they match the RB and not their fault when they don't.


    19.At 00:30 11th Feb 2012, That Boy Ronaldo wrote:
    "McLaren and Ferrari both seemed to be doing the same thing as last year, catching up to Red Bull."

    McLaren weren't doing much "catching up" really as their package was top-drawer and more often than not the one to beat; even on the first gp when they allegedly were having a 'mare they were front row, and from they 5th race they had the fastest race car, occasionally half a second quicker and quite often even favourites for pole.



    .

  • Comment number 30.

    There is still alot of testing to be done by all the top teams. Are teams sandbagging each other and just waiting for the first grand prix. Thats the impression you get from some of the performances so far. Cant wait for first qualifying in roughly a months time. then we will really know who is quick and who has got a dud of a car

  • Comment number 31.

    @29

    "McLaren weren't doing much "catching up" really as their package was top-drawer and more often than not the one to beat; even on the first gp when they allegedly were having a 'mare they were front row, and from they 5th race they had the fastest race car, occasionally half a second quicker and quite often even favourites for pole."

    The fastest package yet blown away by that little German fella Vettel, now either the Mclaren lads are very poor drivers (which i somewhat doubt) or the Red Bull was really the quickest and most reliable package last year...

  • Comment number 32.

    I am not sure if i am incorrect in thinking but when Lewis said 'You never know what fuel loads people are on. I think we've been quite aggressive with our fuel loads' that being aggressive with the fuel loads means they loaded the car with fuel and not a light fuel load and that is why he stated you never know the fuel loads people are on which tells me he felt the others were on very much lighter fuel loads hence the timings

    We all know you never show your cards too early so others can see where your car really is on pace etc.

    I think last season was misleading other than ferrari were totally poor because we all know that Fernando gives 100% so the car just didn't have it
    Jenson had a few mishaps in the pits which lost him points
    And Lewis just had a bad year full stop and if we all look back everyone has years in their lives when nothing goes right and the worse it gets the more it affects you and it affects judgements in our lives

  • Comment number 33.

    McLaren's MD himself recently admitted they had built a terrific package and it was a surprise they didn't challenge putting it down to driver factor -being beat even when they had the fastest car. The quote was promptly removed from Autosport but can be found elsewhere.

    If you look into it race by race you'd be amazed. People also are fooled by RB's qualifying advantage, but IN RACE TRIM the McLaren car has had the legs on the Red Bull, marginally or by a few good tenths, in Spain, Monaco, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Japan and Abu Dhabi - 10 out of the 19 races. 5 of these they won (excluding China), in 3 they didn't get pole and probably the win only due to driver -or team- error, in 2 Vettel had to defend for his life, and in 5 of these (excluding the rest) they had driver issues in the races themselves losing big points.

    The McLaren was championship-winning material make no mistake about it.



    .

  • Comment number 34.

    Got to agree with nibs, the McLaren boys should have taken more points from Vettel. If Jenson could qualify better and Lewis could stop chewing his tyres and messing his starts so he ended up behind Massa they would have been better. Last year Vettel was sublime and Webber was MIA. The only other driver who raced as well as Vettel was Alonso. He practically took a midfield car, going by his qualifying times throughout the year, and created his own upper-midfield, even managing to take on Webber, Button and Hamilton in far superior cars. The biggest surprise last year was that Neweys machine had practically no failures compared to previous years!

  • Comment number 35.

    Andrew is quite right to suggest that the comments and indeed the expressions from drivers and engineers point far more to the relative performances of the cars right now than the actual track times.

    I'm sure many high performance road cars straight out of the box, in design mode, that are lauded by the likes of Top Gear were horrible to drive when only bolted together in a configuration that a computer programme would suggest would be the optimum set up.

    Early days yet, the picture is only maybe five per cent clear at this stage.

  • Comment number 36.

    @27.tiggerspp

    James Allen may not be Ben Edwards, but at least it's got to be better than listening to Martin 'Grumble' drone on about his son Alex at every opportunity.

  • Comment number 37.

    I hope the Lotus team can challenge for podiums as I am a big Kimi fan. The minimum requirement for Kimi is to comfortably beat his team mate. I would love to see him win a few races though.

  • Comment number 38.

    REF 7...
    I got as far as yours and I stopped bothering reading anymore...It's all so pointless to speculate at this stage of the season. I never speculate anything at this stage anyway... HRT look good...Karthikayen has potential........did they test? ;-)

  • Comment number 39.

    "The car, they said, was behaving inconsistently in the corners, and so far fixing its behaviour at one stage - the entry, say - messes it up at either the mid-corner or exit, or both."

    Do you have a quote for this, Mr Benson?

  • Comment number 40.

    Listen up 'tomjol'. Ever since my ancestor Blacksmith Ballsio pulled in at the Docks of Portsmouth two centuries past, I've been seeking you. And I will find you..........

  • Comment number 41.

    It seems Ferrari have all the work still to do. Will they be able to improve the car as much as they can? Are the improvements simple and more of just 'teething problems' with a new car?
    You'd rather be in the position red bull are in, a pretty similar car to last years. What was key to red bull was its ability to get the right setup on high/low fuel, hard/soft tyre. Ferrari didn't really have any of that.

    I really hope Ferrari have managed to make a beast of a car, or a car that can be developed easily, not just because i want ferrari and alonso to be winning, but to shut everyone up, talking about adrian newey. I can't wait for it.

  • Comment number 42.

    Testing, as always, is very much a poor indicator for the season, and this year, it looks exactly the same as every year. Until the cars line up for the 1st qualifying round, no one is going to know performance data.
    To be fair though, the cars, with the exception of McLaren, are butt ugly !!

  • Comment number 43.

    Very early days yet but Red Bull appear to have an edge.
    It looks as if this season could be 2011 all over again with an average Mclaren and an aerodynamically deficient Ferrari chasing a pace setting Red Bull.
    Not much of a surprise though given the stability of the rules between this season and last.
    Two factors could play a role though. The first being Mclaren's extraordinary ability to develop a car over a season and secondly the tyre compounds this year.
    The four available compounds have been designed much closer in performance terms and so strategy selection will be much less obvious.

  • Comment number 44.

    Testing is never a reliable time to guess who has the best car, it is called testing for a reason and all the teams are trying many different things and parts for the car. the cars on the grid at the first race (which thanks to the BBC we can't watch) will often be different from what we see testing today.

    NO TO SKY, F1 Free TO AIR.

  • Comment number 45.

    Sky
    Believe in Better....

    Utter codswallop.

    Believe in making sportsmen and Sky shareholders richer whilst marginalizing major sporting events from the masses...

    Defending Sky and its subscription is like defending Hitler's right to Lebensraum...

  • Comment number 46.

    This entry is now closed for comments...

  • Comment number 47.

    Sky, dedicated channel showing all practices, qualifying and races. Or the beeb, limited coverage cut off early for the eastenders omnibus.

    It really is a tough decision, so what if Murdoch has a few dodgy dealings the BBC are allowed to charge a tv licence, broadcast what they want, spend their money how they want with no shareholders to worry about upsetting, as we are forced by law to pay their licence, we are not forced by law to purchase sky, myself and others choose to pay for sky's services. How much longer will we be forced to pay for substandard television it is a complete joke.?

  • Comment number 48.

    They still have an illustrious history Andrew, that's why it's called history.

  • Comment number 49.

    I've never understood the issue of "sandbagging".

    What possible benefit could this have?

    Are the other teams going to stop trying to maximize the performance of their cars because they think your team's car is slower than it actually is? Are they going to try harder if your car is faster?

 

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