Ferrari and McLaren have an edge before final test
23 February, 2010
Feb.23 (Daniel Chalmers) The second Jerez test is over, and now the teams will be spending time pouring over the data, and comparing themselves to their rivals. All fans worldwide want to know who is fastest and who is struggling? In truth it is almost too close to call.
Best lap times overall:
Testing is always hard to read as we get teams on a variety of different programmes, and some will be trying not to reveal their true pace to their opponents, so may sandbag. It has also been known for teams to deliberately run underweight to attract sponsors.
In 2010 trying to read testing is even harder still due to the refuelling ban. This means that teams are running on more varied fuel levels. The difference between a light tank and a heavy tank is around five seconds.
There isn’t much you can learn by simply just looking at the headline times (the driver’s quickest time in a particularly session).
You have to look at when that time was set, and also have a glance at some of the long runs. The combined best times of a test can also be useful. The chart above shows the top ten best times set over the whole of the four day Jerez test.
Having scanned all the times over the last couple of days at Jerez, its looking like 2010 could be a classic season.
Ferrari, McLaren, RedBull and Mercedes are definitely leading the pack. As it stands there is only 0.3 or 0.4 seconds covering the quartet. The likes of Renault and Sauber are also not too far behind. They are no more than 0.7 or 0.8 seconds off the pace at present.
McLaren MP4-25 looking much better than this time last year
It’s fair to say that McLaren are in a far better position than they were this time last season, when the car was dreadful to drive, and over 2.0 seconds off the pace.
On the last day Jenson Button set the quickest time of the test with a 1:18.871. This time was set on the first lap of a two lap run. Therefore it is likely that this could have been a qualifying simulation. If it turns out that McLaren were running with more than just two laps of fuel then the time shows even more promise.
If McLaren can develop their car at the same pace they did last season, and they start far higher up than in 2009, then 2010 could be a magical season.
Overall his long runs looked solid and fairly consistent. Here is his last run of the Jerez test below:
Ferrari F10 proved to be ultra-consistent and reliable
Ferrari has very good reason to be satisfied with their testing. The biggest strength of their car so far is a remarkable level of consistency. To date in 2010 testing they have completed 1235 laps, which more than anybody else.
On the last day of the test Alonso drove a supremely strong 32 lap run with the times in the table below:
We know that to complete this run Alonso would have had at least 35 laps of fuel on board. Therefore his lap of 1:21.241 on the first lap of this run is very impressive. Fuel corrected its up there with Jenson’s fastest lap (persuming Jenson was light on fuel).
Also his laptimes throughout the run are extremely consistent with a tiny margin covering most of the times. This suggests the 2010 Ferrari is an easy car to drive. Later in the run the laptimes go from the 22.0s back into the 21.0s. The fact that the times improved at the end of the stint suggests the F10′s tyres are still in good condition even at the end of such a long run.
Button thinks Ferrari is currently the strongest car: “I think the Ferrari is a very strong car,”
He added: “If you look at their runs today, they’re very consistent. I think they have better consistency than anyone at the moment.”
Red Bull RB6 showed good pace but hard on tyres
The Red Bull only started testing at the first Jerez test, therefore they missed the test in Valencia. With the amount of wet running we have had at Jerez Red Bull haven’t had that much dry running yet.
It certainly looks as if the RB6 has speed. On Friday Mark Webber posted the fourth fastest time of the Jerez test (it was the quickest time on Friday). However the long runs didn’t look as strong as the McLaren or Ferrari. Here are the times from a 20 lap run Webber did on Saturday:
When you look at those times they aren’t as consistent as Fernando Alonso’s long run. Also in the last six or seven laps the times dropped off as supposed to getting quicker as they did in Alonso’s long stint. This suggests that the RB6 may have copied the RB5’s trait of having an appetite for tyres.
So at the moment the car has good raw pace but is lacking a bit race pace wise.
Mercedes MGP W01 not quite there yet
The Mercedes is definitely up there but it isn’t the best car on show so far. One of the rumours doing the rounds at the moment is that the team have got their weight distribution a bit wrong.
They were not one of the five teams to break into the 1:19s at this test, but that could have been because they were mainly concentrating on heavy fuel runs. However Ross Brawn did concede back in Valencia that the car does lack a bit of single lap pace, so it could be that Mercedes still haven’t improved in that department yet.
Here is a 11 lap run that Rosberg did on Saturday:
The laps in the middle of the run were fairly consistent, but there is a slight drop-off towards the end of the stint. However the drop-off in times isn’t as dramatic as in Webber’s stint.
After following the Mercedes in his McLaren Button said: “The Mercedes to me seemed like it was a little bit twitchy at the rear, and braking it looked like it was locking the rears.”
And how the others did…
Kamui Kobayashi did a very strong 11 lap run in the Sauber. For 10 out of those 11 laps he was consistent in the 19.0s. Lets remember that at the end of last season they ended very strongly, and they have still been working throughout the uncertainty over the team’s future. His quickest time was set on a similar run.
Williams have been quite low key at Jerez but have likely been concentrating on heavy fuel runs. Scanning through their times the car looks to be quite consistent. Here is a 21 lap stint driven by Nico Hulkenberg (above), and as you can see most of the times are in the 23.0s from the start to the end of the stint. They have a good solid base to build on.
Renault are also showing some promise. Robert Kubica set the second quickest time of the week on the third lap of a seven lap run, and also lapped in the 20.0s and 21.0s on his long runs.
New teams Virgin and Lotus look to be around four seconds off the pace. However at this very early stage, with the limited team they’ve had to build a car from scratch that is a very good achievement.
Mike Gascoyne admitted that the team were just doing heavy fuel runs so in reality they may be closer to the ultimate pace than today’s laptimes suggested. Crucially they completed a respectable amount of laps in Jerez, and for a car built in just five months the reliability has been impressive.
Conclusion: McLaren and Ferrari appear to have the edge
As we have seen there is a lot of guesswork involved. However in this writer’s opinion McLaren and Ferrari currently have the slight edge
McLaren look as if they have the best raw pace, but Ferrari’s long runs have been extremely strong.
However Red Bull and Mercedes are very close behind, both with the potential to compete for the championship, providing they solve their current niggles before Bahrain.
There is still the Barcelona test to go. Barcelona will really show us who is on top as it is one of the hardest tracks on tyres, and any aerodynamic weaknesses will be fully exposed.
Finally all the teams will be bringing updates in a final push before the start of the season. Therefore the current predicted order could change around completely, particularly with the front runners being so close.
Let’s hope that after the Barcelona test it remains that way.