Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Putting it to the test – Days 1 and 2 at Jerez

An interesting two days of testing, with Raikonnen setting a blistering pace on Tuesday and Schumacher topping the timesheets today in the 2011 spec Mercedes. Kimi looked like a man with something to prove after his rally sabbatical, and all the reports show he was pushing the car to its limits right out the blocks. Today there was a slight off onto the gravel trap, but he has done well to announce his arrival back into the sport. And it looks like others want to make an announcement to him according to BBC’s Andrew Benson:

         “Late in the afternoon, Button's McLaren came upon the Lotus at the start of a lap and overtook it into Turn Two. Those who saw the move said Button effectively barged Raikkonen out of the way, and it looked very much as if he was trying to make a point. Button played it down when talking to the media later, saying: 'He was just going slow, so I thought I'd overtake him.' But then he came out with a remark that caught the eye. 'It's great to have Kimi back,' he said. 'We maybe haven't seen eye to eye a lot of the time when we have been racing but he is a very quick driver, very experience”

Something boiling under the surface? Jenson’s McLaren hasn’t exactly set the world alight, posting 6th fastest today though McLaren claim to have been carrying out only basic shakedowns in the last two days and are happy with the general feel and handling of the car. McLaren tech guru Paddy Lowe said today “"I think Jenson is pretty happy so, so far so good. The way he put it best was, 'this is a car that I can work with'. And that is what you need for a championship, so you cannot say better than that really." Lewis has reportedly arrived in Jerez ready to burn rubber tomorrow.

A story brewing at the moment is that ugly Ferrari not setting a fast times. It’s easy to forget testing is indeed that – testing, and the car was running with a large drag-inducing test pylon yesterday. Today Massa posted 7th on the timesheets, saying "It is a car that needs a lot of work, and (there are) a lot of things to try. I did so many laps just trying different things in the car. It was a programme to understand every single point in the car set-up.” Will be interesting to see if and how the times improve tomorrow.

An interesting point is the pace of this year’s cars. With blown diffusers banned teams have had to try and find new areas to claw back the huge amount of downforce lost, particularly under braking and slow corners. However Kimi’s time in only the first day of testing yesterday was of 1.19.670. That’s over 2 tenths faster than the fastest time in testing last year (though that was a 1.19.832 set by Barichello’s Williams- and that car certainly wasn’t a game changer). It seems that these losses have been over-hyped. It is important to remember that Pirelli have come to Jerez with an all new tyre compound that also doesn’t look to be shredding marbles left right and centre like last year. Ironically the fastest time so far, Schumacher’s 1.18.561, was set in last year’s car. BBC’s Lee McKenzie is claiming that Mercedes are keeping their 2012 under wraps till the last minute due to an extreme front wing that they don’t want to show the world.

Another positive start has been the Force India. The ‘VJM-05’ posted the second fastest time yesterday in the hands of DiResta. Today the scot posted the 6th fastest time behind the team test driver Bianchi who was 4th. New signing Hulkenberg has yet to take to the circuit, and i'm sure times will be quick and will only rub salt into the wounds of the man he stole the seat off, the unemployed champagne-glass stabbing Adrian Sutil.
But the fastest time so far in a 2012 spec car goes to Redbull. Webber set a blistering 1.19.184 in the new RB8. Again, lets remind ourselves this is only the second day of testing but I think it’s fair to say that the removal of the blow diffuser last year’s car was built around put Adrian Newey back to square one.
Roll on Day Three!

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