It’s too early to say for certain who’s fastest and which driver is doing better than his team mate. But trends are emerging already: Ferrari and McLaren not only got their 2008 cars out days before their rivals, but already have two chassis to go testing with.
Honda didn’t even go testing with their 2007 car, while Toyota’s 2008 machine was fastest of all on one day…
Looking at the big picture the early signs for the 2008 season are encouraging. No one team showed a decisive advantage – on Tuesday less than three tenths of a second covered the top six drivers, from Fernando Alonso’s Renault to Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren.
And several drivers remarked that the cars are harder to drive now that traction control has been banned – which is just how it should be…
Ferrari’s F2008 already looks rapid and reliable. The team were first and second on Monday although poor weather limited the drivers to a total of 101 laps. On Tuesday Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa were third and fifth, completing 149 and 129 laps respectively.
On Wednesday the pair managed over 80 laps each once again and although Raikkonen was almost a second slower than the fastest driver he said he was happy with the F2008.
BMW had their F1.08 in action for the first time, but only one chassis was available – unlike Ferrari and McLaren who had two of their new cars ready from the off. The team were not present at the test on Monday due to their launch.
Nick Heidfeld put 117 laps on the F1.08 on Thursday while Marko Asmer drove an F1.07. On Friday Robert Kubica took over from Asmer in the old car, while Heidfeld put another 91 laps on the F1.08 despite suffering problems with the power steering.
When Fernando Alonso joined McLaren from Renault for 2007 a late deal allowed him to start testing the car in December of 2006. Given his acrimonious departure from the team at the end of last season it seems there was no chance of a reciprocal arrangement.
Nelson Piquet Jnr was ninth on Monday before Alonso made his return for the team on Tuesday. The twice-champion reverted back to a helmet colour scheme of light blue and yellow more like the one he wore at the team before 2007. Interestingly, Heikki Kovalainen appears to have adopted a helmet much like Alonso’s ’07 design since joining McLaren…
Alonso set the pace on Tuesday, 0.053s quicker than Pedro de la Rosa’s McLaren, despite the fact that Renault are still running their 2007 car.
Renault stayed at Jerez on Thursday to give 2007 World Series by Renault champion Alvaro Parente a 64-lap test. Parente won the title last year after Sebastian Vettel’s abrupt mid-season exit to join Toro Rosso. His fastest time was 1’21.721.
Williams ran interim version of the 2007 FW29 and did so in the first of six special liveries that will be used during 2008 pre-season testing to commemorate several landmarks they will achieve during the season.
Nico Rosberg was fourth in an FW29B on Tuesday, splitting the two Ferraris, with Kazuki Nakajima tenth following a spin.
Nico Hülkenberg took over from Rosberg on Wednesday and caused three separate red flags by going off the circuit. He was 13th, 2.3s slower than Nakajima.
Red Bull had similar pace to their Toro Rosso sister team on Tuesday when they ran the 2007 RB3. On Wedneday they launched the RB4 and gave it its first shakedown test. David Coulthard did 54 laps in the new car before the engine failed, while Webber continued in the RB3.
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
The Toro Rossos were outside the fastest times of the leading group of cars by over half a second. The two drivers were fourth and sixth on Monday, Sebastian Vettel ahead of Sebastien Bourdais.
They were in the same order on Tuesday in seventh and eighth, with Bourdais’ car stopping two minutes before end of test. As they will race the 2007 car at the start of the season, reliability problems are exactly what they do not need.
Bourdais was fourth quickest on Friday, Vettel slowest in 14th.
Toyota’s TF108 was the third 2008 car to hit the track, making its debut on Monday. Jarno Trulli did 87 laps in the car despite poor weather. Worryingly he described having difficulty getting heat into the tyres, which was often a problem for the team last year, but might just have been caused by the cool conditions.
New race driver Timo Glock drove a TF107 fitted with the new gearbox (which must last four events without replacement in 2008) and with traction control disabled. On Tuesday he drove the 2008 car, managing a substantial 110 laps, while Kamui Kobayashi in the TF107 was halted by exhaust problems.
More good news came on Wednesday when Glock was quickest of all with a 1’19.779 in the TF108, despite a spin earlier in the session. The intends to run a pair of TF108s at Valencia next week.
Honda were not present at the test and won’t be launching their 2008 car until the end of the month. If they were hoping sister team Super Aguri would shore up the mileage, they were to be disappointed…
Super Aguri’s start to 2008 did not bode well. On Monday it became clear their cooling system was not operating correctly and the test had to be postponed on Tuesday while new parts were flown in.
However the team’s plane that was heading for Gibraltar was diverted and the parts had to be collected by a team member from Malaga. The team then discovered the motorway was closed, and were unable to get the parts they needed before the test ended.
James Rossiter did only ten laps in three days of testing.
Force India F1 Team
Giancarlo Fisichella concluded his test for the team on Tuesday and was delayed by some mechanical problems as well as the wet conditions in the morning. Adrian Sutil took over on Wednesday and did 71 laps despite the wet weather and many red flags. The team continued to lag behind the pace of the Toro Rossos.
On Monday Pedro de la Rosa and Heikki Kovalainen were fifth and sixth respectively, both driving McLaren’s new MP4/23. Only Kovalainen did laps in the wet conditions in the morning as he had new parts to test, but the poor weather stopped him from being able to do a Grand Prix simulation as planned.
Lewis Hamilton was originally due to take over from de la Rosa on Tuesday but did not. The Spanish driver spun once, bringing out the red flags, but was second quickest overall having done 164 laps. Kovalainen did 180 and was sixth.
Hamilton did join Kovalainen on Wednesday and attracted some attention with a pair of spins in the slippery conditions as he got to grips with the car’s deceleration now that engine braking cannot be used. His car was not damaged on either of his visits to the gravel trap, and he ended the day second with Kovalainen sixth for the third day in a row.
Hamilton said: “I’m getting used to being without traction control in the car. But it is so slippery, and even harder without traction control. Without these controls it does make it a little bit nervous on exiting corners, which makes it a lot easier to make mistakes.”
After the test Martin Whitmarsh praised the early reliability of the MP4/23. Kovalainen said he was getting on well with Hamilton: “We seem to have similar comments about the new car so it also gives us a good platform from where to build our year together.”
Photos copyright: Daimler | Ferrari S.p.A. | LAT Photographic / Renault | Williams | Toyota | Daimler
More 2008 F1 testing reports