The ten remaining Formula 1 teams spent Wednesday to Friday testing at Paul Ricard, former home of the French Grand Prix.
It was very much a test in two parts, with the teams testing high-downforce configurations for the Monaco Grand Prix, the next round of the championship, and low-downforce settings for the Canadian Grand Prix at Montreal which follows it. That involved using a quicker configuration of Paul Ricard’s High Tech Test Track, but the final day’s running was also hampered by rain.
Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time over the three days but the arrival of Toro Rosso’s new STR3 could cause big changes in the midfield. Here’s what each of the teams were doing.
Kimi Raikkonen was fastest over the first two days of running, his 1’05.381 a scant 0.09s quicker than Heikki Kovalainen on the same day, and just over two-tenths fastest than pace-setter Lewis Hamilton was on Wednesday.
Felipe Massa ran on Friday, and did only 19 laps as the team saved their testing allocation for later in the year. The revealed it will use its vented nose assembly in Monaco as it did in Spain, but didn’t in Turkey.
Last year we had problems at Monaco and Montreal. We can only start thinking about the worldtitle when we do well at these circuits this time.
But declared himself happy with the changes made to the F2008: “It’s a lot more stable at the rearaxle. The traction has cleary improved.”
McLaren dominated Monaco and won in Canada last year but there are concerns the MP4/23 will not have the same advantage in short, slow, tight corners that its predecessor had last year.
The car appeared to have a new wing or flow conditioner connecting the T-wing at the rear of the car to the engine cover, similar to what BMW have been using, except McLaren only ran it on the left hand side of the car.
Hamilton was quickest on the first day and Kovalainen second on the second. Pedro de la Rosa took over on the third day and tried a new low-drag rear wing for Montreal, covering 58 laps.
Robert Kubica was third for BMW on the first two days. The F1.08 was seen running without its customary ‘viking horns’ on the front nose. Nick Heidfeld was sixth fastest on Friday despite a crash.
Fernando Alonso stayed away with Lucas di Grassi doing the first day’s running, the 2007 GP2 runner-up finishing at the bottom of the time sheets after stopping once.
On the second and third day the 2006 GP2 runner-up took over, better known as Nelson Piquet, of whom Renault are beginning to hint they would like to see better performances from.
Piquet was once second off Raikkonen’s pace on Thursday but a more encouraging second in the Friday rain.
The FW30 is the latest car to sport an elongated engine cover, joining the Red Bull RB4 and Renault R28. This version featured small fins where it reaches the rear wing and the car also sported rear ‘spinner’ wheel hubs and extra fins in its sidepod wings.
On Friday the team ran without the extended engine cover and used a new rear wing design for Montreal.
Nico Rosberg, Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Hülkenberg did each of the three days’ running, Rosberg around one second behind Hamilton on the first day. But Hülkenberg was last on Friday, the hotly-tipped F3 Euroseries racer yet to show much pace in F1 testing.
Red Bull also divided their track time between race and test drivers with Mark Webber, David Coulthard and finally Sebastien Buemi at the wheel. The team were an encouraging fourth on the first two days.
Toyota had several new aerodynamic additions, one of which may have been the new device they referred to in this video last week.
The changes included a slot in the rear wing directly above the rear light which allows them to run a deeper wing, generating more downforce, without the air that passes over it stalling (they cannot simply add extra elements to the wing because they are limited to a total of two by the rules). The TF108 also had revised sidepod wings.
After languishing in the bottom half of the times sheets Toyota were fastest on the final day of testing courtesy of Jarno Trulli.
The RA108′s distinctive front nose extensions (variously called ‘Bunny ears’, ‘Dumbo wings’ and ‘seagull wings’) had undergone another mutation at Paul Ricard, sprouting endplate-style extensions.
The form of Toro Rosso in the coming races will be especially interesting as they will finally have the STR3 (or, if you prefer, we can drop the pretence and just call it the RB4?)
Happily Sebastien Bourdais didn’t trash the new car as he did in Catalunya, although notably the team did let Sebastian Vettel play with the new toy first…
Encouragingly for the team they were within one tenth of a second of Red Bull’s lap times on the two dry days, and ahead of them in the wet, which could make the midfield even more congested at Monte-Carlo next weekend.
Force India F1 Team
Vitantonio Liuzzi returned to F1 testing on Wednesday, and after that Force India ran both their race drivers on the following days, the only team to do so, although they only ran one car.
But with Super Aguri gone and Toro Rosso set to make a step forward, Force India could be left at the back in the coming races.