Who’s fast and who’s not? A closer look at the lap times from Jerez testing

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the final day's testing at Jerez
Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the final day's testing at Jerez

F1 Fanatic has obtained detailed breakdowns of the fastest lap stints and lap times down by each of the cars in the most recent test at Jerez.

What can they tell us about which teams are quick and who’s off the pace? Find out below.

The problem with testing

Using test times to work out which teams are competitive has always been tricky. It’s harder than ever this year for two reasons.

The race refuelling ban means teams are now testing their cars with anything between a few laps’ worth of fuel and 200kg for a full race distance.

The teams have also become more reluctant to issue lists of lap times. While it was often possible to obtain these in recent years, at Jerez they were not being distributed.

In order to obtain the data for this article, I made notes directly from the timing screens in the media suite. Of course, this is very restricting and time-consuming, so I decided just to follow the dry part of the final day’s testing in the hope it would provide the most recent and reliable information. Ideally, I would have also got the data from the warmer dry running on Thursday, but I wasn’t able to.

McLaren

Driver: Lewis Hamilton
Best time: 1’19.583 (lap 3 of a 5-lap stint)

The most interesting exercise of the final day at McLaren was Hamilton’s long run around midday, just as the track had finished drying out. It was interrupted by a red flag caused by Michael Schumacher, but Hamilton seemed to resume his stint where he left off once the track went green again.

He did 25 laps at first, beginning in the 1’24s and working his way down to the high 1’23s. After the interruption he did a further 11 laps, peaking at a 1’23.4. This was 3.1s off the fastest lap of the day at that point. However it was done on a fuel load good enough for at least half a race distance and on tyres that had covered over 30 laps in cold temperatures.

Although Hamilton was languishing at the bottom of the fastest lap charts at this time, his pace was good given his likely fuel load. Later in the day McLaren went to the opposite extreme, sending Hamilton out for a five-lap run when the track was most rubbered-in. Here’s what he did:

1’19.952
1’19.684
1’19.583
1’28.133
1’19.992

His 1’19.583 was the fastest time of the four-day test, nearly six-tenths quicker than anyone else on Saturday. Only McLaren know how much fuel was in the car, but it’s another persuasive sign the MP4-25 is on the pace.

Force India

Driver: Adrian Sutil
Best time: 1’20.180 (lap 2 of a 9-lap stint)

On Saturday evening Adrian Sutil insisted his best time was representative of Force India’s true performance. It was set during a nine-lap stint, which was typical of what other teams were doing. Here are his times from that stint:

1’20.253
1’20.180
1’20.573
1’22.007
1’21.543
1’22.035
1’22.492
1’23.169
1’23.875

The stint was towards the end of the day’s running (though not as late as Hamilton’s) when the track conditions were most favourable. He did one more stint after this and his times were:

1’24.970
1’23.663
1’23.749
1’24.014
1’24.362
1’23.808
1’24.980
1’25.196
1’25.422
1’26.045

Sutil was still running when the chequered flag came out and this looks like a heavy-fuel run which could have gone on longer. His last four laps show a clear lessening of pace, a reflection of the graining problems he talked about afterwards.

He may have ended the day with the second-fastest time but looking at what the other teams did I suspect Force India are actually in the middle of the pack.

Williams

Driver: Rubens Barrichello
Best time: 1’20.341 (lap 3 of a 10-lap stint)

Barrichello set his best time two hours before the end of the session, early in a fairly consistent ten-lap stint. It was the fastest time of the day at that point, improving on Schumacher’s mark by three-tenths of a second:

1’27.014
1’21.768
1’20.341
1’20.469
1’20.443
1’21.017
1’21.147
1’21.66
1’21.755
1’22.305

He only did one more stint after this run before being stopped by a gearbox problem, costing them valuable dry running. The team also had a hydraulic failure to fix earlier on in the test.

The shortage of data makes it difficult to make a call on where Williams are. But there’s nothing to suggest they’re very far off the pace and the early speed trap figures from the Cosworth CA2010 were encouraging.

Renault

Driver: Robert Kubica
Best time: 1’20.358 (lap 1 of a 5-lap stint)

Unusually, Renault spent most of the dry part of Saturday running doing short stints – nothing longer than six laps. Kubica set his best time in a stint which ended when the chequered flag came out:

1’20.358
1’20.544
1’28.227
1’21.05
1’27.319

His 1’20.385 was a 1.2s improvement on his previous best time. It looks as though Renault either unlocked some performance on the R30 late in the day or ended the test with a run on a decent set of tyres without too much fuel.

I suspect the times Kubica was doing before this late run, which were in the high 1’21s and low 1’22s, are a truer reflection of the R30’s pace.

Mercedes

Driver: Michael Schumacher
Best time: 1’20.613 (lap 4 of a 10-lap stint)

Schumacher set his best time of the day earlier than anyone else – when the track was cooler and had less rubber on it – suggesting the car’s headline performance may be rather better than his fifth place on the times sheets at the end of the fourth day indicates.

I was watching at turns two and three during this stint and Schumacher was visibly pushing the car’s performance under braking, occasionally pushing it too far and gathering it up again by steering into the slide.

Shortly afterwards the Mercedes W01 rolled to a halt on the back straight. Unconfirmed reports suggested the team allowed the car to run out of fuel to work out how far they can push fuel mileage under race conditions. Whatever the problem was, it was remedied quickly enough to have him back on track again shortly after the session resumed.

On later stints he never got within 1.3s of his best time, suggesting he was working on heavier fuel loads. His times were consistent and all the signs are Mercedes have got a solid platform to build on and are among the front-runners.

Red Bull

Driver: Sebastian Vettel
Best time: 1’21.203 (lap 4 of a 10-lap stint)

The RB6 made its first appearance at the Jerez test and was in a less developed state than rival cars. The team were still having some reliability problems including a fuel pump problem which sidelined the car for three hours on Saturday.

Vettel must have had a reasonable fuel load in his car when he set his best time of 1’21.203 because it came during a ten-lap stint followed by a brief visit to the pits, during which time it appears no fuel was added, before returning to the track for another ten laps. Here’s his times from the first part of the stint:

1’21.427
1’21.423
1’31.349
1’21.203
1’21.656
1’21.980
1’22.230
1’22.174
1’22.193

Red Bull appeared quite a long way down the list of overall best times from the test but it’s early days for them and I believe they’ll be up there with McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes in the later tests.

Ferrari

Driver: Felipe Massa
Best time: 1’21.486 (lap 2 of a 10-lap stint)

Massa’s car came to a stop twice during the final day test yet the driver completed more laps than anyone else – a mammoth 160 totalling 708 kilometres, more than two Grand Prix distances.

The team did not disclose why Massa’s car stopped the first time other than to state somewhat enigmatically on Twitter:

Maybe Felipe’s issue was the same experienced by many other drivers during these days of testing…

This could an an allusion to the widely-held belief that some teams were allowing their cars to run out of fuel on purpose. Massa’s car came to a halt at the hairpin leading onto the pits straight, allowing him to pull into the pit lane entrance where he was collected by his crew.

The huge amount of running clearly didn’t cause any problems for Massa, who did his best time of the day on his 151st lap:

1’21.509
1’21.485
1’21.851
1’22.73
1’22.991
1’22.883
1’23.258
1’23.531
1’23.954
1’25.859

This wasn’t all that much quicker than Massa has been lapping earlier on in the day, so I do expect these times were set with a fair amount of fuel on board. I certainly don’t think Ferrari are two seconds off McLaren’s pace as the fastest lap times of the day suggest.

BMW-Sauber

Driver: Pedro de la Rosa
Best time: 1’22.134 (lap 2 of a 7-lap stint)

Pedro de la Rosa did a lot of short runs in the afternoon as the team carried out aerodynamic tests. He set his best time in the longest of them, a seven-lap run. Here’s what he did:

1’22.273
1’22.134
1’22.29
1’22.796
1’22.847
1’23.135
1’23.211

On the face of it the team are probably in the lower half of the top ten on performance.

Virgin

Driver: Lucas di Grassi
Best time: 1’22.912 (lap 1 of a 5-lap stint)

After losing so much time with their wing failure on Thursday, Virgin were eager to get all the dry running they could on Saturday. The team stressed that they were concerned with ensuring the car worked as expected and suffered no further problems rather than looking for fast lap times.

Di Grassi’s quickest time was 3.4s off Hamilton’s best and was set during a short run around two hours before the end of the session:

1’22.912
1’23.608
1’23.902
1’23.224
1’23.611

It’s impossible to judge them against their target of being best of the new runners because the rest haven’t made it to testing yet. That will change next week when Lotus join the action at Jerez.

Toro Rosso

Driver: Jaime Alguersuari
Best time: 1’24.072 (lap 2 of a 7-lap stint)

Underlining the difficulty of interpreting test times, Alguersuari was fastest on Friday (with a 1’19.919) and slowest on Saturday. The STR5 was often near the top of the times sheets on the earlier days, but not on the last day as the team did aerodynamic comparison work. Alguersuari’s best was a full second off anyone else’s.

Notes on the data

A ‘stint’ here refers to the number of flying laps done, for example a five-lap stint comprises an out-lap, five complete laps and an in-lap.

Over to you

What’s your analysis of the Jerez test? Whichteam do you think has the upper hand at the moment? Have your say in the comments.

2010 F1 testing

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