2013 F1 testing
All 11 teams were present at the first test session of 2013 last week. Here’s how each of them got on.
After giving the world a fleeting glimpse of the RB9 at a launch at its base in Milton Keynes, the reigning champions whisked their chassis off to Jerez in time for it to hit the track two days later.
As ever Red Bulls keeps its cards close to its chest. Later in the week the team began hiding the car behind screens whenever it came into the pits. Nothing unusual has been spotted on the car – so far – but remember this is the team which tested a Double DRS at Singapore last year without anyone noticing.
By the end of the test they had set their quickest time on hard tyres but the reliability of the RB9 impressed Sebastian Vettel more. This was a notable weakness of its predecessor.
“Looking ahead, I think the Barcelona test will maybe reveal a bit more, but just because people are running more and teams will play around a bit more there,” said Vettel. “So if you keep your eyes open you might spot some stuff.”
“However, as I’ve said before, we just focus on what we do. In Barcelona we’ll learn more about ourselves and maybe a little bit about our rivals. It should be interesting.”
Team mate Mark Webber said he was suffering no after-effects from his operation over the winter to remove a metal rod from his right leg, which he injured in 2008.
Massa said he’d had no further explanation from team mate Fernando Alonso about his absence from the Jerez test. The team took the unusual step of announcing its arrangements for all three tests in advance, claiming that Alonso was missing the first of them to work on his fitness. They denied rumours he had picked up an injury while karting pre-season.
The team’s running with the new car got off to a slow start as they had to fix some cooling problems on Tuesday. Comparing different exhaust specifications was the main job for Wednesday.
On Massa’s final day in the car he set the quickest time of the test. His 1’17.879 on soft tyres was over half a second quicker than the best time set by a 2012 car at this test last year.
The team’s objective for the final day of running was to give new test driver Pedro de la Rosa some time in the car to help develop their simulator – a weakness of theirs in recent years. The plan was disrupted when a gearbox problem caused a fire on his second lap.
Fortunately they were able to get the car back on track in the afternoon and a disruption due to a hole appearing on the track meant running was extended by half an hour.
De la Rosa is taller than both Alonso and Massa so he found the car somewhat uncomfortable to drive, but was grateful for the chance to have one of the team’s precious days of pre-season running.
Worryingly for them it was a mechanical fuel pump failure which disrupted Jenson Button’s first day in the car, forcing much of his aero testing workload to be passed on to Sergio Perez the following day.
But encouragingly Button was also able to turn a quick time out of the box – a 1’18.861 on hard tyres. He was stopped again on Thursday when his right-rear wheel became loose.
Button dismissed the relevance of his Tuesday time but pronounced himself pleased with how quickly the new tyres came up to temperature and how well the simulator version of the MP4-28 correlates to the real thing.
Perez stressed he had a lot of work to do in getting used to McLaren’s way of working, saying he needed to start from scratch in learning how to set the car up.
“We’ve been chugging around with a fair amount of petrol on board and it seems reasonably swift,” was Lotus technical director James Allison’s verdict on the performance of the E21. Lotus topped the times on Wednesday and Friday.
Allison also pronounced himself “delighted with the basic reliability of the E21″. The team lost some time on Kimi Raikkonen’s first day at the wheel due to a clutch problem.
The car also stopped on track late on Wednesday but this appeared to be a scheduled fuel run-out test.
This time last year Lotus suffered a setback when a suspension problem appeared in Barcelona on their second E20 chassis. This cost them four days’ running and forced them to redesign and strengthen one of their parts.
Allison said steps have been taken to prevent that happening again: “Once we realised our error we redesigned the joint so that the glue lines were capable of delivering the required strength without any scatter from chassis to chassis. On the E21 we’ve paid particular attention to this area so we’re not expecting any repeat dramas.”
Both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were quick to point out how far off the pace the team was at the end of 2012. But at the same time Hamilton said: “We’re ahead of where they were this time last year.”
There were some worried looks as the car proved unco-operative at first. It stopped while Hamilton was driving at the end of the filming day – he said this had been a fuel run-out test – and early on during both of the first two days.
A wiring loom fault halted Rosberg after 14 laps on Tuesday, and unburnt fuel caused a fire. Then Hamilton suffered a rear brake pipe failure and crashed at speed at Curva Dry Sack on Wednesday.
After those troubling but unrelated problems there was obvious relief when Rosberg and Hamilton completed almost 300 laps over the remaining two days. A new front wing appeared on the car during the test and they appeared to be running a passive DRS at one point as well.
Nico Hulkenberg said the cooling on them “worked well” and the team will surely be aware that the cool temperatures of Jerez will not correlate to what they find at Sepang or Singapore later in the year.
The car ran reliably – it stopped due to a planned fuel run-out on Wednesday. New driver Esteban Gutierrez did the most laps of any driver and the C32 already has more than 200km more on the clock than any of its rivals.
Force India remain the only team yet to confirm their drivers for 2013. Jules Bianchi is in the hunt for the seat and got a run in the car whereas Adrian Sutil – who is believed to be the other main contender – did not.
The team’s simulator driver James Rossiter also drove, getting his first taste of a real-world F1 car since 2008. Unfortunately he knocked one of his pit crew over during the test but happily there were no serious injuries.
As was to be expected the running was not trouble-free but the VJM06 never stopped on track, including on Thursday when Paul di Resta suffered an exhaust problem. “Good work by the engineers using the telemetry meant the damage was only superficial,” said chief race engineer Jakob Andreasen.
Williams were the only team using a 2012-specification car at the first test. They said this was to allow them to get a handle on the 2013-specification tyres with a reliable car they already understood.
The value of that was undermined somewhat when the car stopped on Wednesday due to a clutch problem.
By the end of the test Sauber, Red Bull and Force India had covered more ground with their new cars than Williams had with their old one.
The team did run some new parts on the FW34 including a sloped 2013-style nose. The final car will be seen for the first time a week tomorrow when the second test begins.
Toro Rosso has a reputation for being tough on its young drivers. But when the team launched its new car on Monday at Jerez team principal Franz Tost made it clear that they need to give them the equipment they need to compete in 2013.
“It’s more in the hands of the team to provide the drivers with a competitive car,” said Tost.
Jean-Eric Vergne described the changes on the STR8 as “massive” and they don’t stop with the car. Both drivers have new race engineers: Daniel Ricciardo is now paired with Marco Matassa, who was his data engineer last year, and Vergne’s new engineer is former Renault man Phil Charles.
Given all these changes a less than smooth week night have been expected. But the car looked stable and quick on track and only stopped twice during the test.
Caterham whisked the covers off their CT03 just 15 minutes before the first test of the year began. Aside from an attractive new paint job it looks outwardly similar to the one they campaigned last year – they are one of few teams to retain a stepped nose.
The car ran well but did stop on Thursday shortly after leaving the pits. Nor are there yet any signs the team has been able to bridge the gap to the midfield.
There will be no major changes to the car before the first race but technical director Mark Smith said new front and rear wings and a new diffuser will follow once the season has begun.
For Charles Pic the test almost meant getting to grips with using KERS for the first time. He said he still needs to spend time getting to grips with how to recover the energy during a lap.
Marussia were yet to confirm the identity of Max Chilton’s team mate when they revealed their 2013 car, so the MR02 was unveiled by two other team members.
The following day Luiz Razia was finally confirmed as their second driver an hour before running resumed.
There was some teething trouble with the new car: A suspension failure triggered a crash from Chilton on Tuesday, Razia’s engine failed the following day and Chilton was delated by electronic problems when he returned to the car.
Despite that Chilton was happy with the progress the team made with KERS, which it is using for the first time. And team principal John Booth pointed out they are well ahead of where they were 12 months ago:
“Perhaps the most satisfying thing about this week’s test is the fact that we are in completely different shape to how we were this time last year. Heading into Australia we had just 100km of mileage to our name, whereas we leave Jerez tonight having achieved almost 1000km of running and a good deal of data for the engineers to pore over next week.”
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Images © Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, Lotus F1 Team/LAT, Williams/LAT, McLaren/Hoch Zwei, Mercedes, Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Getty Images/Red Bull, Sahara Force India F1 Team, Sauber F1 Team, Caterham/LAT, Marussia