Teams’ last chance to prepare in pre-season testing

2013 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013The final four-day test ahead of the 2013 season gets underway at the Circuit de Cataluna tomorrow.

Trying to get a read on the performance of each of the teams from testing is fraught with problems. At this stage the top teams appear to be close on pace – perhaps even closer than last year.

And nobody appears to be going through the trauma that gripped Ferrari 12 months ago, when Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa discovered the F2012 was well off the pace.

As is always the way in F1 testing, no one will show their hand until they feel they have to. Keep an eye out for teams to start running their aerodynamic packages for the first race towards the end of the test.

“When you’ve got a new car you obviously aim for the last couple of days in Barcelona should be running Melbourne-spec,” said Williams technical director Mike Coughlan at the track last week.

In recent years we’ve become used to seeing Red Bull go to considerable lengths to cover up their car when they start running their new aero parts, ducking behind carefully-arranged screens.

This year they’ve had the screens in use since the first test at Jerez. Photographers who creep too close can expect a glowering glare from team manager Jonathan Wheatley, followed by a readjustment of screens and personnel to obscure their view.

But it’s not just the world champions who are under scrutiny from their rivals. McLaren mechanics were spotted shooing away a Lotus team member as he snapped pictures of the rear of their MP4-28.

McLaren produced the quickest time of last week’s test, Sergio Perez setting a 1’21.848. That was just 0.027s faster than Ferrari’s best effort.

Headline times like these can be misleading: The troublesome F2012 was the second-fastest car at last year’s Jerez test. Yet there is a sense of relief at Ferrari that the F138 is clearly a better base to build on than its predecessor, and an expectation that they can have a much better season.

Lotus, too, appear confident in their E21. Their testing has been hampered by a few technical and operational problems, but providing these are ironed out in the next few days they look set for a good start to the season.

Kimi Raikkonen has been disproportionately affected by this – he is the only driver to have covered less than 1,000km over four days, and team mate Romain Grosjean has managed almost 500km more. However Raikkonen is probably the last driver on the grid who would be concerned about missing a chance to go testing.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Mercedes have also had a few glitches with their W04. The car appears to be quite conservative but after their recent efforts that may well prove to be a benefit. They did little running on the soft tyres last week and so their performance is likely to be better than the lap times indicate.

Sauber are Toro Rosso are plugging away with cars which are much-changed from their predecessors. Caterham and Marussia still look to be a second or more off the midfield pace.

The teams’ attempts to perform long run tests have been frustrated by the cool conditions and the levels of degradation experienced with the new 2013-specification tyres. However that is expected to be less of a problem once the season begins.

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery explained: “At this stage of testing it is always difficult for the teams and drivers to know what to expect from the first race as conditions are not always representative.

“Past experience from the last two years shows a big reduction in tyre degradation over the course of the season: roughly half the degradation seen in winter testing. This year, we think that degradation will be higher than it was in 2012, and we estimate a degradation rate of around 0.15 to 0.18 seconds per lap in race conditions for the hard compound in Barcelona.”

While most teams are concentrating on tyres and car development some are still trying to sort out their driver line-up. The late completion of the 2013 driver line-up, along with the disappearance of one team over the winter, is another sign of the sport’s poor financial health.

Whoever Force India choose to put in their car this year they will have spent at least two of their twelve pre-season test days running a non-race driver. Although some of that was given to simulator driver James Rossiter, it is still less than ideal.

The situation at Marussia is also uncertain. Luiz Razia was announced as Max Chilton’s team mate but didn’t turn a wheel last week amid rumours over his sponsorship package.

Final decisions on who will be driving for those two teams can’t be left much later. The final test begins in less than 24 hours.

Once again, F1 Fanatic will be there to bring you coverage direct from the track.

2013 testing statistics

Barcelona test one fastest times by team

Team Driver Time Gap Tyre
1 McLaren Sergio Perez 1’21.848 0.000 Soft
2 Ferrari Fernando Alonso 1’21.875 0.027 Soft
3 Sauber Nico Hulkenberg 1’22.160 0.312 Soft
4 Lotus Romain Grosjean 1’22.188 0.340 Soft
5 Red Bull Sebastian Vettel 1’22.197 0.349 Soft
6 Mercedes Nico Rosberg 1’22.611 0.763 Medium
7 Williams Pastor Maldonado 1’22.675 0.827 Soft
8 Force India Adrian Sutil 1’22.877 1.029 Soft
9 Toro Rosso Jean-Eric Vergne 1’23.366 1.518 Soft
10 Marussia Max Chilton 1’25.115 3.267 Soft
11 Caterham Giedo van der Garde 1’26.177 4.329 Soft

Barcelona test one fastest times by driver

Driver Team Time Gap Tyre
1 Sergio Perez McLaren 1’21.848 0.000 Soft
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’21.875 0.027 Soft
3 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1’22.160 0.312 Soft
4 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’22.188 0.340 Soft
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’22.197 0.349 Soft
6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’22.611 0.763 Medium
7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’22.623 0.775 Medium
8 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’22.675 0.827 Soft
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’22.726 0.878 Hard
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’22.826 0.978 Soft
11 Jenson Button McLaren 1’22.840 0.992 Hard
12 Adrian Sutil Force India 1’22.877 1.029 Soft
13 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’23.024 1.176 Medium
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’23.366 1.518 Soft
15 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’23.718 1.870 Medium
16 Paul di Resta Force India 1’23.971 2.123 Medium
17 Max Chilton Marussia 1’25.115 3.267 Soft
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1’25.124 3.276 Hard
19 Jules Bianchi Force India 1’25.732 3.884 Medium
20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1’26.177 4.329 Soft
21 Charles Pic Caterham 1’26.243 4.395 Medium
22 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’27.563 5.715 Medium

Distance completed by driver

Driver Total laps Total distance (km)
Esteban Gutierrez 416 1,879.276
Paul di Resta 384 1,733.040
Valtteri Bottas 367 1,667.979
Jean-Eric Vergne 363 1,649.586
Nico Hulkenberg 357 1,621.429
Sergio Perez 353 1,602.582
Sebastian Vettel 348 1,574.994
Max Chilton 348 1,595.651
Mark Webber 346 1,571.132
Pastor Maldonado 333 1,514.930
Lewis Hamilton 333 1,513.795
Nico Rosberg 324 1,471.446
Charles Pic 317 1,437.953
Romain Grosjean 309 1,404.572
Felipe Massa 307 1,377.556
Daniel Ricciardo 296 1,343.149
Giedo van der Garde 295 1,338.721
Fernando Alonso 283 1,317.365
Jenson Button 261 1,187.715
Kimi Raikkonen 210 949.629
Jules Bianchi 117 531.923
Adrian Sutil 78 363.090
James Rossiter 61 270.108
Pedro de la Rosa 51 225.828

Distance completed by team

Team Model Total laps Total distance (km)
Sauber C32 773 3,500.71
Red Bull RB9 694 3,146.13
Toro Rosso STR8 659 2,992.74
Mercedes W04 657 2,985.24
Ferrari F138 641 2,920.75
Force India VJM06 640 2,898.16
McLaren MP4-28 614 2,790.30
Caterham CT03 612 2,776.67
Lotus E21 519 2,354.20
Marussia MR02 461 2,096.02
Williams FW35 367 1,708.39
Williams FW34 333 1,474.52

2013 F1 season

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Images ?? Lotus/LAT, Jamey Price/James Moy