Seven cars up, one test down - thoughts on the test in Valencia
Fantastic. The winter F1 drought is finally over. No more twiddling our thumbs, and paying far too much attention to the stupid things that Mr E comes out with. At last some of the jigsaw is coming together so we can start to understand the picture that is the 2010 season.
Seven (make that 9 now) teams have launched their challengers, and six of them have completed the first 3-day test in Valencia. And what have we learnt? Testing is notoriously difficult to read, but I'm going to have a bash anyway.
The italians in red topped the time sheets on all three days, good stuff. Both Alonso and Massa set some of their fastest times early on in long-ish runs, suggesting that they weren't giving it the beans on low fuel to really stretch the F10's legs.
That said the wasn't much evidence to suggest that the other teams were pushing for ultimate lap time either.
Looking at it another way, other than Sauber - whch many people have suggested were pushing for a good lap to attract sponsors, Ferrari were the only team that needed to prove something.
Monday was Massa's first time back in a current car and under the F1 spotlight since his injury in July. He needed to prove that the crash hasn't effected his ability. It was a major question mark in the tiffosi camps, and one that he needed to quickly put to bed. Which he did.
Alonso needed to at least match Massa, show Ferrari that they'd put their eggs in the right basket, oh and he needed to put smiles on 35,000 or so Spanish fans faces that'd come to the Ricardo Tomo circuit to see their idol.
I'm not saying that Ferrari arn't quick, just that 3 fastest laps say more about what the other teams weren't doing. Remember also that last years they turned up near if not at the top of the time sheets of most of the tests - and we all know how well that went...
The Swiss team has a distinct Brawn-feel about them this year. Despite losing manufacturer backing, making huge cuts in the workforce, and having no serious sponsors, they've built what seems to be a very good car.
In the hands of both old-timer de la Rosa, and new-timer Koboyashi the C29 was second fastest just behind the Ferrari on all three days. For drivers that have been either out of action for a significant period, or just not in a car really at all - I think it was a stellar result.
The popular line on the blogs is largely dismissive of the team saying that they are running low fuel to get sponsors interested. While this may be true, the last time this line was used it was for Brawn, and it was soon proved wrong.
I personally think Peter Sauber has more class than to run his cars on fumes chasing a quick euro or two. The biggest weakness I see is running two unproven drivers. Both have shown flashes of speed, but the jury is definitely still out.
The car looks good, seems to have good pace, and they've had three days of trouble-free running out of the box, with the Ferrari engine and gearbox shoe-horned in the back - that aint half bad.
Team Germany - seriously who thought that was a good idea? Anyhow they got under way with a series of mid-pack times, Nico and Michael pretty much on a par with one another.
Ross Brawn came out on the final day and told the BBC, "It's always very difficult to judge. On full tanks yesterday we didn't look too bad but we're a little bit off on pace and (there are problems with) the handling and balance of the car which we can fix for (the next test in) Jerez. We know what the problem is."
I've read that Nico took a little time getting comfortable in the car, and that they were cracking exhausts like they were going out of fashion. But that said I feel there are some strong cards being held closely to the Mancunian's chest.
Out of the box on Monday Schumacher posted a lap time of 1:12.947, and by Wednesday they'd only bettered it by half a second. Given the amount of running (rubbering in the track) and time to perfect the setup, it seems plausible to conclude that the W01 had much more fuel onboard as the days progressed.
Team Great Britain - who thought... oh. I think this is the hardest one to call. The car looks very very good - and that's praise coming from anything but a McLaren supporter! But the flo-vis paint came out again, oh-o.
The Woking team did a miraculous job with last years hash of a car, surely upon surely they couldn't have gotten their CFD figures muddled again? Let's hope it was all fuel.
Flaming fireballs, my eyes, MY EYES! The wasp might look sharp (to some) but it was anything but quick. Robert Kubica was reportedly struggling with understeer for large periods, and even ran out of fuel at one point.
Probably the most interesting note was that the car the hit the track on Monday morning was markedly different to the one they unveiled the day before. It had to be though, Sunday's car looked from all angles to be pretty much the same as the R29. Thankfully by Monday they'd conjured up new aero-package.
If they can create an aero-package in under 24 hours who know's what they can come up with before the next test, because it they need it.
The Italians in blue beat their bigger brother (Red Bull) to the track with the STR5. Although it's obviously closely modelled on last year's STR4/RB5 I don't think that's a bad thing.
The STR4 in the guise of the RB5 was a very quick with one obvious area of compromise - the diffuser. As long as Giorgio Ascanelli has worked some magic in that area, while improving the rest of package to RB5 levels the Fiaenza squad shouldn't be off to a bad start to 2010.
It is great to see the team at the opening test, something they haven't done in some years.
The no-launch-for-us-we're-British, no-nonsense Gove-based team simply turned up, and got down to business. And to be honest there's little to report, but thats a good thing.
The only team present running the new Cosworth CA2010 mileage was important, as was not blowing up. And it didn't, and that's pretty darn good.
Claire Williams lit up the Twitter-webs with some great photos and lots of insight into the teams running, and double bluff or not she let it be known that they were using high fuel and not going to ultimate lap times.
Very sensible too. Williams won't score a point unless they finish a race, and given that the only other teams that are running the brand new Cossie are new entries - and they will have other priorities - they need to ensure that reliability is up to scratch.
While its incredibly difficult to read anything into testing, it's fun giving it a shot. All of the teams have different priorities, and perhaps this year more than most setting a one-lap-wonder isn't the be all and end all.
Let me explain.
There will be one time in a whole race weekend that a car will need a one-lap-wonder time, and that's in the last minute of qualifying on Saturday. The rest of the time - the entire race - it will be about managing tyre wear, and coping with different handling characteristics in a car that finishes a race 160kgs lighter than it started.
Additionally there's the fact that none of the cars are in anything like the form that they'll start in Bahrain. Brawn Mercedes were using a number of aero parts from their 2009 car, Renault the 2009 car with some 2010 aero parts (I jest - I think!), etc.. Who knows what parts Ross, Martin, Stefano, Frank, Franz or Peter have up their sleeves?
There is one fellow they'll be closely watching however, and that's Adrian Newey. Red Bull unveil the RB6 tomorrow morning (yes it's taken me that long to finish writing this!) it will be very interesting to see which direction Adrian has gone, given that so many of the teams have Newey '09 inspired parts on their '10 cars.
Testing. Boring? Never.