75% of the pre-season on track testing is over. One would think that it would be possible to gauge the pulse of how quick individual teams are by now. Unsurprisingly though, no. Jenson Button ensured that he stole the headlines for the first time with his new team by posting the quickest time seen during 8 days at Jerez. He did it on a qualifying style 3-lap run, but he still did it. That one lap has probably ensured that he will sleep a lot better from now up until Barcelona comes along, hounded as he has been by the thoughts of his plucky teammate and all that is good and holy with Lewis Hamilton’s association with Mclaren.
Nico Rosberg seems to have found his feet at Mercedes as well. He will be feeling far more confident in the car and in his new team. A valid fear, since his teammate is MS, and things going his way inside a team have been known to happen. He has shown good pace in the car and driven a fair few number of laps.
One must spare a thought for the two new teams though - Virgin Racing and Lotus. They have had a torrid time at Jerez, what with it being their first ever test (things have changed far too drastically since Lotus were last in the sport) and the rain coming down in sheets on Day 1 and Day 2 of this third pre-season test. They’ve crashed their cars, not had spare parts on hand and generally been middling for pace. Jarno Trulli salvaged some pride for Lotus with a strong showing on Saturday by completing many many laps, but much more is needed from them to convince the Formula 1 world that it was not a mistake to allow them onto the grid this year.
The other two teams, Campos Meta F1 and USF1 are nowhere. Literally. News announced late last week seemed to suggest that Campos has been saved by Jose Maria Carabante who has then tried to seem and sound professional about the entire situation by appointing Collin Kolles as Team Principal. They might make the grid at Bahrain, but whether they will make the last test at Barcelona is a huge doubt. USF1 probably won’t. The American team with the Argentinean driver (who is backed by the Argentinean Government) were supposed to be at an advanced stage in their preparation a month or two ago. As of now though, there is no completed chassis, no second driver and no money. Stefan GP, the team that is not, must be licking their lips. They can now follow up their act of sending a crate of equipment to Bahrain by booking their flight tickets as well.
One of the startling aspects of this seasons testing has been mileage. The only reason why there is any focus on mileage is because after the fourth test at Barcelona, there is no more testing allowed. So the teams that have racked up the miles on a consistent basis over the past 11 days of testing have some solid data on hand which they can use back at base. Here is the mileage that different teams have done as of 22/2/2010 -
Williams – 3,176
Ferrari – 3,074
Torro Rosso – 2,689
Mercedes – 2,653
Mclaren – 2,539
BMW Sauber – 2,143
Red Bull – 1,838
Renault – 1,804
Force India – 1,624
Lotus - 867
Virgin – 636
I should also point out that amongst the 25 drivers that have logged testing mileage this year, it is Felipe Massa who has racked up the maximum number of miles – an astounding 1,659 of them. Kamui Kobayashi has looked very strong across all 3 pre-season tests considering he joined Toyota late last year. A good season ahead for him looks in the offing provided Sauber can keep themselves in a straight line through the year. Amongst the newbie’s, it is Nico Hulkenbeg in the Williams who has looked the strongest. I’m still not convinced with Vitaly Petrov. He has looked good, but there is just that feeling that he might crack under pressure. I hope he doesn’t.
As I’m about to post this I read that Kimi Raikkonen is almost a sure bet for Mark Webber’s Red Bull Racing seat for 2011. With Christian Horner refusing to categorically rule anything out and Mark Webber using expletives to describe what might have bbeen last year’s Red Bull, anything is possible.