Some Pre-Testing Analysis for This Week in Jerez

What Happens When I’m So Proud of Something I Re-Post it From F1B

12:29pm EST —  In a re-post of this week’s “VMR on Sunday” weekly opinion column from Formula1Blog (sue me, I’m pleased with this one), I discuss “More testing, more teams: How will Red Bull, Force India, Virgin Racing add to the mix in Jerez?

In my opinion, the basic crux of the first 2010 testing last week at Jerez wasn’t so much that Ferrari and Fernando Alonso appeared quite fast and quite able to put a lot of laps on the car, but the important knowledge earned was that what the fans want, the fans get (all of my opinion and analysis of the test is available here at F1B).  This is usually not true in Formula1.  Usually, when we want more and better coverage, we get less and worse.  Instead, those attending the event as both participants and journalists provided, essentially, live timing and scoring via Twitter.  Then, when so many people commented favorably on the Twitter coverage, Autosport stepped up and provided actual live coverage on its site.

Presumably, it will continue, this formerly spontaneous coverage of an event that brings racing light into the winter darkness.  Too many have expressed appreciation in a market that is based on readers and the advertisement money that can be gotten from them.  With that concern alleviated, one has to start thinking about what will happen to what we really watch: the times.

Three more teams, Red Bull, Force India, and Virgin Racing, will be participating this week in Jerez.  Red Bull has long been considered the bane of the track, with slow times and dance club lights in the garage.  In 2009, though, its promise began to be fulfilled when fighting with the Brawns for the championship.  The team just missed out last year, but can now be considered an established and fast team.  There’s only one problem for them when thinking about testing this year, though.  All of their 2009 time was spent fighting for the 2009 championship.  That doesn’t bode well for 2010 performance, as the Brawn (now Mercedes) was lacking some pace last week in testing.  Even worse is the precedent set in 2009 by the 2008 championship fighters.  McLaren and Ferrari were not the powerhouse teams we were used to seeing them as after spending all of 2008 working for the championship.  Ferrari’s fast pace at the first session can be directly linked back to a statement by Kimi Raikkonen in the late summer at Monza, having finished on the podium, that the team would no longer be developing the 2009 car and would focus on the 2010 car.  McLaren continued to develop for 2009 and showed a continued lack of speed last week, in comparison.

What does that mean for Red Bull?  I don’t know, I don’t speak engineer.  What I do know, is that the team has, rather than did Ferrari, raised expectations before this week’s test.  Christian Horner (and, forgive me, my usual particular sourcing has failed me and I don’t remember where I read it. Suffice to say the paraphrasing is from a reliable news source) has said that the team is quite prepared and is looking to perform very well in relation to the other teams at the test, despite their week later start.  Personally, I think the extra week will have helped them tie up loose ends from 2009 and finalize design and manufacture for 2010.

For Force India, it is hard to say what the outcome of testing will be.  For a brief moment in 2009 (at Spa, with Giancarlo Fisichella on pole and only thwarted in the race by an inspired and KERS-powered Kimi Raikkonen), it looked as though the team’s speed problems had disappeared.  Then they returned to the middle to bottom of the field.  Adrian Sutil remains at the team and Fisichella’s replacement (after moving to Ferrari and staying there as reserve driver/Le Mans Series competitor for the manufacturer) Tonio Liuzzi has raced in F1 before.  One could easily presume that they will move, by default, up in the rankings and ahead of the new teams in 2010, but there is really no telling.

Virgin Racing is another cipher, though a most often discussed one.  As the first of the new teams to participate in 2010 testing, it has both a large target painted on that red and white and black chassis and great expectations.  Judging solely on the performance of the fellow Cosworth-powered Williams, the Virgin Racing car, as piloted by Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi, will have quite a ways to go to catch up to the rest of the field.  Unless, all that “we’re doing long runs of heavy full” stuff from Williams last week was absolutely true.  Also, Glock is not known as the best qualifier, so his testing performance may not be an indication of the car’s speed in his hands during an actual race.  Rookie di Grassi was Renault’s test/reserve driver during a season with no testing, so we’ll also have to just make a guess as to how that car will fit in amongst the rest.  Never mind the CFD design and lack of windtunnel, though.  From what I hear, the only difference between the two is the ease and speed of changing design elements in the windtunnel as compared to CFD.

Essentially, what I’ve just spent eight hundred words saying is that we don’t know (and won’t know) what differences Red Bull, Force India, and Virgin Racing will bring to testing this week.  There are too many variables that even the teams are unlikely to know at this point.  Still, four days of testing is on the horizon and so close we can nearly touch it.  Michael Schumacher is back, there are four world champions taking to the track, Ferrari is fast again, Felipe Massa is recovered, and the new teams are beginning to show up.  Oh, yes, and the forecast calls for rain, in Spain.  all. four. days.  Happy testing, everyone, and welcome to the 2010 season!


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