Testing woes for Marussia

Following HRT missing the last test after failing the crash tests, Marussia have done the same. However its too late in the day for the Russian team to repeat the tests to make the final test in Barcelona. This will leave Charles Pic making his debut after only a couple of disrupted days of testing in last years car which was designed by someone else.

HRT however have passed all their crash tests and are aiming to get ahead of thier main rivals by making the fianl test, however the Spainish outfit have claimed this before and have never ran a car in pre-season testing for the upcoming year (excluding running previous years cars).

This will leave the team massivly on the back foot if they can’t get any shakedown mileage in and will affect the first few races for the team. It would be a major blow to Marussia if HRT manage to get a car to the final test as they will get set-up work done and evaluate the car. An example was last year where HRT were so late to the party that they fell foul of the 107% rule and the stewards didn’t look kindly on their lack of prepartion for the race and excluded them from continuing to the main event.

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Barrichello looks dead set for Indycar and other movers and shakers

This weekend saw a record 1500 fans show up at Infineon Raceway in the US to see the Chevrolet powered teams of KV Racing Tech, Panther, Andretti Motorsport and Penske. Among the drivers was one Rubens Barrichello who was doing his second test for KV Racing and admitted that the team want him and he wants the drive. It looks likely that a deal will be announced in the next two weeks. Furthermore it would appear that Rubens will do a full season ovals and all as when asked what he thinks about the road course heavy 2012 calendar he quipped “My wife loves it!”. This year sees the re-introduction of engine competition with former spec supplier Honda batteling it out with Chevrolet and Lotus (Judd) with new 2.2 Litre turbo V6 engines. Furthermore a new Dallara car is being fielded this year with teams allowed to develop their own small aero packages from next season. Its a great time for Rubens to enter the series as there is new carbon brakes and flappy paddle gear boxes which have been standard in F1 for some years now.

Other racers without F1 drives have been mapping out their season with Trulli saying there are various offers on the table. Sam Bird the former GP2 driver and Mercedes test driver has made the odd decision to go to the World Series by Renault. An odd decision for the Britian as while the series has provided F1 drivers over the years it is seen as a lower competition than GP2 but I feel he’s not wanting to stagnate.

Talking of GP2 the grid there is starting to take shape for an expanded 2012 calendar with James Calado being of particular interest to British fans. The racer won a race at the one-off non championship round in Yas Marina at the end of last year and is going to be racing for the Lotus supported ART team. For those of you watching on Sky Sports this year in the UK, GP2 and 3 races will be shown live on the F1 channel – which for everyones sake we hope its a lot better than Autosport did last year.

Lotus Suffer, Sauber Suceed

Lotus were forced to abandon the second test of the 2012 season in Barcelona after only 7 laps. The former Renault team identified that there was a problem with the chassis and will lose a lot of running at the valuable Circuit de Catalyuna. They will however get one day back by running all 5 days at the final test.

At the other end of the spectrum Mercedes seem reliable out of the box and Kobayashi set the fastest lap of the test doing a quali run.

Trulli’s Not Surprised but Silly Season Has One More Twist

Lotus Renault GP refugee Vitaly Petrov will partner Heikki Kovalinen this season at the newly cristened Caterham F1 team (formerly Team Lotus) replacing Italian veteran Jarno Trulli, leaving the grid without an Italian for the first time since 1970. It comes as some surprise as Jarno Trulli tested at Jerez and completed filming for the team but follows a lackluster season for the 37 year old one time race winner.

One assumes Vitaly’s hurry up for his sponsors to say yay or nay have resulted in a go ahead this late in the game so he gets a seat at the best of the 2010 new teams. The switch has long been rumoured as Jarno Trulli was never confirmed as a race driver for this season, just being with the team despite being placed on the entry list. Despite Trulli’s long and relativly succesful career in the top flight it has been a long time since Italy has had a real superstar driver. Despite having the most successful and enduring team on the grid in the shape of Ferrari the country hasn’t tasted driver success in the overall standings since 1953.

However it should be noted that France last year was all but down and out in F1, with no race, team or driver flying the French flag. However this year there is a glut of French drivers joining the grid (Charles Pic, Romain Grosjean & Jean Eric-Vergne) and next year it is widely anticipated that the French Grand Prix will return. Monza is one of the safest races on the calendar if only because the pressure from Ferrari to have an Italian race would be too much for even Bernie to bare.

In some ways you have to be dissapointed with this decision for the team to take on a pay driver who has so far not massivly impressed in F1 and dump a popular and lone Italian on the grid so near to the start of the season. However Trulli was thrashed by his Finnish team mate and at 37 years old how long could he realistically continue with the team (Michael Schumacher and De La Rosa aside – most drivers hang up the F1 helmet before 40 in the modern era)

 

HRT on the move while Ferrari Struggle?

HRT have confirmed they are moving not to Valencia but to Madrid and will be moving operations there before the start of the European season. It is another odd choice for HRT that are currently having their cars designed and built in Germany to move to Spain where there is very little infastructure for motorsport there. Most of the teams are based in “Motor Sport Valley” in the South East of England (M4 Corridoor) or in Northern Italy/Switzerland around Ferrari and Sauber.

Felipe Massa has made noises that the Scuderia are struggling out of the box this year with their ugly duckling of a car. The car is a radical departure from last years car and of course it could all be smoke and mirrors. But we haven’t seen the usual glut of laps of Ferrari so far, last year they covered more mileage then an entire season in the tests (although there were 4 pre-season tests rather than the 3 pre-season and 1 mid-season test this year)

The Glass Ceiling and Day 2

In 2012 the top 4 teams (Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes) will field the same driver line up for the 3rd consecutive year in a row. Elsewhere down the grid only Daniel Ricciardo and Bruno Senna moving from one seat to another (HRT – STR & Renault – Williams) while everyone else is either returning or retaining with only 2 real rookies to speak of (Charles Pic & Jean Eric-Vergne).

The two drivers that are moving teams only raced 1/2 a season with Ricciardo being sponsored for 6 months with the explicit plan of running him in 2012. Bruno Senna got promoted to a race seat after showing promise in the Renault team and with Nick Heidfeld faultering the team placed him in the car with the help of a few sponsors.

But while the front of the gird has stuck with consistency the same cannot be said as you head towards the back. But the teams are opting to run experienced racers rather than rookies, with Lotus (formerly Renault) running former world champion Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Force India have promoted Nico Hulkenberg to a race seat after he drove FP1’s for the team last year (no shame there an obvious choice) while Sauber and Caterham have kept their drivers. HRT have even plonked for the steady hands of Pedro De La Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan rather than hiring young blood.

But it must be a worry that no driver has moved into a top team since 2010, however there is hope for the drivers on the grid yet. Micheal Schumacher has to be nearing the end of his second career and Massa & Webber are under pressure to perform to retain their seats further. Another talking point is Lewis Hamilton is out of contract at the end of the season and is likely to dominate any silly season talks.

As for day 2 at the testing, Schumacher topped the time sheets in last years Mercedes while Mark Webber lead the new cars:

Driver Car Best time Laps Difference
1 Michael Schumacher Mercedes W02 1’18.561 132
2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault RB8 1’19.184 97 0.623
3 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari STR7 1’19.587 100 1.026
4 Jules Bianchi Force India-Mercedes VJM05 1’20.221 46 1.660
5 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault E20 1’20.239 117 1.678
6 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes VJM05 1’20.272 69 1.711
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari F2012 1’20.454 95 1.893
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes MP4-27 1’20.688 85 2.127
9 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari C31 1’20.711 68 2.150
10 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault FW34 1’21.197 97 2.636
11 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault CT01 1’21.518 139 2.957
12 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth F111 1’22.128 64 3.567

Jerez, Test 1, Day 1

So the first day of pre-season F1 testing drew to a close today in Jerez with Kimi Raikkonen topping the time sheets. However there is little to read into the times really as teams have new cars and concentrate on early running rather than laptime. In fact the teams are concentrating on evaluating their Aero packages and gathering data for their simulations, this saw Ferrari out straight away with flo-viz paint so they can visually see the airflow over the car.

 

Actually we’d expect the fastest car to be the Mercedes from last year as they will have a proper setup on the car however it doesn’t look good to roll out the new car in the second test and its suddenly down the bottom of the timing screens when the old one was top. The same goes for HRT (although I doubt the F111 can top the timesheets). While the two teams mentioned above are running 2011 cars Marussia are missing this test entirely and wont unleash their 2012 challenger on the track until the third test at Barcelona.

 

Caterham struggled with a damaged starter shaft meaning they couldn’t restart the car in the pits for Heikki to do further running and the Williams of Pastor Maldonado also managed a low number of laps. Unusually Ferrari only completed 69 laps (about average for the day), when historically they have always ran as much as possible.

 

 

Timing (from http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk)

  Driver Car Best time Laps Difference
1 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault E20 1’19.670 75  
2 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes VJM05 1’19.772 101 0.102
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes W02 1’20.219 56 0.549
4 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault RB8 1’20.496 53 0.826
5 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari STR7 1’20.694 57 1.024
6 Michael Schumacher Mercedes W02 1’20.794 42 1.124
7 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari C31 1’21.353 105 1.683
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes MP4-27 1’21.530 62 1.860
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari F2012 1’22.815 69 3.145
10 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault CT01 1’23.178 28 3.508
11 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault FW34 1’23.371 25 3.701
12 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth F111 1’23.676 44 4.006