Just as I’ve said that

In the few hours that have passed since my previous post HRT and Ferrari have outlined their plans for next weeks 3 day test at the Mugello circuit and they fit in perfectly with the stereotypes associated with the teams.

Ferrari will run Fernando Alonso for 2 days leaving the struggling Massa a single day in the middle.

HRT will skip the test completly as they will not have any new parts until the Spanish Grand Prix and are concentrating on moving their headquaters to Madrid. It is baffeling how the team would have any upgrades as the car was designed by the previous design team that were based in Germany. The team for the 3rd year in a row missed pre-season testing all together and highlights a lack of finance more than anything as it would be useful seat time for 3rd driver Luizzi to give feedback on the car alongside Pedro De La Rosa.

Return of the 3rd driver

For the first time since the 2008 season will a large majority of 3rd/test/reserve drivers get some mileage in real machinery this year. Since Jenson Buttons winning year F1 has introduced an in-season testing ban with pre-season testing limited to only the scheduled tests for all teams. However this year the teams elected to move one of the pre-season tests to Mugello next week after the first 4 fly-away rounds and before the meat of the season in Europe (+ Canada) gets underway. We assume that Ferrari has really pushed for more in-season testing and I’d expect to see some more test sessions brought in (personally i’d like to see all at non-F1 venues) in the coming years.

In the years since the testing ban Force India have ran 3rd drivers on Friday (Paul Di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg and Jules Bianchi) in preparation for them graduating to F1. This is a sensible option for the team although it means some drivers miss out on valuable track time. Williams (Valterri Bottas), Caterham (Chandok),  Marussia (Pic), HRT and Toro Rosso (both current drivers) have all followed suit in the following years with running drivers at a few selected events

However as this upcoming test is only 3 days many teams have opted to run a 3rd driver for at least one of those days:

  • McLaren will run Gary Paffett & Oliver Turvey over all 3 days although Lewis Hamilton has commented he may want some track time
  • Jerome D’Ambrosio will get a day behind the wheel of the Lotus
  • Rodolfo Gonzalez will get one day with the Caterham team

We’d also assume we might see some of the Friday drivers get a hop into the car for a day and as soon as the lineup is finalised I’ll hopefully get some comment up on the blog.

The only other testing that has been on the calendar has been the young drivers test which is a test for drivers that have 2 grand prix or less experience which has lead to some permenant 3rd drivers taking this role. The only option for those who have been ousted from a seat is trying to land the Pirelli tyre testing roles which is what Toro Rosso refugee Jaime Alguersuari has done. I’d like to see a few tests mid-season for the teams with only non-race drivers allowed to participate in them (or limit a race drivers total number of testing days) to allow the teams to evaluate other drivers.

4 from 4 after the Desert Storm

Sorry for the lack of updates recently I’ve been busy with other things, but I have been watching the F1 and what a treat it has been. The “first leg” of the championship has proved fascinating with every race being unpredictable. Sebastian Vettel finally got his pole and victory tally underway in Bahrain but was challenged all the way home from Kimi Raikkonen who had started 11th on the grid! Other surprises have been Nico Rosbergs sublime first victory and overshadowing his more illustious team mate (despite his drive to points after technical issues held him back in Q1 last time out). Along with Sergio Perez’s near miss at Malaysia as Ferrari numbed the pain with a victory for Fernando Alonso.

We’ve also seen maiden podiums from Romain Grosjean along with Sergio Perez with every driver in the established teams picking up points. Unlike last year where the two Lotus Renault (Enstone team) drivers snuck a podium in the first race it was the famous 5 all year long that stood on the steps after the race, this year we’ve had both McLaren and Lotus drivers on the podium along with Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and Sauber drivers.

The racing has been griping and exciting with the field being extremly close, just as you think one team has slipped away a little they come back with a bang. The only real dissapointment has been Caterham being still around a second off good midfield pace, everyone else has delievered in spades. Even HRT and Marussia have moved on and both are comfortably inside 107% every weekend (with the exception of Australia where HRT were simply not ready to go racing).

Before we get into the meat of the season in Europe (which is split by the summer break) there is a test in mugello where pretty much all the teams will bring large update packages so we expect the field to shift about and with the teams so close any one of them could realistically jump into the lead. Interestingly McLaren have opted not to run either of there race drivers and will use development drivers Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey, with little real world testing now taking place its a real boost for both of those two to get some seat time. We have a sneaking suspicion that in-season testing will return due to Ferrari really pushing the issue, it would still be limited by some factor be it days or kilometers.

For the next two weekends we will be entertained by 2 wheels as Moto GP has its first back to back race weekends on the calendar after a 3 weeks break from the opening round in Qatar.