Although pre-season test times thus far have been inconclusive, due to variable weather conditions, and the different test programs and fuel loads being deployed by the different teams at any given time, there’s been some advance buzz that Ferrari might be the team to beat at the outset of the 2010 season.
New Ferrari pilot Fernando Alonso is certainly pleased with the new car. As reported on ESPNF1, he said at this week’s Jerez meeting, “This is the best car I’ve ever had.” But will the F10 be the leader of the pack at the season-opener in Bahrain?
The Ferrari was easily the quickest car at the opening test at Valencia, and Jenson Button observed at the third pre-season test, at Jerez, that the Ferrari seemed to have the best balance and handling characteristics under braking, even though the car wasn’t setting the best lap times.
But as everyone knows, lap times at tests can be deceiving, a point which Fernando Alonso underscored at Jerez, when he said, “Red Bull, McLaren and Renault have been very quick and they have shown their cards, while we are still hiding ours.”
It’s entirely possible that Ferrari are quite confident in their absolute speed, and have preferred to focus on heavy-fuel runs during their tests, to simulate race conditions, not qualifying laps. This used to be referred to as sandbagging, although, with the limited test window under current regulations, it might be more accurate to say that they’re simply making the most efficient use of severely limited track time.
Alonso also said, however, that it was perhaps in low-fuel qualifying conditions where the car needed improvement. “Maybe where Ferrari needs to improve is in the short runs with little fuel on board,” he said. “That’s where the Red Bull and the McLaren have been quicker, and they will be the reference to try and improve the F10 in the next test in Barcelona.” If true, it wouldn’t be time first time that we’ve seen Ferrari more impressive in race trim than in qualifying.
In any event, we should be prepared to see Ferrari show more of their absolute speed next week. They, like most of the teams, will probably be focusing more on low-fuel runs, as it will be the last opportunity prior to the Bahrain weekend to simulate qualifying conditions.
And one thing is for certain: Fernando Alonso is undoubtedly feeling more optimistic about the coming season than he was at this time last year.