Testing continued today at Valencia, with Fernando Alonso taking honors today as quickest driver. Alonso has been coy about Ferrari’s progress, however, implying that it’s difficult for the team, under current testing conditions, to get a realistic reference point on performance.
“It’s difficult to feel the competitiveness of the car,” Alonso told reporters, “because in the past there were lower fuel loads, so it was easier to compare.” This was apparently a reference to the different fuel loads employed by teams during testing now. This is something which is simply a repeat of what happened last year, of course, when race refueling was again outlawed after nearly 20 years. As a result, teams now run various fuel loads during testing to gather data for races. Although this is certainly practical for the engineers, it makes it almost impossible to assess the relative performance between the cars during testing.
Alonso also referenced the fact that, with limited testing time on offer (i.e. four separate pre-season test sessions of three or four days each), many teams have evolved schedules of running their two drivers on alternate days. “Now also you have no focus,” Alonso said. “Normally your team-mate was with you.” Naturally, if both of a team’s drivers were present at a test on the same day, that would help provide a reference point or benchmark for the car’s potential, based on the quicker driver’s performance.
Although these are facets of testing that became the norm last year, and should cause no undue surprise among drivers during 2011, Alonso is correct in his estimation that one shouldn’t read too much into the preliminary times being clocked at Valencia this week. Teams will be running a variety of test programs, and working out a host of teething issues, which is apt to make relative comparisons irrelevant.
That said, it’s also true that on the first two days of testing this year, Alonso and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel have topped the time sheets, which gives one a sense that this might be the beginning of a trend that lasts throughout the year.
01. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:13.307s 108 laps
02. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 1:13.614s +0.307 43 laps
03. Paul di Resta Di Resta Force India Mercedes 1:13.844s +0.537 111 laps
04. Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes 1:14.353s +1.046 83 laps
05. Robert Kubica Renault 1:14.412s +1.105 104 laps
06. Narain Karthikeyan HRT Cosworth 1:14.472s +1.165 80 laps
07. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:14.645s +1.338 69 laps
08. Timo Glock Virgin Cosworth 1:15.408s +2.101 34 laps
09. Rubens Barrichello Williams Cosworth 1:16.023s +2.716 51 laps
10. Sergio Perez Sauber Ferrari 1:16.198s +2.891 42 laps
11. Pastor Maldonado Williams Cosworth 1:16.266s +2.959 29 laps
12. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:16.359s +3.052 46 laps
13. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:16.474s +3.167 64 laps
14. Mark Webber Red Bull Renault 1:17.365s +4.058 17 laps
15. Hiekki Kovalainen Lotus Renault 1:20.649s +7.342 15 laps 15. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus T128 1:20.649 15