The first official day of testing for the 2010 Formula 1 season opened today at Valencia. Seven teams were present, and of the front-running teams from 2009, only Red Bull was absent. Red Bull technical director Adrian Newey has decided to follow last year’s practice of delaying early testing in favor of additional preparation time at the factory.
Most of today’s testing was devoted to installation laps, which are run to ensure that all of the cars’ systems and components are performing properly. While it’s interesting to review the lap times, one shouldn’t read too much into them. Fuel tanks are much larger this year, with the refueling ban taking effect, so if cars run different fuel loads it’s apt to have a more pronounced effect on lap times than in previous years.
Mercedes pilot Nico Rosberg alluded to this when describing his first run in the new Mercedes. As reported in Autosport, Rosberg said, “The first impressions of the car were very positive. It felt great – although it is difficult to compare because there are so many things different with the fuel, the tyres and the fuel levels you are running in testing, plus we haven’t run on this track for a long time. So it is very difficult to compare. In recent years you would have had a better impression. But now, since with the fuel level, you don’t really know what other people are running either. It used to be in testing that everyone put 50kg or 60kg, but now you don’t know what everyone is doing. It is very difficult to get a good initial impression.”
And while Rosberg spoke to the press, it was his new team mate, seven-time champ Michael Schumacher, who got most of the attention today. Most observers were keen to see if Schumacher, who is making a sensational return after a three-year hiatus, would be immediately on the pace in his first F1 test since 2007. The answer was affirmative. Schumacher recorded the third quickest time of the day, sixth tenths ahead of his young team mate, Rosberg.
Quickest of all today was Felipe Massa, in his Ferrari. This marks Massa’s first real test in a current F1 car since his crash lat last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix (although he did make a run in a 2007 iteration at Jerez recently, in a joint test with MotoGP ace Valentino Rossi). Massa, who ran 102 laps, far more than any of the other drivers running today, showed that he’s lost none of his speed. Slowest on the day was Robert Kubica, who was nearly 2.5 seconds adrift of Massa.
The test sessions will continue for the next two days, during which time Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will make their first test appearances.
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