Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheets today in the final round of pre-season testing in Barcelona. There were few surprises today, save for the fact that, for the first time since winter testing began, the top eight cars were separated by less than half a second.
Most of the teams up to this point have not been testing in qualifying trim, so relative performance between teams has been something of a mystery, especially with fuel loads ranging between 10 kg and 160 kg. Over all, the teams’ lap times have been inconsistent from one day to the next.
But today was the final opportunity, prior to the season-opener in Bahrain in two weeks, for the teams to simulate low-fuel qualifying runs. As a result, we saw the gaps between laps times shrink significantly. In fact, the Big Four teams, McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, were separated by a total of only 0.273 seconds.
If any conclusions are to be drawn from these results, it must be that the Big Four teams all appear to be highly competitive, with no single team appearing to have a distinct performance edge over the others.
One thing we do know, however, is that many of the teams will be introducing upgrades at Bahrain in two weeks. Nico Rosberg, for example, has revealed that Mercedes will be deploying their difinitive 2010 diffuser for the first time at Bahrain. Rosberg claims the diffuser, along with several other upgrades, should be a big step forward forward for the MGP W01. Perhaps one of the teams will be able to make a significant improvement, and gain an edge over their closest rivals.
As for the lower portion of the grid, newbies Virgin and Lotus are, in effect, forming an F1 B class at this stage. Lotus driver Jarno Trulli has admitted that the Lotus is four seconds off the pace. That practically puts them in GP2 territory. Trulli says that the team will introduce new upgrades once the European leg of the season begins – but then, so will all the other teams.
If there were any surprise at all in today’s results, it was provided by Force India. Adrian Sutil has claimed that the car’s lap times are representative of genuine speed, and not just the result of low-fuel glory runs. If his best time today, which placed him ahead of both Sebastial Vettel and Michael Schumacher, is any indication, he might be right.
|1||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren MP4-25||1:20.472||134|
|2||Mark Webber||Red Bull RB6||1:20.496||59|
|3||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F10||1:20.539||113|
|4||Adrian Sutil||Force India VJM03||1:20.611||99|
|5||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull RB6||1:20.667||76|
|6||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes W01||1:20.745||122|
|7||Rubens Barrichello||Williams FW32||1:20.870||83|
|8||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber C29||1:20.911||67|
|9||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso STR5||1:22.135||87|
|10||Robert Kubica||Renault R30||1:23.175||106|
|11||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus T127||1:25.251||65|
|12||Lucas di Grassi||Virgin VR01||1:26.160||47|