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Mark Edwards : wrote the following, I hop you find it of interest.
Subject: Testing Times in Barcelona.
Hello everyone, I'm back from pre-season testing, so here are my thoughts on the teams, starting at the back.
This car looks surprisingly stable. It's not very quick at turn in, there's not much apex speed and it takes a while to get on the power. The car appears to give the drivers good feedback as to when it will step out, so they don't look to be over driving. Having KERS this year is a big bonus but I have doubts about the Chilton/Bianchi driver line-up. If they can get up to speed quickly expect 10th in the championship. Pat Symonds has made a huge difference to this team and definite progress has been made. They have every reason to go into the season with confidence.
This is a team with problems. The only positive I can take is that the car appears to be reliable, but as they say it's easier to make a fast car reliable than a reliable car fast! There's no front end downforce, hence a poor turn in, mid corner twitching, barely any apex speed, then the rear end keeps stepping out on corner exit. Further more, the car continually locked up into the slow corners. They're not expected to bring any upgrades until the European season starts, so if Marussia can sneak a point due to attrition in one of the early fly-aways, Caterham's season could well be over before it really starts!
This is the first car that new technical director James Key has overseen and he has good reason to be confident that the team will finish higher than last year's ninth place. Turn in looks pretty good, minimum speed through the corners is as quick as any other midfield team, high speed corners likewise. They haven't got as much rear end downforce as the top teams, with the rear end twitchy when putting the power down, particularly out of the slower corners. This won't help tyre wear, but with the car looking so smooth (even with the super aggressive Jean-Eric Verne at the wheel), some set-up work should help to alleviate the issue.
Williams have continued with their very tightly packaged rear end, helped by having the smallest gear box on the grid. They finally appear to be using this to their advantage. The behavior of the car looks stable and able to let the drivers really push. The rear end was planted out of the slow corners, but a little wobbly out of the medium speed ones, suggesting that the removal of the 'illegal' vanes on the exhaust exit has lost them some rear end downforce. I suspect the team will work hard before Melbourne to find a different solution to try to regain some of that lost downforce, so expect the car to change before then. Mike Coughlan and his team have made easily the best Williams for some years and I expect them to be in the points most races.
FIF1 have issues, major issues. Their problems start at turn one, where they have difficulty with turn in, apex speed no quicker than the Marussia, then couldn't get back on the power for what seemed like an age. Through the medium speed corners the car was prone to terrible understeer on corner entry, compromising its speed for the rest of the corner. Although it looked no slower than the rest of the midfield through the high speed stuff, that is no consolation for a team without much cash to fix all the other problems the car has. After steadily climbing up the constructors championship in recent years, expect Force India to fall this year to ninth.
A bit of an odd one this, as Sauber appear to have made two entirely different cars! At times it looks very stable and planted through all types of corner. At other times it looks a real handful to drive. This behavior suggests the car reacts very differently to a light or heavy fuel load. Does this mean they've gone all out for qualifying pace? Does this mean there's problems with correlation between data from the wind tunnel and the track? Does this mean the car has a tiny set up window? Either way, this car can be quick and with a few tweaks they should be able to make it consistent and I believe that they'll be challenging Williams for the 'Best of the Rest' title.
This lot are quick, I mean REALLY quick. Quick that is over one lap and one lap only. at no time could they put two flying laps together, suggesting that the tyre wear problems they've had since Brawn GP morphed into Mercedes in 2010 still isn't resolved 3 years later. In the colder conditions of Friday the car looked a real handful, completely unstable. It appeared much better when the temperature rose, but I only saw them do one long run, on the medium tyres, and the car looked no better than the midfield teams during that run. With that one lap pace I can see them getting some pole positions this season, but remember the last half of last season when the car always finished lower than its grid position.... well expect that to happen again.
In complete contrast to Mercedes, here's a car that really does have some long run pace. During that cold Friday afternoon the Lotus ran a stint of more than 20 laps with no discernible drop off in performance. This was also the case during the warmer running of Saturday and Sunday. There is a doubt though over their reliability. Why so little running over the weekend? The car doesn't quite look to have the overall pace of the top three teams, but if they get to Melbourne and the fastest cars have to make three stops, I can see the Lotus going for a two-stopper and coming away with a huge haul of points.
The McLaren drivers have been talking about how the car is difficult to understand, how it feels great at times, then awful at others. This is evident when watching the car on circuit. The McLaren was the only car around the medium speed turn 4 not to suffer any understeer to speak of. On another run it appeared to give the drivers no confidence at all, taking far too long to get back on the gas on corner exit, compromising its speed down any following straight. It was also the only car not to have to get on the kerb when exiting the slow turn 7, suggesting that it has more overall downforce than anything else on the grid. Knowing how aggressive the team are at bringing updates throughout the season, expect the car to have quite a few new pieces for Melbourne, and if the updates work I can see Jenson winning has second title and Checo can become the first Mexican to win a world championship Grand Prix since Pedro Rodriguez at Spa in 1970.
I was in Barcelona before the start of last season and saw how bad the Ferrari was then. Fortunately for them, this years car is almost immeasurably better. Stable on corner entry, good traction out of slow corners, very little understeer through the medium speed corners and fast through the faster stuff. it has a rear end that doesn't slide when the power goes down, which tells me that all the lovely detail work on the back of the car, especially those fancy strake's on the lower part of the rear wing end-plate are finally beginning to work. Overall, this car doesn't look as quick as the McLaren, when that car is working well, but with the consistency they have through all types of corner, surely last year's wind tunnel correlation woes can be forgotten and they can develop the car with confidence. Alonso for the title? I wouldn't bet against him!
Red Bull are a difficult team to analyse. You expect Adrian Newey's cars to be so perfect that if you see one tiny issue, a little bit of understeer or a slightly twitchy rear end you think something's gone horribly wrong in Milton Keynes! When this car works, it looks awesome, particularly during turn in to all types of corner and the momentum it keeps through the fast corners is really something to behold. It did understeer though after the initial turn in phase of turn 4 and the rear end did slip and slide a bit out of the slow corners. Apex speed through the medium corners was definitely not as quick as the Ferrari or the McLaren and a question remains as to how much this car can be developed, with it only being an evolution of last year's RB8. Overall though, when they all get to Melbourne, this surely still has to be the car to beat!
THE FINAL LAP
Don't expect too much to change this season. The top teams will still be the top teams, the midfield may shuffle around a little, but the teams will stay midfield teams. Any early season shocks will probably be due to one team stealing a march on tyre wear over the others, but by the time we get back to Europe, normal service will be resumed. My prediction for the title? Sadly I'm going to give it a miss this year, for the first time in ages I really can't decide who to go for, so wait until we're a few races in before running down to the bookies!
I hope you've enjoyed this analysis and you never know, some of it may turn out to be correct!
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