The previous week had been a hectic one for the Formula One fraternity. It involved the unveiling of the cars by teams for the 2013 season. Lotus was the first one followed by Mclaren, Force India, Ferrari, Sauber, Red Bull, Torro Rosso, Mercedes, Caterham and Marussia. Marussia unveiled their car on the first day of pre-season testing which started on the 5th of February thus officially kicking off the 2013 F1 season, the last one with the current set of regulations. Williams are yet to unveil their car for the 2013 season and will be doing so for the Barcelona test. In Jerez, they will be running the FW34, their car from the 2012 season. One noticeable phenomenon during the team launches was that most of them were reluctant to show their launch spec car in it’s entirety and rather, showcased 2012 components on their cars. And as this first test in Jerez kicks off, one can be sure that the race-spec cars will not be seen here as well.
Jerez Day 1:
Its still early days, and pre-season testing is definitely not an indicator for the season, but McLaren looked ominously quick from the word go.
Although Jenson Button got the dubious distinction of causing the first Red Flag for the 2013 season, he shot back to go fastest of the lot on the first day of testing with a time of 1m18.861s on the harder of Pirelli’s new compounds. Button was on his third lap when he was struck by a fuel pump failure ( similar to the one Hamilton suffered last year at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix) and had to stop the car. But the Briton fought his way back to the top during the closing stages of the session to go almost a second clear of the second placed man, Red Bull’s Mark Webber. Though McLaren should be encouraged with Button’s pace, they should look into these reliability gremlins and correct them if they are to avoid the mistakes of last year. Other notable mentions were Grosjean’s Lotus, which was encouragingly quick and Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes, which managed only a handful of laps before it was sidelined for the rest of the day by an electric failure.
Jerez Day 2:
Lotus dominated the second day of testing at Jerez with Romain Grosjean flying around the track in 1m18.218s, six tenths faster than the time set by Jenson Button the previous day. It is to be noted that Grosjean set this time during one his short runs which probably meant he had less fuel on board. Again, it will be notoriously difficult to ascertain performance differences owing to the varying levels of fuel that teams run. Nico Hulkenberg stopped on track too as his Sauber ran out of fuel – this tactic is not unheard of during testing as teams calculate the minimum level of fuel that they can run on for qualifying/races. Mercedes had a torrid day again when Lewis Hamilton, who replaced Michael Schumacher, crashed into the barriers due to a rear brake failure. The team ended their second day without any significant running.
Jerez Day 3:
Red Bull and Ferrari had two quiet days of testing always lurking in the shadows while McLaren and Lotus went fastest. But today, Felipe Massa went purple in all sectors to go fastest with a time of 1m17.879s – the fastest time set in testing this year. Mercedes finally got some decent running with Nico Rosberg coming second albeit a second off the pace of the lead Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel started his 2013 campaign by going a quiet sixth fastest in the RB9.
Teams rarely show their hand in the first phase of testing and most of them will be running different programmes and trying to crunch data which will be crucial for qualifying and race strategies once the season starts in full flow. Three different drivers have topped the timing screens for the past three days and this could be an indicator that the 2013 season could be as uncertain as 2012 when there were seven winners from the first seven races. Hopefully, a pattern will emerge and I wait with bated breath to see it form in the days to come.