F1 Testing Highlights: Who's Setting Pace

Mustafa SariContributor IMarch 10, 2009

Again, experts like Autosport's Mark Hughes and Team Principles think Ferrari has the fastest car right now. But it's not that simple, even if the car has a great pace on longer runs.

Both last year and in 2007, Ferrari started the season as favorites, but McLaren was close, especially last year. The two teams dominated the tests and whole season.

I don't like the comments like "tests don't show the real pace of a car."

But as last year (and even 2006) showed, any given car can shine in the season, just like any given team can shine. There are always surprises, as in 2007 with BMW, and in 2008 with Toro Rosso.

In both Bahrain and Jerez, Ferrari had reliability issues, but their times were always in the top three. Even they used race simulations or set-up works.

Kimi and Massa matched in testing before Barcelona. Still, neither of them had the edge this year.

BMW, Toyota, and Red Bull look good in testing because, even in qualifying simulations or race simulations, these teams are similar and capable of setting the pace at Jerez.

Renault was good in Jerez and Alonso had the pace when he ran a qualifying simulation. When the pacesetter has a 1.5 (or smaller) gap, it's easy to determine which car is light and which is heavy.

As an example, take McLaren. Early Jerez tests by Hamilton and Kovalainen set the pace with the 2008 spec wing with low fuel; they did 1.19s or low 1.20s. But in Barcelona and other Jerez tests, they were near the bottom, because they were using race simulations or set-up things.

If McLaren uses qualifying times, the car will be in top five, but don't forget that other teams are doing the same race simulations or qualifying simulations right now, too.


But onto another point: I don't believe McLaren is sandbagging. Why would they need to do that? They had a lot of reliability problems, like Ferrari, but they were fast in Jerez with the 2008 wing.

Now, with the 2009 spec, they're in the midfield. Maybe they have problems with the rear wing set-up, so they're doing a lot tests based on rear wing.

McLaren didn't sandbag in 2008 or 2007. They were fast in all their preseason testings. Even Ferrari can make slower cars, like the MP4-19 or F2005. With new regulations, 2008's fastest team could be slower, because everything starts from zero with new tires and new wing levels. Remember Ferrari in 2005?  

This year, even Authorities' favorite, Ferrari, has not pulled away from the pack. Force India and Brawn GP have had good paces in testing, especially Button, who made headlines yesterday. This year will be closer than ever.


In other news, I am happy with the F1 website; fans can now understand and know which team will run which program, so testing will glean important information about cars for fans.

Why do teams want fans to think they don't know rivals pace or strategies in the preseason? I think all teams are sandbagging before this season starts, like every year.

With this information, Ferrari has a little step jump on the others, but Williams, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Brawn, BMW, McLaren and more are in the 0.2- to 0.5-second gap.

I guarantee that there will be a lot of suprises; big teams like Ferrari, Renault, and Mclaren have serious mechanical problems.

I think between three and seven teams will fight for glory in Australia glory, so it'll be an exciting season to watch.