It’s that time of year again that the Formula 1 circus wakes up again after a few months spent locked away perfecting their designs for this years challengers.
The first official test of 2010 kicked off on Monday in Valencia followed by a further two days, but what can actually be taken from these sessions? It’s hard to tell really, if you take the times as they are it seems Ferrari and Sauber are on form for a good year ahead as they constantly top the time sheets, but how true are these times? Are Sauber running light to post the times to attract potential sponsors or will they be the surprise of 2010 and the same as Brawn GP, transforming the remains of a works team to a title winning independent outfit?
With the major rule change this year being that of no pit-stops in the races the cars feature a larger fuel tank, making the cars heavier on full loads, this has already come under criticism from a number of drivers, including 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton who has spoken out about the dangers of carrying more fuel on board.
“We are sitting on a huge rocket,” said Hamilton, “You are sitting on a serious time bomb which could go off at any time, but we all know F1 is a dangerous sport. That is the risk we take, and as a racing driver, that doesn’t worry me.”
“They won’t stop as quickly and it will be a lot heavier on brakes, but the cars are built to withstand difficult forces. I will get in the car and I will go flat-out, and if it happens, it happens.”
Team-mate Jenson Button echoed these sentiments “Eighty kilograms of fuel could do some damage, so it doesn’t matter if it’s 80kg or 160kg. The way the system works – with a cut-off valve – it shouldn’t be a problem, but the car is so heavy now. It is a lot more difficult with the brakes. I have driven it in the simulator, and it is tough on brakes.”
Rubens Barrichello admitted that the test times can’t be taken too seriously – “You can’t tell how competitive everyone is because the fuel cell is so large making times difficult to read”
Mercedes GP Boss Ross Brawn also told of how it’s hard to take anything from the test times: “It’s always very difficult to judge. On full tanks yesterday (Tuesday) we didn’t look too bad but we’re a little bit off on pace and (there are problems with) the handling and balance of the car which we can fix for (the next test in) Jerez. We know what the problem is.
“Of course the other teams will be progressing as well so we are reasonable, not as quick as Ferrari and Lewis looked quick yesterday. So it looks like we’ve got a bit of work to do.” he added.
One thing that these sessions have shown us is that Felipe Massa is showing no signs of be affected by the horror accident in Hungary last year, topping the time sheets with constant times throughout the two days of testing, showing the same pace as new signing Fernando Alonso.