Pre-season testing has shown the teams to be closer matched than ever before so as the teams prepare to head to Australia for the first Grand Prix of the 2013 season I take a look at where each team stands following the final pre-season test in Barcelona.
The Milton Keynes based team finished the four days with the 12th and 14th fastest times but it is unlikely that they will be that far back when racing begins in two weeks in Australia. The team are known to hide their real pace during testing and this year appears no different. The car looked good when completing long runs and race simulations. Mark Webber’s race simulation on Thursday as the track had started to dry out showed the Red Bull to be able to achieve laps way out of the reach of other teams suggesting that the RB8 could have an advantage over other teams in Melbourne. The team completed 314 laps over the four days and look to be in a strong position heading to the first race.
McLaren ended the four days testing having completed 395 laps and with the fifth and 15th fastest times. Jenson Button’s time was set on the final day of testing and showed that the car has the potential to be amongst the front runners over one lap, however the time was still over one second slower than the Mercedes. Whilst some of McLaren’s longer runs have been slower than the other top teams they should still be competing for the podium in Australia but this may not quite stretch to a win. The car should ultimately still have the pace to challenge for the championships.
The Ferrari performed well at the final pre-season test setting competitive times on single lap runs. Fernando Alonso ended the week with the second fastest time whilst Felipe Massa set the fourth fastest time, even more impressive was that Alonso’s time was within four tenths of the Mercedes leading time. Together the two drivers managed 428 laps showing the reliability of the F138 and its strength against the other front runners. The team should be in contention for the race win in Melbourne and could even have both drivers on the podium however Alonso has suggested Ferrari is still behind McLaren and Red Bull.
Mercedes topped the timesheets on two days of the test and ended the four days with the first and third fastest times. Whilst the Mercedes had previously topped the timesheets in the other two tests it never ended the week with the fastest time. The performance of the car has led some to question what we can really read into the times, however the Mercedes certainly looks quick over one lap and should feature at the front during the first race. The team continues to downplay its chances of winning races and contesting the championship but the car looks to have the ability to win at least one race in the season and should be in contention in Melbourne.
Lotus set fairly conservative lap times during the final test ending the four days with the eighth and 11th fastest times. Kimi Raikkonen suffered limited running after illness and a gearbox change on his only day of running. The Lotus will be a top-ten contender and should be able to challenge for some podiums early in the season. Winning a race is not out of the question but the cars at the front all appear to be close. The team managed 262 laps, a relatively low figure compared with the other teams.
The Sauber managed 388 laps in Barcelona and set the sixth and 13th fastest times. Although the time set by Nico Hulkenberg was impressive and the Sauber should be a contender in the top ten it is fair to say it is unlikely that the C32 will qualify in sixth in Melbourne. The consistent running from the team suggests they should be regular point scorers during the season however both drivers said that tyre degradation was high during race simulations.
Force India ended the test session with the seventh and ninth fastest times but with the midfield and front of the field so tight this may not be where the cars end up in Melbourne. Paul di Resta and newly confirmed driver Adrian Sutil completed 340 laps between them and both completed race simulations. The team appear to be in a stronger position heading to Australia than they were last year and should be capable of scoring points, however Sutil’s lack of time in the car and year out may hinder the team for the first few races.
Williams finished the final test with the 10th and 11th fastest time which appears to be a fair reflection of their pace heading to Barcelona. Together they managed 298 laps as they assessed aero revisions on their FW35. The times were roughly two seconds off the pace of the Mercedes but as with all the times it is unknown what the fuel loads were and the tyre compounds were different.
Toro Rosso completed 325 laps and managed to set the 19th and 21st fastest times at the last test. The situation was similar to the previous tests were the STR8 has looked good on some days and disappointing on others. The team used the dry running on the afternoons of Saturday and Sunday to complete long runs. Although the car has the potential to score points this season the midfield is incredibly tight and the team face the likelihood of leaving Melbourne without a top ten finish.
Caterham completed 363 laps and set the 17th and 23rd fastest times on Barcelona. Despite setting a faster time than either Marussia driver they still look to be behind their rivals and seem to have taken a step back from point scoring. They will want to bring some upgrades and updates for their car throughout the season to stand a chance of maintaining 10th in the constructors and beating Marussia.
Marussia set the 18th and 22nd fastest times of testing with Max Chilton and new recruit Jules Bianchi. Luiz Razia found his contract had been terminated on Friday and Bianchi replaced him after losing out on the second seat at Force India. Bianchi’s time was nearly one second faster than teammate Chilton. The team completed 338 laps and still look to be ahead of their backmarker rivals Caterham. They have their best chance of claiming 10th in the constructors championship since entering F1 in 2010 but point scoring still seems a long way off unless there is another race like Brazil 2012.