Formula 1: Valencia Testing Recap

The start of February meant the end of the moratorium on testing in Formula One. Seven of the thirteen teams entered in the 2010 World Championship were at the Circuito Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain, to shakedown their cars. All of the teams there were in the 2009 Championship. There were teams looking to build on last year’s success and others looking for a complete turnaround. There were new faces in new places and some familiar faces making their return to action. So who looks best after the first three days of testing? Times and analysis after the jump.

Day 1 (February 1)

The first day of testing was all about two big returns to F1. Felipe Massa spent the day pounding around Valencia in the new Ferrari F10. He ran a “privately-owned” Ferrari F2008 in January but hasn’t been in a current-spec car since his accident at the Hungaroring in August 2009. He showed that all the potential that he was demonstrating over the last couple of years hasn’t disappeared on him. He shot straight to the top of the time sheets. Massa was about two-tenths of a second faster than Pedro de la Rosa in a Sauber-Ferrari. (Technically, de la Rosa drives a BMW Sauber-Ferrari but that just makes no sense. From here on out, they’re just Sauber-Ferraris.)

The other story of the day was the return of Michael Schumacher. The seven-time World Drivers’ Champion was about four-and-a-half tenths of a second off the pace set by Massa but it was good enough for third fastest on the day. It was Schumacher’s first drive in one of the reduced downforce F1 cars introduced last year. He does have one advantage over most of this year’s drivers. He drove when refuelling was last banned in F1 in 1993.

  1. Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 1:12.574
  2. Pedro de la Rosa – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:12.784
  3. Michael Schumacher – Mercedes – 1:12.947
  4. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:13.543
  5. Gary Paffett – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:13.846
  6. Rubens Barrichello – Williams-Cosworth – 1:14.449
  7. Sebastien Buemi – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:14.762
  8. Robert Kubica – Renault – 1:15.000

Day 2 (February 2)

The second day of testing saw the driver of the #2 car join the fray. Lewis Hamilton was the third fastest in the McLaren. This is a massive improvement over the dog that the McLaren was at the beginning of 2009. However, the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi surprised by going second on the day. Sauber GP took advantage of the money that BMW had put into developing a 2010 challenger like Brawn did with Honda’s money heading into 2009. However, given the engine at the top of the time sheets, it might not just be the car.

Felipe Massa’s comeback continued at full speed. He went about three-quarters of a second faster than Day One and showed that the hard work of the Ferrari team in developing the 2010 appears to have been the smart decision.

  1. Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 1:11.722
  2. Kamui Kobayashi – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:12.056
  3. Lewis Hamilton – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:12.256
  4. Robert Kubica – Renault – 1:12.426
  5. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:12.899
  6. Rubens Barrichello – Williams-Cosworth – 1:13.377
  7. Sebastien Buemi – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:13.823

Day 3 (February 3)

The final day of the first week of testing saw over 30,000 people turn up at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit. Why would everyone turn up at testing? Because there were three Spanish driver on track on Wednesday. The way was led Spain’s greatest hero, the double World Champion and new Ferrari driver, Fernando Alonso. He was the only driver to dip below the fastest time of the week which was set by teammate Felipe Massa.

A couple of other world champions were on track as well. Michael Schumacher was in the Mercedes W01 for the full day’s worth of testing. In the other silver, Mercedes-powered car, Jenson Button took his #1 McLaren out for his first drive with his new team. However, it wasn’t a perfect day for the defending World Champion. He had trouble settling into his cockpit and had his seat adjusted several times during the day. At least he’s doing better than Nigel Mansell whose arse was too wide to fit in the standard issue McLaren chassis in 1995.

  1. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:11.470
  2. Pedro de la Rosa – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:12.094
  3. Michael Schumacher – Mercedes –  1:12.438
  4. Jaime Alguersuari – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:12.576
  5. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:12.951
  6. Vitaly Petrov – Renault – 1:13.094
  7. Nico Hulkenberg – Williams-Cosworth – 1:13.669

So after the first three days of testing, it’s the Ferrari powered cars that are well out front. Of course, this could all be showmanship because we don’t actually know what fuel loads the teams are running or if they were even legal-spec when they did their fast times. However, given the fact that the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers put in 50 laps more than the next closest team shows that they are fairly far along in the development process. It looks as though they have a championship contender right out of the gate. McLaren and Mercedes aren’t too far behind but they look third and fourth strongest after this first test. We haven’t seen Red Bull yet but it could be them and Sauber that could be Ferrari’s biggest threat in 2010.

Best Times of the Week

  1. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:11.470
  2. Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 1:11.722
  3. Kamui Kobayashi – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:12.056
  4. Pedro de la Rosa – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:12.094
  5. Lewis Hamilton – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:12.256
  6. Robert Kubica – Renault – 1:12.426
  7. Michael Schumacher – Mercedes – 1:12.438
  8. Jaime Alguersuari – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:12.576
  9. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:12.899
  10. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:12.951
  11. Rubens Barrichello – Williams-Cosworth – 1:13.377
  12. Vitaly Petrov – Renault – 1:13.582
  13. Nico Hulkenberg – Williams-Cosworth – 1:13.669
  14. Sebastien Buemi – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:13.823
  15. Gary Paffett – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:13.846

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