Formula One: 2011 Valencia Test Recap

The first day of February brought an end to the moratorium on Formula One testing. All twelves teams took to the track for the first group test of the season. Not all team ran their 2011 car or even their most up to date aerodynamic packages but there are a few takeaways from the first test fo the 2011 season.

Day 1 (February 1)

Testing for the 2011 season started the same way that the 2010 season ended. It was Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull on top of the time sheets. The new RB7 was over three-quarters of a second ahead of the next fastest 2011 car. That was Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari F150. Force India and McLaren were close to Vettel’s pace but both were running their 2010 cars.

Other teams running their 2011 cars didn’t have as good days as Red Bull and Ferrari. Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber C30 ran problem free but was nearly two seconds off the pace. Petrov’s Renault took a long mid-day break which the team hasn’t explained. The Mercedes W02 suffered a hydraulic failure while Rosberg was onboard. Alguersuari’s STR06 also had a long mid-day break and only ran 19 laps on the day. Barrichello managed 77 laps of running but was hampered by a KERS problem.

  1. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault – 1:13.769
  2. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India-Mercedes – 1:13.938
  3. Gary Paffett – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:14.292
  4. Paul di Resta – Force India-Mercedes – 1:14.461
  5. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:14.553
  6. Kamui Kobayashi – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:15.621
  7. Jerome D’Ambrosio – Virgin-Cosworth – 1:16.003
  8. Vitaly Petrov – Lotus GP-Renault – 1:16.351
  9. Michael Schumacher – Mercedes – 1:16.450
  10. Jaime Alguersuari – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:17.214
  11. Rubens Barrichello – Williams-Cosworth – 1:17.335
  12. Narain Karthikeyan – HRT-Cosworth – 1:18.020
  13. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:19.930

Day 2 (February 2)

For the first time, all 12 teams were on track at the same time with Team Lotus joining the fray. However, it was the old guard at the front. It was Fernando Alonso taking over from Sebastian Vettel at the top of the time sheets. Alonso took over 1.2 seconds off his best time from the first day of testing.

Force India continued their quick pace from the first day. Once again, they were the fastest of the teams running their 2010 cars. Paul di Resta was over a half-second faster than Lewis Hamilton in his 2010 McLaren. Robert Kubica took his Lotus GP car to 3rd among the 2011 cars. The surprise of the day was Narain Karthikeyan who gained about 3.5 seconds on his first day time to be 6th fastest overall on the day.

The big debut news of the day was the introduction of Team Lotus’s 2011 contender, the T128. Visually, it’s a huge step forward from last year’s T127 in that it looks like it belonged in F1 last year. Personally, I thought the T127 looked a few years behind the field. However, the 2010 Lotus was designed to beat Virgin and HRT. This year’s is designed to compete with Toro Rosso, Force India and Sauber and get into the mid-pack of the field. And, for now, it’s Team Lotus. The court hearing about use of the Lotus name won’t happen until after the Bahrain Grand Prix. From what I’ve read about the lineage of the Team Lotus name, Tony Fernandes and this team have a fairly solid case. By the way, the T128 suffered a power steering failure which limited Kovalainen’s running.

  1. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:13.307
  2. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault – 1:13.614
  3. Paul di Resta – Force India-Mercedes – 1:13.844
  4. Lewis Hamilton – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:14.353
  5. Robert Kubica – Lotus GP-Renault – 1:14.412
  6. Narain Karthikeyan – HRT-Cosworth – 1:14.472
  7. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:14.645
  8. Timo Glock – Virgin-Cosworth – 1:15.408
  9. Rubens Barrichello – Williams-Cosworth – 1:16.023
  10. Sergio Perez – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:16.198
  11. Pastor Maldonado – Williams-Cosworth – 1:16.266
  12. Sebastien Buemi – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:16.359
  13. Jaime Alguersuari – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:16.474
  14. Mark Webber – Red Bull-Renault – 1:17.365
  15. Heikki Kovalainen – Team Lotus-Renault – 1:20.649

Day 3 (February 3)

It looks as though Lotus Renault GP’s trick exhaust system may bring even closer to the front of the grid. Robert Kubica took the radically designed R31 to the top of the time sheets. Renault picked up a couple podiums last year and looked like they could also luck into a win or two. It looks as though they’re relatively on par with Ferrari right now. Mark Webber took the RB7 to 2nd fastest among the 2011 cars with Felipe Massa third in the F150.

It wasn’t a good day to be Felipe Massa, though. His Ferrari caught fire during the morning and was spitting flames out the back. As far as testing incidents go, this one was quite spectacular. It also proved me wrong in thinking that Renault’s forward-exiting exhaust would cause it to be the first to catch fire in this year. Reports indicate that it was an oil leak that caused the fire rather than a major fault. However, given the recent trend for new Ferraris to catch fire, maybe this isn’t an isolated incident.

Jarno Trulli also had a bad day in the Team Lotus car. The replacement power steering parts didn’t get to the track in time so the team was left running installation laps all day without setting a time.

  1. Robert Kubica – Lotus GP-Renault – 1:13.144
  2. Adrian Sutil – Force India-Mercedes – 1:13.201
  3. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:13.553
  4. Mark Webber – Red Bull-Renault – 1:13.936
  5. Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 1:14.017
  6. Timo Glock – Virgin-Cosworth – 1:14.207
  7. Pastor Maldonado – Williams-Cosworth – 1:14.299
  8. Sergio Perez – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:14.469
  9. Michael Schumacher – Mercedes – 1:14.537
  10. Sebastien Buemi – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:14.801
  11. Narain Karthikeyan – HRT-Cosworth – 1:16.535
  12. Jarno Trulli – Team Lotus-Renault – No Time

There probably aren’t a lot of takeaways from this week’s test. We’ll have to wait until all the teams bring out their 2011 cars before we have a clear picture of who’s strongest heading into the new season. It looks like Red Bull, Ferrari and Renault will be up front again this year. Mercedes looks to be fighting back in the mid-pack. The biggest question that I have is where is the pace of the Force India coming from. It definitely wasn’t faster than the McLaren last year so it shouldn’t be quicker in testing. I think that the Force India is likely running more downforce than McLaren but it could just as easily be that they’ve got the tires figured out faster than McLaren.

Best Times of the Week

  1. Robert Kubica – Lotus GP-Renault – 1:13.144
  2. Adrian Sutil – Force India-Mercedes – 1:13.201
  3. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:13.307
  4. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:13.553
  5. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault – 1:13.614
  6. Paul di Resta – Force India-Mercedes – 1:13.844
  7. Mark Webber – Red Bull-Renault – 1:13.936
  8. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India-Mercedes – 1:13.938
  9. Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 1:14.017
  10. Timo Glock – Virgin-Cosworth – 1:14.207
  11. Gary Paffett – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:14.292
  12. Pastor Maldonado – Williams-Cosworth – 1:14.299
  13. Lewis Hamilton – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:14.353
  14. Sergio Perez – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:14.469
  15. Narain Karthikeyan – HRT-Cosworth – 1:14.472
  16. Michael Schumacher – Mercedes – 1:14.537
  17. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:14.645
  18. Sebastien Buemi – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:14.801
  19. Kamui Kobayashi – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:15.621
  20. Jerome D’Ambrosio – Virgin-Cosworth – 1:16.003
  21. Rubens Barrichello – Williams-Cosworth – 1:16.023
  22. Vitaly Petrov – Lotus GP-Renault – 1:16.351
  23. Jaime Alguersuari – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:16.474
  24. Heikki Kovalainen – Team Lotus-Renault – 1:20.649
  25. Jarno Trulli – Team Lotus-Renault – No Time

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