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F1 Testing: Day 1 Analysis

By Mav | 1 Mar 2012 | 5 Comments | 3,509 views

After a disastrous second test, Lotus and Romain Grosjean returned to where they’d left off at the end of the first test – at the top of the time sheets. Meanwhile Red Bull, Ferrari and, in particular, Mercedes are already well into running long stints. That comes ahead of race simulations which, for me, are more informative than the headline-grabbing quick laps set on unknown fuel quantities.
Lotus F1/Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic
Lotus’ 1:23.252 may well have stolen the headlines but for me, it wasn’t the standout single lap. Second quickest driver of the day was Jenson Button, the McLaren driver posting a time that was just quarter of a second slower than the Lotus. However, Button was on the hard tyre – unlikely to be the quick qualifying tyre of choice at any race in 2012 – while the Lotus had been shod with Pirelli’s quicker soft compound. Not that I think Lotus were showboating – it’s still early in the test and I expect the cars to go a lot quicker over the next three days.

It was a similar story for Williams who ended the day languishing at the bottom of the time sheets. That’s probably not a good sign for Williams but Caterham’s use of the supersoft tyre (Pastor Maldonado’s best lap for Williams was on the medium) put a gloss on their relative performance while runs on the soft compound produced times more comparable to Williams’.

While McLaren spent the day tinkering with setups and practicing pitstops, suggesting that they’re happy with the car, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes got into a series of long stints. I’ve pulled out comparable stints in the graph below, where all three drivers were running on hard tyres at the time.

Viva F1
Not worrying about the outright pace too much, as that may be simply down to the amount of fuel on board, Red Bull are looking strong with remarkably consistent lap times through their stint. Mark Webber’s pace started dropping off after fifteen laps but even after seventeen laps the tyres had only lost a second from when they were new.

Tyre degradation on the Ferrari was comparable to Red Bull even if Felipe Massa wasn’t nailing consistent lap times. However, if the deficit in Massa’s pace is down to the Ferrari carrying more fuel on board, they shouldn’t have too much to worry about considering the damaging effect on tyre degradation a heavier car would have.

However, Mercedes currently seem to be chewing up the hard compounds. The Mercedes was around two seconds slower by the end of the stint, a pattern that was repeated on a series of other long stints on hard tyres and the medium compound. Qualifying pace may or may not be there but, at the moment, it looks like Mercedes may have room for improvement when it comes to race management.

Still, it’s early days. There are still three more days of testing to go before we really find out how the teams are fairing – in Melbourne.

Related Links
F1 Testing: Day 2 Analysis
F1 Testing: Day 3 Analysis
F1 Testing: Day 4 Analysis

Credit: Lotus F1/Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic

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