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F1 Testing: Day 4 Analysis

By Mav | 5 Mar 2012 | 4 Comments | 3,815 views

Here endeth pre-season testing. Kimi Raikkonen finished as he started off testing in Jerez a month ago – sitting at the top of the timesheets, this time with the fastest lap of all eight days of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya. Sebastian Vettel, on the otherhand, was left propping up the table as a crash in which he damaged Red Bull’s latest front wing and gearbox problems limited him to a handful of laps. However, looking more closely, what can we read into today’s lap times?
Lotus F1/Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic
I’d hoped for a final race simulation from Red Bull and McLaren from which to make a close comparison. However, Vettel’s troubles shot that idea down and nor were McLaren playing ball. Lewis Hamilton did do a few long runs but it would be difficult to guess how much fuel they had on board. McLaren have looked very laid back and confident this week – a marked contrast to 12 months ago and a marked contrast to Ferrari. Having cancelled all driver media conferences, Ferrari’s Pat Fry today admitted they are unlikely to be in a position to challenge for podiums at the start of the season. A sense of panic is palpable.

There were only two race simulations of note and Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg used such different strategies that a comparison is probably not worthwhile, especially as the Force India driver ended his “race” early anyway. Instead, I’ve picked out four drivers doing long runs on the soft compound. I would ignore the relative pace as it is unlikely that they are running similar fuel loads although as it happens, McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus and Williams produced a remarkably similar set of stints:

Viva F1

Raikkonen and Hamilton produced startlingly similar degradation patterns on their first head-to-head stints. The McLaren driver’s second stint began to show a loss of pace relatively early, although it looks like he was probably running a used set of tyres. Williams, however, edged the tyre wear battle, a pattern that was noted on Day 3 against their midfield rivals and today resulting in a sixteen lap stint on the soft tyres.

It’s Mercedes who lose out though. Presumably running lighter as they were some one to one-and-a-half seconds quicker that their rivals at the start of the stint, they were giving pace away by the time they came to stop – and a lap earlier than McLaren and Lotus at that. That equates to a loss of around three and half seconds over the stint, around a second more than McLaren/Lotus. Still, Michael Schumacher seemed unconcerned about tyre degradation in interviews at the end of the day – indeed, Mercedes may benefit from a strong qualifying performance if the tyres heat up quicker.

Elsewhere, Caterham did some reasonably long runs on the hard compounds, losing around a second over the course of a 11-13 lap stint which compared favouably with Lotus’ run on the same compound towards the end of Raikkonen’s race simulation.

However, this is still just guesswork. The real proof comes in two weeks time in Melbourne.

Finally, it seems that HRT just missed out on making the test and will take to the track in Barcelona tomorrow. Under the guise of a filming run, meaning that they will have to use demo tyres and limit themselves to 100km, they will at least have the chance to test out the mechanics and electronics ahead of free practice down under.

Related Links
F1 Testing: Day 1 Analysis
F1 Testing: Day 2 Analysis
F1 Testing: Day 3 Analysis

Credit: Lotus F1/Lorenzo Bellanca/LAT Photographic

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