Barcelona Testing – Day 2
The second day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya found Williams and Nico Hulkenberg at the top of the time sheets at the end of the day with a 1 minute 20.614 as the team ran qualifying simulations. However, the majority of teams opted for longer runs, with Fernando Alonso putting on the most mileage, making up for lost running yesterday with 134 laps. The updated pre-season testing statistics can be found here. The longer runs resulted in a number of race simulation runs and it is on those longer runs for Toro Rosso, Red Bull, Ferrari, Force India and Sauber that I’m going to concentrate tonight.
I’ve highlighted the scheduled pit stops for fresh tyres with larger symbols, but inevitably there are a few unscheduled stops as red flag conditions hold-up the teams. In this situation the teams stop and leave the car as it was before the red flag, although tyres temperatures will be effected to some extent. It’s also important to bear in mind that the teams will not necessarily stick rigidly to a normal race distance – 66 laps in the case of the Spanish Grand Prix – but you can see from the chart that they all come pretty close and so they in theory should be on comparable fuel loads.
The first thing to note is two different tyre strategies were adopted. Force India and Sauber stopping twice, the others settling for just the once which already throws up some interesting questions about how the season will work out. One problem though is the question of compounds. Yesterday saw the majority relying on the soft compound, and while Force India seem to have continued that trend, I suspect a more mixed bag of tricks today as the track rubbered in.
Whatever tyre compound Toro Rosso started out on, it didn’t appear to stand up to the test that well with lap times gradually increasing, eventually prompting a change of rubber. However, the new compound performed much better for Jaime Alguersuari, his times coming down rapidly. It was a similar story for Tonio Liuzzi and Force India who stopped a similar number of laps into their run. However, the change of tyres failed to produce the same improvement in lap times – possibly because they stuck with the soft compound which lasted much better now that the car was lighter.
Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull stopped for fresh rubber halfway through their long run. In both halves, lap times remained fairly consistent at first before showing gradually improving as the fuel was consumed. If this is a true indicator of how the RB6’s tyre behaviour, it looks like the team may be going down the one stop route for the rest of the season. The one downer was a “precautionary stop” near the end of the run. They resumed where they left off but there is a slight urge to mark them down as “did not finish”.
Perhaps surprisingly, Sauber put in the quickest laps of the all the team’s race simulations, running at around the 1 minute 23 mark on the late laps. That can be largely be put down to a late tyre stop. A rather inconsistent set of lap times from Pedro De la Rosa, the general trend was downwards and the car looks like it should be a strong midfielder despite early doubts linked to the lack of sponsors. However, the run was a bit shorter than others.
Finally Ferrari, and Fernando Alonso’s last day on track before free practice in Bahrain. The remarkable thing about Alonso’s lap times is how consistant they are: in the high 1 minute 26s on the first, relatively short stint and then the high 1 minute 24s on the second longer stint. The F60’s times are impressive but there is one catch – Ferrari did the shortest of the race simulations, ending 10 laps short of Red Bull’s run. Therefore, Ferrari may have run with a little less fuel. Or perhaps they started with the same amount – failing to go as far on the same tank due to a thirsty engine. It’s interesting that the Ferrari-powered Sauber also stopped earlier.
It’s still a lot of guess work but maybe there are more clues. One final set of numbers – their average lap time of the stint. Fastest was the Sauber with an average of 1 minute 23.3s closely followed by Ferrari (1:25.4), Red Bull (1:25.6), Toro Rosso (1:25.7), and Force India (1:25.9). Remarkably similar, hinting that there might not be much in it amongst the ‘old’ teams. Now if only we were 100% sure about starting fuel loads and tyre compounds…
For more analysis of today’s testing, you might want to take a look at Making Up The Numbers