And so from the Paddock in Barcelona, where the glitz and glamour of the F1 season is already in full swing. We got together with the team from Edge Global Events who have been reporting on the eventful test sessions this week in Barcelona.
All the teams have been busily developing their new cars ready for the 2011 season, and it was Rubens Barrichello who drew first blood in February practice with the fastest lap, which he completed during his first 100 lap trial stint in the new AT&T Williams FW33.
Now that we are into the final practice session in Barcelona before the start of the season and the Edge Global Team are in place again to report on their findings. Can Barrichello and Williams maintain their competitive edge, or have the other teams closed the gap since the last test?
With new rules for the 2011 Season, it will be the teams performing the most testing and putting the most miles under their new chassis that are likely to start the season strongest. Ferrari are in pole position in this respect, having already covered over 5,200 km, with Red Bull Racing following with a still impressive 4,400 km of testing. Both teams have so far experienced excellent reliability, with very few technical problems for either team impeding their progress.
McLaren however are believed to be falling slightly behind, with less than 3,000km under the wheels of the MP4-26 and a series of early technical issues keeping the car away from the track. To add insult to injury, both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton are unhappy with the new Pirelli tyres – although Jenson is notorious for being sensitive to a car’s balance in testing.
If they can get through this difficult period, their car should be well equipped to compete at the top. Meanwhile McLaren has confirmed that it has re-signed Pedro de la Rosa as its test and reserve driver for the 2011 F1 season, which will be a bonus given the development role he’s performed in recent months for Pirelli.[two_columns ]
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “He (De la Rosa) rejoins us with even greater experience, and his motivation and attention to detail remain as sharp as ever. “His recruitment adds considerable strength in depth to our driver line-up.”
Britain’s Gary Paffett will remain a test driver with the team, but will no longer attend GP weekends, enabling him to focus more on his drive in the DTM championship.
Force India are much more of an unknown quantity this season, along with McLaren they were one of the last teams to launch their car for the 2011 season, and have only limited experience of the new KERS system. Scotland’s Paul di Resta has been covering plenty of miles in the driving seat, but his focus in 2011 will be on beating his more experienced team mate, Adrian Sutil.[/two_columns] [two_columns_last ][/two_columns_last]
So far in the final testing session in Barcelona, it appears once again that Sebastian Vettel is the man to beat. Not all the teams managed to get their cars out on track, with HRT still to launch their 2011 car, but early indications are promising for Red Bull fans. Both Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Torro Rosso had successful tests yesterday, with Torro Rosso’s Sebastian Buemi finishing only half a second slower than Vettel after having completed an impressive 120 laps:
“We can be pleased with what we achieved today, because with 120 laps, it meant we completed all the program we had planned,” Said Buemi.
Vitaly Petrov did well in the Lotus Renault, setting the third fastest time of the day in a confidence-inspiring run. He went on to say “It’s the first time I’ve been able to do consistent long runs and really start understanding the tires.”
It appears understanding the new tyres is a main focus of this test, and could shape the start of the championship when it starts in Melbourne. Lewis Hamilton and McLaren only managed to complete 57 laps after various technical issues, although still set the fourth fastest time.
As we near the end of the final testing session, expect Ferrari and Red Bull, together with Williams, Sauber and Mercedes to all show strong performances by the end of the week.
As ever, we’ve taken some time to enjoy the fantastic hospitality offered to us as guests of the F1 teams.
For more information on how you can get involved in the Paddock Club with EDGE, visit www.edgeglobalevents.com.