First Trends in Testing
Okay, testing is a poor indicator of likely form in the season to come but there were some interesting pointers that emerged in Valencia this week. It looks as if McLaren and Ferrari are still the cars to beat, although Kovalainen's pace was a minor surprise. He admitted that his best time was set on a very low fuel load but, even so, seemed to be the quicker of the two McLaren drivers on this track. Perhaps Hamilton was too busy evaluating new stuff to bother with setting times.Kazuki Nakajima - man of the momentOn the downside, BMW's explanations for the new car's slow pace were perhaps even more worrying than the car's performance. Were not the Honda team members saying pretty much the same sort of thing at this time last year? "There is a balance problem but we know the cause and will fix it before Melbourne" - sounds very familiar to me. Hopefully, I am just being pessimistic as Kubica managed to get the F1.08 amongst the front runners in the end.And then there is the new Williams. Closest of all to the top two, the FW30 looks as though it could be the business. Patrick Head is being cautious but, to be so competitive straight out of the box must augur well for the car's chances. If the team continue to develop it in the right direction, both BMW and Renault (who were distinctly ordinary) are going to struggle to stay with it.Plus there is the first sign of vindication for a prediction of mine: Kazuki Nakajima put in some very fast times, ending up quicker than Nico Rosberg. Disregard for a moment the fact that this is testing and we don't know what fuel loads the cars were running - to have set times like these, Kazuki must have a fair idea of how to drive a F1 car. The feeling grows on me all the time - Williams have found a real flyer in Nakajima. I have used the enormous picture above so that we can all begin to know his face; we might need to.But I don't expect Kazuki to seriously discomfort Rosberg this year. We already know that Nico is quick and his two years of experience will make the difference in the battle of team mates. Kazuki will make his mistakes (and will be especially careful in pit stops, no doubt) and remain suitably respectful in true Japanese style. Next year could be very interesting, however.Continuing the focus on team mate battles, Vettel is looking better than Bourdais so far. That will probably change as the Frenchman gets more settled in F1, and the car's apparent competitiveness will also dissipate. Toro Rosso are still using last year's model, remember, and the forthcoming upgrade may be difficult, judging from Red Bull's underwhelming debut with the RB4. Webber pronounces himself happy with it but the times are not encouraging.Honda's new offering, nondescript in its all white color scheme, was also somewhat of a disappointment. It may be that the car will come good with a few more miles on it but, so far, it looks pretty slow. Just as well then that Barrichello says it's easier to drive than last year's model.Of the rest, Force India did well in comparison to Spyker's performance last year and Toyota were competent at least. Glock seems to have injected a new spirit of optimism into the team and I think we can expect an improvement in Toyota's fortunes this year. Not to the extent that they beat their engine customer, Williams, of course - that is asking altogether too much.The next test is in Barcelona and will provide more food for thought, no doubt. There is no sign yet of the tailing off of performance I expect from the big two, Ferrari and McLaren, but it is early days yet, as they say. Much development has to take place before the cars line up in Melbourne again.
So far, its looking good for Williams, and, er, that's about it. Apart from Mclaren and Ferrari, of course.Testing times can be misleading, but the Honda looks just a bit TOO slow. Toyota's drivers haven't been making positive noises, and neither has Nick Heidfeld over at BMW. Not going to be a lot of different winners next year, I suspect, but I hope Frank's boys live up to their promise
Yeah, it looks like being another Ferrari/McLaren show. I keep hoping that one of the teams will spoil their party and, on Valencia's showing, that would be Williams this year. Heck, I don't care - anyone will do!
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