Formula 1 Insight

Reflections on Testing at Monza

Being fastest on the second day of testing at Monza must help a little in Nick Heidfeld's quest to retain his BMW seat next year. It is only a brief respite, however, and Dr Theissen has made it clear that he expects continuing improvement from Nick for the rest of the season. His assertion that the team wants both cars in the points at Spa is a not-so-subtle hint that Nick must get his act together.

Nick Heidfeld
Nick Heidfeld

Testing times give only hints of race performance, of course, but Heidfeld's showing is a very positive sign, at least. Not only was he quickest on day two but his time was the fastest set in all three days. Granted, the conditions were most favorable to quick times on that day but it must count for something that Nick hauled the BMW around rather quicker than Kovalainen in the McLaren. Nick rarely beats Kubica in testing these days so his morale will have been boosted quite a bit.

Hopefully, it is more evidence that Heidfeld's problems with the F1.08 are over at last and we can expect better performances from him in the races to come. Whilst Kubica is emerging as one of the top prospects for the future, Nick remains a solid and honest team mate for the Pole. I do not think that BMW would do well to alter their driving team as they enter a year of great change in the regulations, changes that are likely to create some shuffling in the F1 pecking order. If things are stable on the driver front, the team is better able to develop the car throughout the season.

Another surprise at the test was Giancarlo Fisichella's third fastest time on Friday. Force Indias are just not supposed to go that fast and this must surely be evidence that the car is getting very close to the Honda's performance, at least. No doubt that is helped by the fact that Honda are concentrating on next year and have all but given up on this year's chassis; yet Fizzy set the tenth fastest time of the three days, beating quite a few big names on the way.

The team are hoping to beat Honda in the next few races and, given the rumors of discontent within the camp, it would be just the sort of morale boost they need. This is not the moment for Force India to waste their efforts in internal recriminations, just as it looks as if all the hard work is about to pay off. Vijay Mallya approached the season with caution and realism, warning that no miracles would occur, and he should remember that when holding the team together.

Williams have been a minor surprise, Rosberg setting the second fastest time of the three days, but I am hesitant to read too much into this. Too often this year the team has shown well in testing and then faded quite badly come the race. Hopefully, I am wrong and we will see a rejuvenated Williams team in the remainder of the season.

Of the rest, Ferrari, Toyota and Renault have been rather slower than might have been expected. No doubt they will come good for the races, although Toyota and Renault are somewhat of an enigma at the moment. Toyota has been the star improver of the last few races so it is a little surprising to see them so low in the time sheet; Renault have been off form but tend to bounce back from such setbacks.

Spa will probably see the top three teams back in front but there may be some jostling immediately behind them. Throw in a bit of rain and it could be a classic race.


Testing really means nothing unless you know a bit about what the teams are testing, and what they are looking to gain. Often, if they think they are on to something big, they won't do a complete flying lap, but just run sectors or even just corners. Williams has looked good at every test this year nearly, but do not have the results you would expect. Spa will show pretty much the same running order I think.
Date Added: 31/08/2008

Alianora La Canta
Quite likely, Lonny. However happy I am that Fisi got the third fastest time on Friday (and ninth-fastest of the test), I am also aware that a) Force India do not have any major upgrades planned for the rest of the season and are therefore at their competitive peak for 2008 and b) the other teams could have been testing anything.

I bet Honda are hoping testing is inaccurate though - when the fastest time they can get is 1.2 seconds off the fastest time in the test, things look really bad. (In their defence, they were only four-tenths off the pace on the day the fastest time was set - and the pace was set by Massa that day).
Date Added: 31/08/2008

The other thing to remember is that Monza is a remarkably different track from anywhere else on the F1 calendar. Being quick there does not guarantee that BMW, or Williams, or Force India, will necessarily be quick anywhere else.

Anyways, I'll be putting on a backpack, hopping onto a Eurostar and heading to Spa this weekend. My first time at an F1 race in nearly 10 years. Rain might make things very interesting there - although i do want at least one dry day to try out the new DSLR...
Date Added: 01/09/2008

Patrick- Have a great time! Wish I was coming with you, but we expect a full report.
Date Added: 02/09/2008

That's true, Patrick - Monza is one of those circuits that seems to favor a rather different mix of the teams than is usual. It is particularly so when it comes to BMW and I can only hope that this time the test is reflecting a genuine improvement.

Like Lonny, I envy you your trip to Spa. If I could go to just one GP in a year, that is the one I'd choose. And I'm fairly envious of that DSLR you mention, too. I'm still waiting for the price to come down to justifiable limits... ;)
Date Added: 02/09/2008

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