Formula 1 Insight

An Early Test in Barcelona

The financial storm clouds are gathering over F1, with team accounts showing big losses, a battle between the teams and CVC possible and rumors of a divorce for Bernie in the offing - with accompanying implications, since Bernie's money is all in his wife's name. But it is business as usual for the teams down in Barcelona, where the first test of the off season commences.

Robert Kubica
Robert Kubica

Such an early test gives no pointers to potential form in the new year, most of the cars being 2008 versions with adjustments to test aspects of the incoming regulations, but there were some interesting bits and pieces worth looking at. BMW gave us an idea of the appearance of the new cars with wide front wings, a narrow wing at the back and no winglets or aerodynamic protrusions on the bodywork. A lot of commenters seem to find this difficult to get used to but, to me, it seems that we have merely taken a few steps back into the past and it becomes possible to see what the cars look like again. Gone are all the add-ons that interfered with the clean look of a F1 car.

Looking at the midday times, a few things stand out. Old Takuma Sato did well in the Toro Rosso, beating Sebastian Buemi's time by nearly half a second. One could say that this is as it should be, considering the experience of the Japanese driver, but he has also been twiddling his thumbs for most of the season and must be a bit rusty as a result. This is bound to increase Sato's chances of getting a drive with STR, although I think the best thing he could do would be to have plenty of sponsorship. Money is beginning to matter a great deal at STR.

Of course, we do not know what was being tested on the cars and what programs the drivers had to work through, so it is doubtful that the times have any meaning at all. It is fun to compare drivers in the same car, however, and this particular session makes Lucas di Grassi look a bit silly, his time in the Honda being over four seconds slower than Alex Wurz's. Alex is a nice guy but was never exactly the quickest man around, so what does that say about di Grassi...?

Then there was Sebastien Loeb's run in a Red Bull. He did not embarrass himself at all, his time being respectably amongst the rest, and one would have to say that he shows genuine talent. This is always the way when the rally boys have a go in an open wheel racer - they adjust so much quicker than track drivers do to rallying. Judging by the way Loeb has conquered the rallying world and now seems just as capable in a F1 car, he certainly seems worth a seat in one of the teams.

Not that he will get one; there are so few seats still going and far too many young hopefuls lining up to stake their claims. I have said in previous posts that there seemed to be little talent in GP2 in 2008 and my mind has not changed on that score. No one has really stood out as obviously talented and it seems to me that the battle for a seat in F1 is largely a matter of deciding who brings the most money with him. Sebastien Bourdais should have been signed by STR by now but, with the economic climate looking so threatening, he must wait to see whether the team can get enough cash from just one new driver.

Having said which, I still think he should put in an application form at Honda. Le Seb will not have endeared himself to the STR bosses by his attempt to put pressure on them with his mention of other contracts outside F1 awaiting his signature. And we all know what happens when a driver becomes unpopular at STR...


Steven Roy
I think when you speak about rally drivers you have forgotten four times world champion Tommi Makinen. Around the same time that Colin McRae was getting rave notices for his performance in the Jordan, Williams gave Makkinen a run at Barcelona. On his first flying lap he did severe damage to the car and to the best of my recollection never sat in an F1 car again. He nay have won 4 times as many championships as McRae but he wasn't half the driver.

The pics I have seen of the BMW in 2009 configuration is offensively ugly. It looks like random parts have been taken for the parts bin and thrown on the floor and joined together as they fell. Ferrari are also testing a car with a very odd lump in the right sidepod.
Date Added: 17/11/2008

Clive, Di Grassi (and Senna on the second session) did his laps with heavy fuel and used tyres while Wurz was working in more usual qualifiyng configurations. I imagine that Honda doesn't want anyone comparing the times from their retired test driver to the two kids they are looking to replace Barrichello, so they are making sure that the configurations are far from each other.
Date Added: 17/11/2008

Steven: Well, there was bound to be an exception that proves the rule, wasn't there? It sounds to me as though Tommi merely overestimated his own capabilities in his first (and last) time out in a F1 car - and one lap is hardly an indication of talent, one way or another.

The BMW is an interim car and not the final product so there is still hope for those who find it ugly. Personally, I don't mind it at all, apart from the odd add-ons at the ends of the front wing. I think you will find that the new look quickly becomes acceptable to you and older cars begin to seem fussy and cluttered.
Date Added: 18/11/2008

I thought there was probably something like that holding di Grassi back, Filipe, but my comment was really about how it makes him look to outsiders. I see he is getting another day of testing today and this time they will be going for times. Hopefully, he will prove me to have been completely wrong!
Date Added: 18/11/2008

Mr Soap
My main issue is with the wideness of the front wing. Yes, it does look daft, but more from a racing point of view, it's making the car too fragile, and not that good for wheel to wheel racing.

In terms of looks, the BMW doesn't help things with it's high, wide nose. Compare to the 2009 style front wings/noses from Honda and Williams which don't look anywhere near as bad.
Date Added: 18/11/2008

I think the front wing may turn out to be less fragile than we expect, Mr Soap. Drivers already have to be pretty careful about the front wing and the extra width is not going to make much difference to that. Sure, we'll see a few wings broken off in the races but that was happening anyway.

The high and wide nose reminds me of Williams designs from a few years back - it is a little unusual at first but one soon gets used to it. And here it's a matter of taste, I think - I actually prefer the look of the high nose, rather than the droop snoot on other cars. Although, personally, I'd get rid of the raised nose completely by making them extend the flat bottom all the way to the front of the car. That would get rid of some downforce, wouldn't it?
Date Added: 18/11/2008

RSS feed icon RSS comments feed

Back to the main blog

Have your say

You may use some HTML in comments. For bold text use <strong></strong> and for italic text use <em></em>. If you know what you're doing feel free to use more complex mark-up but please no deprecated tags, break tags or JavaScript.

Enter the code shown above:

Name *

Comment *

Email *


Copyright disclaimers XHTML 1.0 CCS2 RSS feed Icon