Monthly Archives: February 2012

Latest testing news round-up

As the third test session of 2012 draws to a close, we have only 4 more testing days before the teams roll into Melbourne. While many cars are still sandbagging in terms of pace, a clearer picture of the 2012 grid is now visible. Here is the latest news from the last few days:

HRT pass crash tests, but testing still in doubt

The HRT car has finally passed the FIA crash tests, allowing it to take part in pre-season testing.

However, doubts remain as to whether the team will be able to make it to the final test in Barcelona.

The F112 has been homologated by the FIA after passing the rollhoop test a few days ago. Despite this, the car is still not fully assembled, and sources within the team are only “hopeful” that the struggling team will be able to turn a wheel before Melbourne.

Massa: Ferrari back on track

Felipe Massa believes that Ferrari have finally found the key to unlocking the pace of their F2012.

The Scuderia have been plagued by disappointing pace so far in testing, as they struggled to adapt to the radical car. However, Massa has claimed that the team have found consistent pace:

"I think it's definitely the direction we need to follow for these last days of
testing we have, and I think today was a positive day, not so much in the morning
but in the afternoon.

I have to say that now we are a little bit more positive because we found the
direction to work and I'm sure now, having found the direction, we can see the
development coming.

In the afternoon we were able to do more than eight/nine timed laps consistently.
The laps were very consistent and it was very positive. We still need to work a
lot but at least we found the direction to get a much better car to drive, not
just for laptime for also for consistency."

In the past we didn't have so many directions to follow. This year we have so many
directions, so many possibilities and the most important thing was to find the right
one, and I'm sure we found it."

Still, when asked, on a scale of 1 to 10, how prepared the team was for the upcoming season, Felipe only replied “more than 5″.

FIA to tie up ECU loopholes

In the latest attempt to clamp down on teams manipulating exhaust gases to achieve downforce, the FIA have tightened the stricter engine mapping regulations implemented for 2012.

Back in October, it was revealed that new engine mapping regulations would eliminate exhaust gas manipulation. However, an engine supplier has tipped off the governing body, saying that teams had found a way to improve the flow of gases by inducing a misfire.

It has been confirmed that the FIA have worked with this engine supplier to remove this innovation. A revised software package for the standard ECU unit will be introduced before the Australian Grand Prix.

Marussia fails crash tests, testing ruled out

Marussia, like fellow team HRT, have failed the crash tests for their 2012 challenger.

However, it comes at a much more critical time, as this means the MR01 almost certainly cannot take part in pre-season testing. As this article was updated, it was unclear what sector the car failed in, but the issue cannot be rectified before March 1st.

A statement from the team read:

"The Marussia F1 Team is disappointed to confirm that the planned first test of 
its 2012 race car – the MR01 – has been delayed as a consequence of not passing 
the final FIA crash test.

All cars are required to pass 18 FIA-observed tests for homologation to be granted. 
Despite the fact that the MR01 has passed all 17 of the preceding tests, the 
regulations require the car to have completed all of the tests before running 
commences.

The team will now not take part in the final pre-season test in Barcelona later 
this week [1-4 March] and will instead focus its efforts on repeating the crash 
test at the end of the week."

Barcelona testing day 4: Kobayashi ends test on top

Kobayashi was the eighth driver to be fastest in testing so far

Kobayashi was the eighth driver to be fastest in testing so far

Kamui Kobayashi finished the third test session of 2012 on top of the timesheets.

While the Sauber C31 was delayed by a broken exhaust, the Japanese driver set a 1:22.312, ahead of Pastor Maldonado. Kamui is the eighth driver in 8 testing days to be on top, following Kimi Raikkonen, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado.

He also set 144 laps – the most of any driver so far. Pastor Maldonado set 134 laps and finished 2nd.Paul di Resta went wide at Campsa corner during the day, but recovered to be classified 3rd.

Ferrari focused on making large setup changes to their F2012, and Felipe Massa finished 5th, just behind Jenson Button in 4th.

Two of the slowest teams on the grid suffered the most technical-related woe. Caterham were forced to make an engine change to Heikki Kovalainen’s car limiting him to 70 laps. Meanwhile, Marussia were forced to call off their testing altogether, after suspension damage on Charles Pic’s car couldn’t be repaired.

The final 4-day test will begin on March 1st in Barcelona. Red Bull and Ferrari will arrive to this session one day late, but will continue their running until the 5th.

Times from Barcelona day 4:

1.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber C31          1:22.312   144 Laps
2.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams FW34       1:22.561   134 Laps    +0.249
3.  Paul di Resta       Force India VJM05   1:23.119   101 Laps    +0.807
4.  Jenson Button       McLaren MP4-27      1:23.200   115 Laps    +0.888
5.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari F2012       1:23.563   103 Laps    +1.251
6.  Mark Webber         Red Bull RB8        1:23.774   85  Laps    +1.462
7.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso STR7     1:23.792   92  Laps    +1.480
8.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes W03        1:23.843   139 Laps    +1.531
9.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham CT-01      1:26.968   70  Laps    +4.656

Barcelona day 3: Maldonado leads for Williams

Maldonado put the Williams FW34 on top

Maldonado put the Williams FW34 on top

Pastor Maldonado headed the third day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The Venezuelan driver set his fastest time early in the morning, and was almost a second faster than second-placed Michael Schumacher. Kamui Kobayashi ran out of fuel on track during the day, but still finished in 3rd.

Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Felipe Massa all replaced their teammates for today’s and tomorrow’s testing. They finished 4th, 5th and 7th repectively.

The Red Bull team suffered a difficult day to say the least. After their new wheel guns proved to be unreliable in the morning, Webber’s RB8 stopped out on track with an hour to go, and was immediately hidden away by the Red Bull mechanics. It is unclear what caused the stoppage, but reports from Barcelona indicate that the team have left the test session early, and will not return for tomorrow’s final test.

Paul di Resta lost his engine cover during the day, while Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham was halted by suspension issues. Timo Glock replaced Charles Pic at Marussia, setting the 9th fastest time, ahead of Petrov.

Times from Barcelona day 3:

1.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams FW34       1:22.391   106 Laps
2.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes W03        1:23.384   127 Laps   +0.993
3.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber C31          1:23.582   99 Laps    +1.191
4.  Jenson Button       McLaren MP4-27      1:23.918   114 Laps   +1.527
5.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso STR7     1:24.433   78 Laps    +2.042
6.  Mark Webber         Red Bull RB8        1:24.771   97 Laps    +2.380
7.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari F2012       1:24.771   84 Laps    +2.380
8.  Paul di Resta       Force India VJM05   1:25.646   83 Laps    +3.255
9.  Timo Glock          Virgin MVR-02       1:26.173   108 Laps   +3.782
10. Vitaly Petrov       Caterham CT-01      1:26.448   70 Laps    +4.057

Barcelona testing day 2: Hulkenberg puts Force India on top

Nico Hulkenberg led proceedings for the second day of testing

Nico Hulkenberg led proceedings for the second day of testing

Force India’s new driver Nico Hulkenberg topped the timesheets for the second day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The German, who clocked a 1:22.608 put the VJM05 0.04 seconds ahead of Sergio Perez for Sauber. Sebastian Vettel had an entertaining on-track duel with Lewis Hamilton for a few laps, before finishing 3rd.

Fernando Alonso was 4th, and was still cagey on delivering a verdict on the F2012, saying the team had plenty of work still to do. Daniel Ricciardo caused two red flags, only setting 50 laps en route to 5th place.

Both on long-fuel runs, Lewis Hamilton and Vettel duelled on track for several minutes, with Sebastian eventually being allowed through. Lewis ended the session 6th.

At the back of the field, Valtteri Bottas got his first taste of the Williams FW34, setting 117 laps on his first day. Behind him, Vitaly Petrov and Charles Pic were the slowest of today’s testers.

Times from Barcelona day 2:

1.  Nico Hulkenberg    Force India VJM05    1:22.608   112 Laps
2.  Sergio Perez       Sauber C31           1:22.648   85 Laps    +0.040
3.  Sebastian Vettel   Red Bull RB8         1:22.891   104 Laps   +0.283
4.  Fernando Alonso    Ferrari F2012        1:23.180   87 Laps    +0.572
5.  Daniel Ricciardo   Toro Rosso STR7      1:23.639   50 Laps    +1.031
6.  Lewis Hamilton     McLaren MP4-27       1:23.806   120 Laps   +1.198
7.  Nico Rosberg       Mercedes W03         1:24.555   82 Laps    +1.947
8.  Valtteri Bottas    Williams FW34        1:25.738   117 Laps   +3.130
9.  Vitaly Petrov      Caterham CT01        1:26.605   69 Laps    +3.997
10. Charles Pic        Virgin MVR-02        1:27.343   108 Laps   +4.735

Lotus pull out of Barcelona testing after chassis problems

Lotus will lose 4 days of testing due to a chassis issue with the E20

Lotus will lose 4 days of testing due to a chassis issue with the E20

Lotus have ceased participation in pre-season testing in Barcelona, after discovering a fault with both of their chassis.

Romain Grosjean drove the second E20 car today (named the E20-2) in Barcelona testing, but retired after only 7 laps, saying the car “wasn’t responding as it should”.

The Lotus team completed 404 laps in Jerez testing – more than any other team – but the problem with the chassis only arose today. Tests performed on Kimi Raikkonen’s E20-1 in the Enstone factory has revealed that the problem is not only on Grosjean’s car.

Team principal Eric Boullier has stated that a solution has already been devised by the Lotus engineers, but work will need to be carried out on both cars. Therefore the team will pull out of the 4-day test, and will probably return for the second test in Barcelona in a few weeks time.

Barcelona testing day 1: Vettel leads, while Lotus drop out after chassis issues

Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull sported an aero measuring device on the rear wing

Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull sported an aero measuring device on the rear wing

Sebastian Vettel led the first day of 8 testing days at the Circuit de Catalunya today.

However, the main news story of the day was Lotus dropping out of testing after discovering serious issues with their chassis. More details will be posted on the site later.

Vettel’s time of 1:23.265 was slightly faster than Nico Hulkenberg for Force India. Lewis Hamilton was 3rd for McLaren.

Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Sergio Perez were within a tenth of a second of each other. Romain Grosjean managed only 7 laps in the Lotus before reporting “strange” handling from the car.

Heikki Kovalainen suffered a rear suspension failure and a spin, leaving him 9th with only 31 laps set. Sauber were forced to retire their C31 after gearbox problems, while Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso came to a halt on track with an hour to go.

Charles Pic had his first run in the Marussia car, finishing last but setting 121 laps across the day.

Times from Barcelona day 1:

1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull RB8         1:23.265   79 Laps
2.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India VJM05    1:23.440   97 Laps    +0.175
3.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren MP4-27       1:23.590   114 Laps   +0.325
4.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso STR7      1:23.618   76 Laps    +0.353
5.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari F2012        1:24.100   75 Laps    +0.835
6.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes W03         1:24.150   51 Laps    +0.885
7.  Sergio Perez          Sauber C31           1:24.219   66 Laps    +0.954
8.  Bruno Senna           Williams FW34        1:25.711   97 Laps    +2.446
9.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham CT01        1:26.035   31 Laps    +2.770
10. Romain Grosjean       Lotus E20            1:26.809   7 Laps     +3.544
11. Charles Pic           Virgin MVR-02        1:28.026   121 Laps   +4.761

Mercedes reveal W03 in Barcelona

Mercedes' W03 features a large stepped nose

Mercedes' W03 features a large stepped nose

Mercedes are the final frontrunning team to release their 2012 F1 car, called the W03.

The Silver Arrows car has a distinctive nose design, featuring one of the highest steps on the grid so far. The bridge sections of the nose are particularly steep.

The W03 features a lower core weight than its predecessor. The Mercedes team noted that it took 4,500 parts to construct the W03, which is 200 more than the W02.

Over the last few months, the team have hired ex-Ferrari designer Aldo Costa, Renault engineer Bob Bell and Geoff Willis, who previously worked for BAR, Williams and Red Bull.

Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Norbert Haug has said that the aim from 2012 is to move into the top 3:

"2012 will mark the third season for our Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows works team, 
which was introduced in January 2010, and our target is to take a step forward in 
on-track performance.

A lot of work has been done throughout the last year, not just to design the new 
car but also to build a technical organisation that is capable of delivering to 
its full potential, with consistency. Our ultimate goal is to become regular race
winners and championship contenders, and so to write another chapter of success 
in the story of the Silver Arrows which began 78 years ago."

Team principal Ross Brawn called the stepped nose an “acquired taste”, but stated that the car is certainly a step forward from last year.

The W03 made its track debut in Barcelona today, with Michael Schumacher at the wheel.

Petrov replaces Trulli at Caterham

Vitaly Petrov takes over Jarno Trulli's seat for 2012

Vitaly Petrov takes over Jarno Trulli's seat for 2012

Vitaly Petrov has replaced veteran driver Jarno Trulli at Caterham for the 2012 season.

The move comes as a shock to many, as Trulli – who has been with the team since it was founded in 2010 – had a year left on his contract.

Petrov, who lost his place at Lotus this year, has been known to carry plenty of sponsorship money, and together with two years of F1 experience, toppled the Italian off his seat at Caterham. This leaves the 37-year-old without a drive for this season.

Team principal Tony Fernandes praised Petrov joining the team:

"We are all delighted to welcome Vitaly into our team and are very excited about 
the role he will play in helping us take the next steps forward in 2012 and for 
many years to come.

When we first met it was immediately clear that Vitaly understands and shares our 
vision for how we want our team to grow. As the first Russian to race in F1 he 
carries the hopes of a huge nation with ease and his talents, experience with one 
of our current competitors and insights on and off track will play a huge role in 
our development as we fight to join the established teams ahead."

First impressions from 2012 Jerez testing

Ferrari have made headlines with their F2012 already

Ferrari have made headlines with their F2012 already

As the first of 4 pre-season tests draw to a close, we are beginning to form an idea of how the grid might shape out this year. Several news stories have also added interest to the speculation, as teams try to hold their cards close to their chests.

Here is the summary of news and events from testing so far:

Ferrari doubtful over pace?

Despite Fernando Alonso leading the timesheets on day 4 of testing, the Ferrari team are remaining quiet on whether their car can compete against Red Bull. Felipe Massa refused to clarify how he felt on the F2012, and technical director Pat Fry said the team still had lots of work to do:

"I am not happy with where we are at the moment. There is a lot of room for us 
to improve. Reliability-wise it is good. Performance-wise I think we are okay.

But we can play around with the performance and improve the car in some corners, 
and some particular parts of the corner. But I would not say I am happy yet until 
we get the whole thing working."

Force India feeling positive

Meanwhile, the Force India team are very happy with their progress over the winter.

Targeting 5th place in this year’s championship, their VJM05 appears to have a solid baseline for the team to build on. After missing a day of testing due to Jules Bianchi’s mishap, Nico Hulkenberg was happy with their progress:

"The long runs were useful for that and it also allowed me to start understanding 
the new tyres. There is still a massive amount to learn and lots of data to look 
at, but it feels like we have a good baseline to develop from and I’m pleased with 
how the day went."

HRT to miss testing again?

HRT’s embarrassing 3-year drought of not setting a single lap in testing looks set to continue, as the F112 (more than likely the car’s name) failed the mandatory FIA crash tests last week.

This year, a new regulation forces the teams to have passed the 17 crucial crash tests before the car can take part in testing. However, HRT’s car only passed 14 of these. Reports suggest that the car failed the roll hoop and lateral nose tests by “a minor margin”.

However, this still means that the car will not be ready for the second test in Barcelona. While the team are still aiming to turn a wheel before the first race in Melbourne, it is not an encouraging sign for the fledgling team.

Until the new car passes crash tests, Pedro de la Rosa will continue to drive last year’s F111.

McLaren and Ferrari exhausts declared legal

After the reactive ride height controversy last month, the FIA’s Charlie Whiting has approved exhaust layouts designed by Ferrari and McLaren.

A ban on exhaust blown diffusers this year forced teams to make their exhaust outlets visible from above, and have no influence on the performance of the diffuser. However, other teams in the paddock were worried that Ferrari and McLaren had found a way to manipulate exhaust gases to benefit other aero sections of the car.

While this would appear to be against technical regulations, Whiting has given the green light to both teams. According to Sky Sport’s Ted Kravitz, this will prompt more aggressive exhaust designs for other teams in the Barcelona tests:

"I understand from sources in the pit lane that FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting 
has told the teams that he considers Ferrari and McLaren exhaust designs as legal.

Even though the way those two teams have packaged their exhaust outlets, with 
channels leading exhaust gases out to specific areas of the car and therefore 
appearing to have a beneficial aero effect, which is against new exhaust regulations, 
it seems Whiting believes that they comply sufficiently with both the letter and the 
intention of the law.

This has been accepted by the other teams, who launched with less aggressive exhaust 
concepts and it means that they will now effectively green light their own, shall we 
say more exotic, exhaust designs.

We can expect to see these in time for the third test in Barcelona, if not before."

 

Jerez testing day 4: Alonso ends Jerez test on top

Fernando Alonso showed some of the pace of the F2012 in the final Jerez test

Fernando Alonso showed some of the pace of the F2012 in the final Jerez test

Fernando Alonso concluded the 4-day test session at Jerez by going quickest in the Ferrari.

In a much colder day than previous days, Alonso set a 1:18.877, beating Jean-Eric Vergne and Sebastian Vettel by 0.7 seconds. The world champion got off to a slow start, being delayed by an electrical problem on the Red Bull RB8.

The top 6 drivers were separated by less than a second. Lewis Hamilton headed Romain Grosjean in 4th and 5th.

Kamui Kobayashi suffered a hydraulics leak in his Sauber C31, causing one of three red flags. Bruno Senna caused the other two when his Williams stopped out on track.

Jarno Trulli finished much slower than the other 8 drivers, but hailed his introductory day in the Caterham CT01 as his “best ever” first test. He also reported no problems with the car’s power steering – an issue he struggled massively with last year.

There will now be a 10-day break before the next test begins at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Times from Jerez day 4:

1. Fernando Alonso        Ferrari F2012       1:18.877   39 Laps
2. Jean-Eric Vergne       Toro Rosso STR7     1:19.597   80 Laps    +0.720
3. Sebastian Vettel       Red Bull RB8        1:19.606   49 Laps    +0.729
4. Lewis Hamilton         McLaren MP4-27      1:19.640   86 Laps    +0.763
5. Romain Grosjean        Lotus E20           1:19.729   95 Laps    +0.852
6. Kamui Kobayashi        Sauber C31          1:19.834   76 Laps    +0.957
7. Nico Hulkenberg        Force India VJM05   1:19.977   90 Laps    +1.100
8. Bruno Senna            Williams FW34       1:20.132   124 Laps   +1.255
9. Jarno Trulli           Caterham CT01       1:22.198   117 Laps   +3.321
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