The first test with several teams present occured today at Valencia as McLaren, Ferrari, Renault, Toyota, BMW, Honda, Super Aguri, Williams and Red Bull took to the circuit to see what their new cars are made of. Previously, the teams had tested in relative privacy, Ferrari sticking to Mugello and Vallelunga and McLaren in Valencia. But today we got our first taste of what these machines are like side by side. While testing times should not be accepted as they are, as fuel loads and further developments need to be factored in along with numerous over variables (it was raining for much of the day), this does give a slight indication as to who is where in comparison.
Today also marked the first time Kimi Raikkonen had driven the new F2007, with previous runs in the new car going to Massa, forcing Kimi to acclimatise himself to Bridgestone tyres in the 2006 Ferrari 248.
The man of the day was reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso, who lapped the circuit 102 times and set a fastest lap just a tiny bit over a second quicker than Raikkonen. The only issue that hampered the Spaniard was a minor oil leak towards the end of the day. Alonso drove the only McLaren today.
Ferrari gave Felipe Massa a rest day, and the second Scarlet-Charger was driven by long-time tester Luca Badoer. Luca drove the Ferrari 248, but was hampered himself by a technical issue that ended his day realtively quickly. Kimi set a good pace in my opinion, and although he was a second shy of his rival, he managed some good times in the damp conditions, particularly as he only set half the laps as Alonso, completing 47 circuits of Valencia.
Renault sat out for much of the morning, the weather deterring them to venture on to the track. Nelson Piquet Jnr completed the top three on the time sheets, just shy of Kimi’s Ferrari and again with only a few laps, indicating the Renault seem have a reasonable car in comparison. Giancarlo Fisichella finished eighth at the end of the day, but was only 0.3s down on Piquet Jnr.
Toyota and BMW had two cars running, and alternated fourth to seventh. Both BMWs suffered mechanical issues though. Sebastian Vettel suffered what appeared to be an engine failure and Nick Heidfeld had his own troubles part way through doing some set-up work on the new F1.07.
Rubens Barrichello drove the new RA107, but couldn’t better his time of 1m14.025s, 0.6s faster than James Rossiter in the hybrid Honda. Williams ran Kazuki Nakajima who split the Honda’s in tenth and caused three red flags during the course of the day, and Takuma Sato finished the day just 0.1s ahead of Mark Webber in the RB3. That left Badoer in last years Ferrari at the bottom of the time sheets.
Interestingly, Sato was driving the interim Super Aguri for this test today (their launch is penned for March), but still managed to set a faster time than the Red Bull, although he was second down on Rossiter’s time. I can only assume Webber was concentrating on work that didn’t involve setting quick lap times.
So, McLaren and Ferrari look good, and Renault don’t look as shabby as perhaps some of us feared. Toyota ran well to keep on terms with the improving BMW, who appear to be having reliability issues at the moment. Sato may have cemented Davidson’s performance a few days ago by setting a good pace, but only good in comparison to the new Red Bull that he beat.
1. Alonso- McLaren – 1m12.563s
2. Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1m13.529s
3. Piquet Jnr – Renault – 1m13.550s
4. Montagny – Toyota – 1m13.672s
5. Vettel – BMW – 1m13.678s
6. Trulli – Toyota – 1m13.735s
7. Heidfeld – BMW – 1m13.858s
8. Fisichella – Renault – 1m13.871s
9. Barrichello – Honda – 1m14.025s
10. Nakajima – Williams – 1m14.519s
11. Rossiter – Honda – 1m14.643s
12. Sato – Super Aguri – 1m15.674s
13. Webber – Red Bull Racing – 1m15.726s
14. Badoer – Ferrari – 1m16.388s