Before I delve into the murky and mysterious world of testing times and so forth, I omitted to mention the change to the scoring system in my last article. Places 1-10 will still get points, but they’ve been weighted slightly to give an extra advantage to winning. Here’s the new set of numbers:
Very little between 2nd and 3rd, but a big 7 point jump for winning. Seems like a good idea to me.
Now I’ve got that out of the way, I’ll cast my eye over the latest tests (a second one in Jerez that was a bit wet, and a Barcelona one that’s more useful).
At Jerez Vettel finished top, then 3rd, with Webber also achieving a top spot. Hamilton and Button once each finished in top 2 spots (Button in 1st). The Mercedes was always around 4th/5/6th… middling for a team with title aspirations. The Ferraris varied a bit, with some decent times, but have reportedly been running with a full tank of petrol whilst wearing plate metal armour and having a bike chained to the back.
At Barcelona there was actually some information beyond opaque lap times. Webber helpfully revealed his top spot on day 1 was in a car with 60kg or less of fuel. That equates to a maximum fuel effect of 1.8s. Now, that’s not precise but it does provide a limited window of insight, especially as the Red Bull is probably equal or better than the McLaren and vying with the Ferrari.
Webber’s top slot time was 1:21.487.
This has an absolute maximum fuel effect of 1.8 seconds, and possibly less. So, it’s reasonable to say that any car that can hit the mid 1:20s is competitive, and any that hits the low 1:20s or breaks into the 1:19s may well be shit hot.
The next day Vettel was two-tenths faster. If they’re on the same fuel load that’s good pace, and what I’d expect. Alonso and Hulkenberg both broke into the 1:20.6s, indicating the Williams will be fighting hard for 5th place, and may even get on the podium occasionally.
On day 3 (Day Hard with a Vengeance) Rosberg also scored a 1:20.6, some good news for Mercedes, who are perhaps not as racey as they’d been expecting.
Day 4 saw the fastest testing, with many cars definitely on low fuel. A stack of cars hit the 1:20s. Hamilton and Webber had 1:20.4s, Massa a 1:20.5, Sutil in the Force India got 1:20.6 as did Vettel, Schumacher got 1:20.7, Barrichello got 1:20.8, and Kobayashi got 1:20.9. Now, we don’t know fuel loads, and if Schumacher had 10kg more than Hamilton and Webber then their pace is equal. But it’s reasonable to say that the Force India almost certainly exceeded expectations, as did Hulkenberg’s Williams two days previously.
I think Massa is worth a punt at 10/1 (present Betfair price). Alonso probably should be favourite but the discrepancy in odds (3.6 to 11) is ridiculous.
I’ll be watching Schumacher’s price (if Mercedes start slowly to the season it may lengthen to silly proportions) over the first few races. For qualifying, my eyes will be most firmly on Hulkenberg (new driver in a Williams should have long odds, but some of his testing has been good) and Sutil/Kobayashi (Force India and Sauber have been looking tasty too). Obviously I’ll be considering practice times, and it’ll be interesting to see how the teams divvy up drivers and fuel loads for free practice.
There are a lot of unknowns going into Bahrain in less than a fortnight. I’ll be paying attention to see whether any team has a particular good launch system, and whether the first corner sees a lot of crashes as a large number of slow, long cars get clogged up.
All things being equal, I intend to try and write pre-qualifying, pre-race and review posts for each race, so my next post will be on the 13th of March shortly after P3 and well before Q1.