Testing this week was split between the haves and the have-nots.
The richest teams flew off to Bahrain for some hot-weather testing at a circuit that will host a Grand Prix this year. Meanwhile Spyker and Williams took the lower-cost option of returning to Valencia.
Take a look at who’s quick, who’s reliable – and who’s not.
By missing out on the Bahrain test Williams and Spyker lose the opportunity to get first-hand data on how the Bridgestone tyres operate in hotter weather. Bridgestone will be using the two hardest of its four compounds for the race at Bahrain: “hard” and “medium”.
McLaren were looking quick as testing wrapped up on Saturday with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton top of the times.
Both drivers had technical problems during the day, however, and on Thursday Pedro de la Rosa had also run into trouble. On Friday the team concentrated on their Melbourne set-up.
Renault again never got into the top three all week but didn’t appear too troubled by it. Giancarlo Fisichella was absent – Heikki Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet Jnr did the running.
But as ever the Renaults appeared to run extremely reliably.
Ferrari are in excellent shape. They began the test well with Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen on top of the times on Friday.
On Friday Raikkonen did some longer stints that looked very competitive, the cars seemed very reliable throughout the three days as well as quick in a straight line.
Concerns over Honda’s pace were eased when Jenson Button set the third fastest time on the first two days of the test. The team also do not yet have the aerodynamic parts that they will use in Melbourne.
Button did have throttle problems on the first day and on Saturday had to have an engine change. Rubens Barrichello outpaced him on that day while also racking up 129 laps – more than anyone else.
Button said: “We’re not on the pace of the top teams, which is disappointing. But we’ve got a balance for the car. When we arrived at the Valencia test we weren’t quite where we thought we would be. The biggest problems was that we couldn’t find a balance at all and were quite a long way off the pace.”
Nick Heidfeld had gearbox problems on Thursday and did only 49 laps – less than half of that of team mate Sebastian Vettel.
But he bounced back the next day to set the fastest time of the test, 1m 30.469s, 0.530s quicker than Alonso managed the next day. This was, however, during a qualification simulation, and so not necessarily representative when compared to other teams.
Technical problems hit the team on the last day, with Heidfeld suffering engine failure and Robert Kubica also needing a replacement engine after a problem with an oil line.
Toyota’s TF107 still looks neither fast nor reliable. Ralf Schumacher was second to last on the first day – and dead last on the second. Jarno Trulli had a gearbox problem on Thursday.
Franck Montagny replaced Schumacher on Saturday and completed over 100 laps, as did Trulli. Oddly, the team ran out of fire extinguishers on Friday, but managed to bring in some more for Saturday.
Not a good week for Red Bull – David Coulthard is publicly suggesting that the team should reduce its expectations for 2007, and Mark Webber still can’t fit properly in the RB3.
The two did just 58 laps between them on Thursday, with Webber’s car stopping late in the day. Coulthard’s car needed a gearbox change on Saturday.
Williams status as a ‘poor’ customer team could not have been more bluntly proven than their decision not to attend the Bahrain test.
At Valencia they were comfortably quicker than Spyker and the fact that there were never more than five cars running all week meant they could test with the minimum of interruptions.
Alex Wurz and Nico Rosberg did two days each, testers Kazuki Nakajima and Narain Kathikeyan one a piece, the latter on Wednesday before heading off to South Africa to drive the Indian entry in the A1 Grand Prix event.
Nakajima went off on Monday but still covered 113 laps. Rain on Wednesday forced the team onto wet-weather rubber in the morning, but nonetheless they completed their programme.
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
Vitantonio Liuzzi was entrusted with testing the sole STR2 (unless you count the RB3s) for the first two days. Then Scott Speed got his first turn in the car and, despite going off within the first hour, was later confirmed as the second race driver for 2007.
Spyker were the only other team at Valencia alongside Williams, and proved around two seconds slower over a 71s lap of the Ricardo Tomo circuit.
Three of their test drivers, Giedo van de Garde, Adrian Valles and Fairux Fauzy, ran in the new F8-VII, the latter completing 75 laps on Tuesday to earn his super licence credential.
Race driver Adrian Sutil suffered a dramatic failure on Wednesday when the car’s wheels caught fire, apparently due to problems with the brake discs.
The team did manage a couple of long runs, with Sutil doing 128 laps on Tuesday and Christijan Albers 115 on Wednesday.
Super Aguri are still running their interim car and suggested that their new car might not be ready until the first session of the Australian Grand Prix.
Nevertheless Anthony Davidson did 75 laps on Thursday, 108 on Friday and 126 on Saturday.
Tags: f1 / formula one / formula 1 / grand prix / motor sport