Fernando Alonso summed up the state of play as the last major test before the start of the season ended this week:
“I think Ferrari is a little bit ahead of everybody – really quick and really consistent – and I think BMW, Renault, Williams, McLaren will be very close on timed laps.”
Ferrari’s indeed seem to have an advantage over their rivals as the season begins – which is understandable given how much quicker their car was at the end of 2006.
Let’s take a look at how all the teams got on.
The last major week of testing began in dramatic fashion as Heikki Kovalainen escaped an enormous shunt in his R27. But by the end of the week everyone was talking about the speed of the Ferraris.
As in the previous week all of the teams were testing in Bahrain apart from Williams in Spyker. They remained in Spain, moving from Valencia to Barcelona, home of the Spanish Grand Prix.
Although McLaren seems to be the second quickest team behind Ferrari their testing continues to be impaired by reliability problems. Lewis Hamilton’s car stopped on Tuesday and further problems with the hydraulics hindered his running on Wednesday. Pedro de la Rosa’s car also stopped on the second day.
The team tested a similar front sidepod aerodynamic arrangement to Renault with the mirrors mounted on the wings in front of the sidepods.
After a couple of indifferent tests Renault seem to be approaching the new season in better shape than was originally expected. Heikki Kovalainen was second quickest on the final day.
This came after a major crash for the Finn on the second day which hampered Renault’s programme, the mechanics having to work hard overnight to get the car ready for further running on Wednesday. He also suffered a car failure midway through Thursday’s test.
Giancarlo Fisichella joined Kovalainen in the top three on Thursday.
Felipe Massa was fastest on all three days at Bahrain an ominous display of Ferrari’s superiority over their rivals. His fastest time came on the final day at 1m 29.989s, around four tenths quicker than Heikki Kovalainen’s Renault, and Massa did not use a light fuel load to set the time.
Team mate Kimi Raikkonen was similarly fast all week as the team tried their Melbourne-specification aerodynamics. The only blot on their performance all week came when Massa’s car stopped before the end of Wednesday’s test.
Christian Klien and James Rossiter tested on Tuesday as race drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello were bust with the launch of Honda’s ‘Earth Car’ livery.
Button suffered a car failure when he returned on Wednesday. Barrichello set the team’s fastest time on Thursday but was still over one second slower than Massa.
While plenty of people continue to talk up BMW’s pace the team continues to struggle with reliability problems. Robert Kubica’s car stopped on Tuesday, twice on Wednesday then both he and Nick Heidfeld ran into trouble again on Thursday.
In spite of this the team did complete two race distances.
Kovalainen wasn’t the only driver in the wars on Tuesday. Ralf Schumacher spun over some kerbing and hurt his back, ruling him out of testing for the rest of the day. He missed races with an injured back in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
Franck Montagny completed Schumacher’s running before his return on Wednesday. That day Jarno Trulli managed only 33 laps as he ran into car trouble. Nor does the team yet look very quick.
Red Bull’s catalogue of woe with the RB3 continues. David Coulthard stopped on Tuesday with problems and briefly halted Wednesday’s running when his fuel flap came off. And the team did not trouble the top of the test times either.
Williams, like Spyker, moved from Valencia to Barcelona and were easily faster than the orange cars.
The team were able to get several long runs in and test their new parts for Melbourne.
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
Just one Toro Rosso STR2 saw action in Bahrain, Scott Speed doing the first and last days, Vitantonio Liuzzi the second. Intriguingly, Speed was quicker than both Red Bull RB3s on the last day.
Spyker seemed to be going for quantity over quality, with four drivers in action on Monday. Christijan Albers and Adrian Sutil ran in the morning, then testers Fairuz Fauzy and Giedo van de Garde took over in the afternoon. But the latter only managed four laps as his car required an engine change – and that was the sum total of his involvement for the week.
A hydraulic leak hampered Albers’ progress on Wednesday and further mechanical problems interrupted Thursday’s running.
Super Aguri announced that the launch of their car would be delayed until the morning of first practice for the Australian Grand Prix. This follows problems getting the car through the FIA’s crash tests.
Takuma Sato drove the interim car on all three days, and he brought the team’s test to an early close on Thursday after damaging the car’s monocoque running over a kerb.
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