Most of the teams tested at the Circuit de Catalunya this week, with BMW decamping to Valencia for a private test, and the beleaguered Super Aguri team cancelling their planned test amid continue doubt over their 2008 entry.
The highly anticipated sight of Ferrari resuming testing alongside the rest of their rivals was dampened – literally – by the weather. Rain hindered testing at both venues any many teams scaled back their programmes, preserving their mileage limits for dryer days.
Ferrari were the fastest over the course of the week at Barcelona, but were the only ones to test on the final day when the conditions were most favourable. Next week sees the final pre-season test: and the return of Michael Schumacher.
Ferrari along with McLaren did not testing in the rain on Tuesday but were tempted out of their garages the following day even though conditions hadn’t improved much. Felipe Massa was quickest that day despite a spin, with test driver Luca Badoer third. The pair remained at the track for two more days, Ferrari having exclusive use of the circuit on Friday.
When the weather cleared up on Thursday it offered a promising glimpse of a closely-matched battle at the front between Ferrari and McLaren. The silver cars were fractionally faster over single laps (and Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams faster still), but the Ferraris managed better pace over race stints. However Massa’s attempt at a race distance on Thursday was interrupted by a spin.
Both drivers did full Grand Prix simulations (practice, qualifying and race) on their day of solo running. Badoer was forced to stop with an oil leak, although it is not clear how many miles his engine had done. Massa’s fastest time of 1’20.508 compares with the 1’20.597 he set in the second part of qualifying in last year’s race.
Michael Schumacher will join the team next week for their final test before the first race of the season.
BMW tested on their own at the Circuit Ricardo Torno in Valencia where testing was also washed out on Tuesday. Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld did some running on wet and extreme wet tyres but only for a total of 28 laps. By Wednesday afternoon the track had dried and the drivers logged a mammoth 257 laps between them running Grand Prix weekend simulations.
In rained again on Thursday and Christian Klien was given his first run in an F1.08. The race drivers returned to the track in the afternoon, by which time it had dried, and both set times of 1’12.2 within seven hundredths of a second of each other. The team declared themselves very happy with the reliability of their car after three days without any serious technical problems.
The F1.08 looks like one of the most aerodynamically intricate cars on the grid (click the image to enlarge).
Fernando Alonso said there was “no point” in testing in the rain on Tuesday but that might not have been the case for his team mate. In just eight laps running Nelson Piquet Jnr caused two red flags, once with a car failure, and another with a spin.
When the track dried on Thursday Piquet did a race simulation but Alonso ran into what chief test engineer Christian Silk described as “a few small reliability issues.”
Williams seemed to respond to the problems of wet weather in a more practical manner than some of the other teams. Instead of hiding in their garages Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima putting in 169 laps between them. With the rain persisting on the following they had the race team fly out to practice pit stops. It might not help make the car faster, but it could give the team a vital edge in race conditions.
When the track dried up on Thursday Nakajima was fastest of all, underlining the promise Williams have shown throughout testing, and proving that the wing failures they had suffered on their previous visit to the undulating Catalunya circuit were cured.
The team used their fifth special test livery bearing messages of goodwill from its seven former world champions: Alan Jones (1980), Keke Rosberg (1982), Nelson Piquet (1987), Nigel Mansell (1992), Alain Prost (1993), Damon Hill (1996) and Jacques Villeneuve (1997).
New test driver Nico Hulkenberg also had a brief run in the car.
Coulthard spun twice in the rain on Tuesday, hitting the wall once, and causing red flags on both occasions. The team cancelled their plans to do a race simulation on Wednesday, and did qualifying practice instead.
Once the weather cleared up on Thursday the team got on with their preparation for Melbourne, but Mark Webber’s running was hampered by technical problems.
Timo Glock’s summary of the team’s position seemed realistic based on their lap times:
think we are around the package where maybe Williams, Renault and Red Bull are. But it’s difficult to say anyway whether they are still in front of us. I’d say that’s possible but it’s difficult to say. You have never a really clear picture of the tests so it could be that we are in that group, it could be that we are maybe slightly behind.
Toyota continued with their practice of giving test driver Kamui Kobayashi as much time in the car as race drivers Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli.
Super Aguri were originally supposed to reveal their 2008 F1 car on Tuesday. But the team cancelled the launch a week before it was supposed to happen and replaced it with a media briefing. Then they cancelled the media briefing at the 11th hour as well.
As I write this team boss Aguri Suzuki is in Japan trying to find a way for his team to be on the grid in 2008. It’s not looking good.
McLaren shunned the rainy days in Spain, preferring to concentrate on dry-weather running. Given the problems Lewis Hamilton ran into in mixed-weather races at the Nurburgring and Shanghai International Circuit last year, you have to question the wisdom of the move, although Hamilton was not present at testing this week.
Heikki Kovalainen was second quickest on Thursday, fractionally slower than Nakajima, but was halted twice by car problems. Pedro de la Rosa was a scant two-hundredths slower than his team mate.
Circuit de Catalunya testing times
1 Felipe Massa Ferrari F2008 1’20.508
2 Luca Badoer Ferrari F2008 1’21.808
3 Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota FW30 1’22.153
4 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1’22.185
5 Pedro de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes 1’22.208
6 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota FW30 1’22.248
7 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault RB4 1’22.477
8 David Coulthard Red Bull-Renault RB4 1’22.499
9 Fernando Alonso Renault R28 1’22.657
10 Timo Glock Toyota TF108 1’22.901
11 Nelsinho Piquet Renault R28 / Renault RS27 1’23.286
12 Kamui Kobayashi Toyota TF108 1’24.132
13 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Toyota FW30 1’24.222
14 Jarno Trulli Toyota TF108 1’32.571
Circuit de Catalunya testing mileage
1 Williams-Toyota – 547 laps, 2546km
2 Ferrari – 441 laps, 2052km
3 Red Bull-Renault – 323 laps, 1503km
4 Toyota – 302 laps, 1405km
5 Renault – 219 laps, 1019km
6 McLaren-Mercedes – 156 laps, 726km
More on 2008 F1 testing
- 2008 F1 testing round-up 1: Circuit de Catalunya
- 2008 F1 testing round-up 2: Circuit de Catalunya
- 2008 F1 testing round-up 3: Jerez
- 2008 F1 testing round-up 4: Valencia
- 2008 F1 testing round-up 5: Circuit de Catalunya
- 2008 F1 testing round-up 6: Bahrain
- 2008 F1 testing round-up 7: Bahrain
- 2008 F1 testing round-up 8: Jerez
- Video: F1 testing in Valencia (part 1)
- Video: F1 testing in Valencia and Jerez (part 2)
- Video: F1 testing at Barcelona (part 3)
- Video: F1 testing at Bahrain (part 4)
- Video: F1 testing at Jerez (part 5)