2008 F1 testing round-up 11: Catalunya

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Sebastien Bourdais, Scuderia Toro Rosso, 2008, Barcelona, 470150

The first official test since the start of the season ended at Barcelona today. The four-day test threw up some confusing times as some drivers tried out slick tyres for next year while others stayed on grooves, and today’s running was spoiled by rain.

They will be back at the track in just eight days for the Spanish Grand Prix. Here’s a look at what the teams were up to and what they reported.


Ferrari revealed its highly anticipated vented nose cone assembly, although the team revealed it was alarmed to see details of the design leaked to the press. Clearly security is still a problem for the team.

Felipe Massa was fastest on the first day, using slick tyres to set a 1’18.339, which proved to be the quickest time of the session. The following day he was quickest of those on grooved tyres, setting a 1’20.283. Michael Schumacher took over from him on Wednesday to try the slicks and was second fastest, but Kimi Raikkonen’s appearance on Thursday was spoiled by rain, and the world champion did only 34 laps.

Ferrari like all the other teams present only ran one car in the test.


BMW, as usual, gave little away in testing, with no obvious outward changes to their cars. Nick Heidfeld stopped with a technical problem on Monday.

Robert Kubica took over on Wednesday but hit the wall at turn seven. He spent his two days in the cockpit doing work on the slicks tyres and 2009-specification aerodynamics.


Fernando Alonso does not feel Renault will are better than their rivals in the upcoming races:

The car is going better with the changes, it is true. But we will not go forwards much – we are still unable to escape from the middle group of the grid. We have improved but the others have as well. The picture is going to be more or less the same as it was before this test.

This despite the team appearing to throw parts at the R28 in an attempt to narrow the gap to the leaders. Chief among which were a new damper understood to mimic the actions of the mass damper that was controversially banned in 2006, and an extended engine cover mimicking that seen on the Red Bull.

Alonso was quickest on slicks on Wednesday with a 1’18.483. That was his second day of testing, Nelson Piquet Jnr driving the car on Monday and Thursday.


Nico Rosberg did the two middles days, his work bookended by two appearances from Kazuki Nakajima. Nakajima went off on Monday, and after trying the slicks Rosberg was very critical of the prospect of using them without tyre warmers:

First of all it’s still not good. It’s still not right. You can’t run tyres like this next year. That’s my opinion, definitely not. It’s ridiculous. Running out of the pits it’s ridiculous. It’s not racing, it’s survival. It’s just survival out there, and that’s ridiculous, it’s not racing.

Red Bull

Mark Webber was quickest on the final day of testing as rain hit the track. David Coulthard did the first two days’ testing.


Toyota did very little running on slick tyres, perhaps because they planned to use them on Thursday, but were caught out by the weather.

Timo Glock spent most of the first two days working on the car set up for the Spanish Grand Prix, before trying out the slick tyres. Jarno Trulli ran grooves on Wednesday but spent most of Thursday in the garage, covering only 18 laps.

Scuderia Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso revealed their 2008 car on Wednesday which, unsurprisingly, proved to be basically the same in outward appearance to the Red Bull RB5.

However Sebastien Bourdais crashed the car and the cause was later determined to be driver error. It may now not make its d??but in the Turkish Grand Prix as planned, which could lead to the team having to introduce it at Monte-Carlo, which is the least ideal circuit to bring a new car to.

The team had not run on Monday or Tuesday.


Honda tried out more aerodynamic tweaks including some unsightly extra wings at the front of the car reminiscent of the ugly ‘Dumbo’ wings seen in testing last year, which they never raced with. They complemented them with front wheel trims adorned with more ‘Earthdreams’ imagery.

Nevertheless Rubens Barrichello was quickest of all on Tuesday, using slick tyres, and was only six-tenths slower than Massa’s time from Friday. Alexander Wurz was second-fastest on Monday behind Massa – more clues that Honda are putting most of thier effort into their 2009 programme?

Jenson Button had the car on the wet Thursday and did 41 laps.

Super Aguri

Super Aguri were not present and their continued presence in F1 is in doubt.

Force India

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India F1 Team, Barcelona, 2008, 470313

Vitantonio Liuzzi was another driver to rave about slick tyres (above). It was particularly interesting to hear how one of the top karting drivers of his generation described the sensation of driving on ‘proper’ racing tyres:

It was a really good feeling. With so much grip it was like going back to go-karts. I enjoyed it.


Pedro de la Rosa did the first day, Lewis Hamilton the middle to (and was the fastest on grooves on Wednesday), and Heikki Kovalainen the final day, going second in the rain. But making comparisons between what they and Ferrari and BMW were doing was, ever ever, frustratingly difficult…

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on “2008 F1 testing round-up 11: Catalunya”

  1. Hmm,

    Considering that the Spanish GP is on a track they can all drive blindfolded AND is very hard to pass on… maybe a full test the week before the Grand Prix is a bit of dumb idea.

    At least from the perspective of the punter interested in a good race.

  2. Do you think that concern is starting to rise about the speed of the cars on Slick Tyres. 2 seconds a lap is enormous!

  3. I don’t think so because (despite what some sites have claimed) these are not 2009 specification cars, they’re 2008 cars running with an approximation of the 2009 aerodynamic kits. The rear wing on the McLaren looks like the one they ran at low-down force tracks like Monza last year.

    Next year’s cars are expected to not have many of the sidepod wings and other small devices that add a lot of down force. I’ve heard the FIA want to see similar times from next year’s cars as this years, so they’re probably in the ballpark.

  4. Nice explanation Keith.
    That’s why you run the site and I promote Kids’ Holiday Camps.

  5. Nico Savidge
    18th April 2008, 1:27

    So it looks like shark-fin engine covers are here to stay? Why is it that all the new F1 innovations (bridge wings, ‘dumbo ears,’ etc) have to be so ugly!

    I propose a new F1 rule: all teams in 2009 have a choice of three cars – the Ferrari 156, the Lotus  49, and the Gurney Eagle…

  6. All the team will evolu during this season. It’s just the beginning.  Good luck to all. Go Renault, Ferrari, BMW …

  7. Nico, thanks for the history lesson!

    I know most of us are perhaps not the biggest fans of Alonso, but dose anyone think that Renault may be making some progress towards 2009 with their current showing?

  8. I do, Gman.  But the problem is… will it be enough for them to keep Alonso?  And while their 2009 rate of progress is pretty fast (right up there with Ferrari and McLaren), there are teams whose rates seem even FASTER (like BMW and Honda).

    So their overall progress up the grid might end up being minimal.

  9. Looking at the times I am starting to get a little concerned about Mclaren. Looks like they may be going backwards or are they sandbagging?

  10. With so much going on I thought the times were simply inconclusive which is why I didn’t dwell on them too much. Unless you can look at all the drivers’ times for a given stint and have a good idea what fuel load they were running, you can’t tell very much at all.

    I would stick with the impression we’ve got from the first three races, that Ferrari have a few tenths on McLaren who in turn have a slightly smaller advantage over BMW.

  11. Why do these drivers want the racing to be safer than the drive to the track? Everyone is so concerned about there out laps on cold tires. Doesn’t every other series, that used heavier cars with less downforce have to deal with this "danger".

     If I drive to a race next year, I would like to think that the drivers are in more danger than I was driving to the track! I better take a hair dryer to my tires before I leave the house. God forbid my car doesn’t handle perfectly when I leave.

  12. Kieth,
        Was Alonso’s time on slicks with 2008 or assumed 2009 down force?

    His time was not that far off from Massa’s who was using 2008 specs with the slick tires. Something to look forward to for Renault fans… Now if they can just drop ING and bring back Team Spirit. Who knew smoking could make you look better?

    Lastly, Is it just me or are the side pods on the Force India massive compared to the rest of the field. Renault seem to have the smallest inlets.

  13. Dan M – actually heavier cars are much easier to drive on cold tires (they put heat into the tires much quicker).  Also, someone mentioned the main reason why F1 is different from other series in this respect – the closer you get tires to the edge, the narrower the ‘heat window’ the tires work at.  Street tires work nearly just as well at 0*f as 100*f.  Race tires (even the cheap ones I run), need to be kept in a fairly small window window or else they’re horrible – at even 70*f they’re worse than good street tires.  F1 tires would have an even smaller window (and an even higher optimal temperature), thus at even 90*f they’re probably worse than the tires on an average mini van.

  14. That may all be true, but that is still a weak excuse to make things easier on the drivers. Most of these drivers are willing to go out on dry tires on a damp track, how come its OK to take this risk?

    We don’t give baseball players bigger bats because the pitchers throw harder in the pros (we give them steroids instead). There should be a smaller window for error in F1, we only want the best in these cars. I don’t see how this is much different than the start of the race. If these tries are so hard to keep at optimal temperatures than how come no one is complaining about sitting on the grid for 5 minutes.

    I see many other factors that seem more dangerous than cold tires. The real racers are not concerned, I bet they even welcome the possible advantage this may create: see Luizzi

  15. sitting on the grid likely isn’t a problem because the tires are up to temperature (in the blankets) until just before they roll off for the warm-up lap.  The tires likely don’t cool down too much during the few seconds here, to where they can’t warm them back up during the warm up lap.  The only real delay is for the leaders while the rest of the pack forms up behind them… but even this is 20 seconds at most.  Figure a 5*f drop?  That’s a huge difference to the 60-70*f drop from being ‘room temperature’ to ‘racing temperature’.

  16. I think we’re going to have to exchange emails so we don’t clog up Kieth’s server. I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one.

    I agree with you that the temperature can be a major problem for the driver, but I think that should be one of the skills that sets them apart from people like myself who play Rfactor and take out half the grid on the first turn. I blame the tires too! : )

  17. Sitting on the grid, everyone’s tyres cool by the same amount, so they all have to drive extra carefully. But if one driver comes from the pits on cold tyres while everyone else has tyres at race temperature, the difference in performance makes that driver a danger to others until his tyres warm up. Tyre warmers don’t eliminate this danger time, but they minimise it, to the benefit of the sport, in my opinion.

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