Am I in a good mood today, or has the IRL field suddenly become a lot more beautiful for this season?
They have been testing at the Barber Motorsports Park circuit this week, in anticipation of the new season. The real racing will start in the 14th of March, in a street circuit in São Paulo, Brazil, same day F1 kicks off in Bahrain. I must say I was never a big fan of Indy as I find oval racing to be boring, and the constant safety cars in both oval and road races to be irritating, but it is still worth keeping an eye on it. A particular point of interest is that Takuma Sato will be there this year, with the KV Racing team, and has already been quick in testing.
GP2 Asia is racing tomorrow and Saturday on Bahrain, today was the qualifying session. Jules Bianchi again shown an excellent degree of adaptation to GP2 machines by putting his ART car on pole, albeit by a mere 0.004 seconds over championship leader Davide Valsecchi. The experienced Luca Filippi and Javier Villa will divide the second row – both also putting times within half a tenth of Bianchi in what must’ve been a very entertaining session.
Portuguese Álvaro Parente made a great comeback to GP2 putting his Coloni in 5th place, a rare sight for the italian squad. There are still no news as for what he will do during the main season, with the rumours around mentioning either a seat in Superleague Formula or in GT racing. If those are indeed the options I am hoping he’ll do Superleague as that still has a good degree of visibility, whereas GT would certainly mean the end of his open-wheel career. But unfortunately the Superleague rumours are a couple weeks old and might not mean much anymore.
Race 1 tomorrow is at the slightly inconvenient time of 9:40 AM, live on Eurosport 2.
Qualy times from Autosport:
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Jules Bianchi ART 1m43.474s
2. Davide Valsecchi iSport 1m43.478s + 0.004s
3. Javier Villa Arden 1m43.519s + 0.045s
4. Luca Filippi Meritus 1m43.523s + 0.049s
5. Alvaro Parente Coloni 1m43.714s + 0.240s
6. Oliver Turvey iSport 1m43.818s + 0.344s
7. Giacomo Ricci DPR 1m43.918s + 0.444s
8. Christian Vietoris DAMS 1m44.086s + 0.612s
9. Charles Pic Arden 1m44.172s + 0.698s
10. Sergio Perez Addax 1m44.246s + 0.772s
11. Sam Bird ART 1m44.253s + 0.779s
12. Edoardo Piscopo DAMS 1m44.338s + 0.864s
13. Max Chilton Addax 1m44.617s + 1.143s
14. Michael Herck DPR 1m44.671s + 1.197s
15. Alexander Rossi Meritus 1m44.713s + 1.239s
16. Yelmer Buurman Ocean 1m44.724s + 1.250s
17. Vladimir Arabadzhiev Rapax 1m44.759s + 1.285s
18. Adrian Zaugg Trident 1m44.781s + 1.307s
19. Daniele Zampieri Rapax 1m45.079s + 1.605s
20. Will Bratt Coloni 1m45.320s + 1.846s
21. Fabio Leimer Ocean 1m45.371s + 1.897s
22. Josef Kral Super Nova 1m45.424s + 1.950s
23. Jake Rosenzweig Super Nova 1m45.980s + 2.506s
24. Plamen Kralev Trident 1m47.243s + 3.769s
The final day of last week’s Jerez test, Saturday, was mostly dry but even then we could not take much from it. Who caught the eye was Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren with two very quick stints, further confirming that Mac is somewhere along the front runners. So seems to be the opinion of Geoff Willis, who thinks Red Bull are on par as well, despite not putting any impressive times so far. Ferrari keeps on having great stints as well, both in the hands of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, and remarkably have avoided reliability issues alltogether. Merc seems to have some sort of issue and are yet to shine, yet Willis ranks them together with Ferrari in a group just behind Mac and Red Bull, and Schumacher thinks they still are part of the top 4 teams group.
To further complicate things, Sauber impressed last week, even if my feeling was that they were on less fuel than the others; Force India did the same this week and everyone in that team seems to be super upbeat – promising regular points and maybe even podiums; Renault have been far from the top, yet the quiet rumour around is that they’re mixing it up with the front teams once fuel-corrected, and have a large amount of car parts yet to be unveiled. Williams have not got any hype around them but they’ve been focusing on reliability testing for the Cosworth engine, and James Allen says “Hulkenberg has been quick”. Toro Rosso obviously aren’t favourites, but their car is pretty much the same car that dominated the end of last season, and have topped the testing timesheets in some days. This has been a very frustrating off-season to read, so I wouldn’t advise anyone to do some betting (unless you can get very good odds on Hamilton, Alonso or Massa). The good news is that there isn’t any dominating car like Brawn last year, and we are likely going to have an entertaining, close season.
The one team that has hit the track and certainly won’t be fighting for victories is Virgin. They were worryingly way off the pace until Friday, but then finally got a good chunk of laps in the Saturday and ended with a best of 1:22.9 by di Grassi. Notice di Grassi said that he wasn’t on a very light fuel load, he also admitted that he felt rusty as a driver since he doesn’t have much experience of Formula 1 cars. Add to it the tenths Virgin are yet to find through experience and setup breakthroughs, and we can now safely say they won’t be embarassingly bad come Bahrain. They are still likely to be slowest than all the established teams, but will at least be within the same timezone. It now remains to be seen how will they compare against Lotus, who hit the track next Wednesday, and Campos and USF1, if they ever make it to the grid.
A final word about the quickest time of the week which was done by Lewis Hamilton on the Saturday, which was only a 1:19.583: this simply proves that every single team out there in Jerez has been sandbagging. Because that is a staggering 2 seconds slower than Daniel Ricciardo’s lap last December with Red Bull’s 2009 car, a 1.17.418. And Ricciardo was sitting on a Formula 1 car for the first time on his career…
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m19.583s 113
2. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m20.180s + 0.597s 83
3. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m20.341s + 0.758s 90
4. Robert Kubica Renault 1m20.358s + 0.775s 85
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m20.613s + 1.030s 83
6. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m21.203s + 1.620s 89
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m21.485s + 1.902s 160
8. Pedro de la Rosa Sauber 1m22.134s + 2.551s 105
9. Lucas di Grassi Virgin 1m22.912s + 3.329s 63
10. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m24.072s + 4.489s 98