Home > F1 2012 season > Summary of 2012 pre season testing at Catalunya Circuit, Barcelona, Spain

Summary of 2012 pre season testing at Catalunya Circuit, Barcelona, Spain

Okay, finally another week of excitment and intriguing strategies. Neither of the top F1 teams (Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, RedBull) opted to go for a glory run. To the contrary, all of them were concentrated in their respective programs. I did not mention Lotus (althought they are considered a top team) because they opted out of the testing due to a chassis issue.

The rest of grid, Sauber, Williams and Force India did show some interesting improvements. But again, this is a testing session and we can not derive concrete and objective conclusions. Teams are under a very strict testing program and they want to use the precious time to review new parts, configurations, tires, etc. On the other hand, I love F1 conspiracy theories, hidden agendas and, I tend to read under the lap times. So if you like this type of analysis, follow me here.

These are the consolidated times of the 4 days of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain during this week (Feb 21-24, 2012):

  1. Kobayashi  Sauber   1m22.312s (Soft) Day 4
  2. Maldonado  Williams   1m22.391s (Super-soft) Day 3
  3. Maldonado  Williams   1m22.561s (Super-soft) Day 4
  4. Hulkenberg  Force India   1m22.608s (Super-soft) Day 2
  5. Perez  Sauber  1m22.648s (Super-soft) Day 2
  6. Vettel Red Bull 1m22.891s  (Soft)  Day 2
  7. Di Resta  Force India   1m23.119s (Super-soft) Day 4
  8. Alonso Ferrari  1m23.180s (Unknown) Day 2
  9. Button  McLaren   1m23.200s (Super-soft) Day 4
  10. Vettel  Red Bull 1m23.343s (Medium) Day 1
  11. Schumacher  Mercedes   1m23.384s (Soft)  Day 3
  12. Hulkenberg  Force India  1m23.440s (Unkown) Day 1
  13. Massa  Ferrari   1m23.563s (Soft)  Day 4
  14. Kobayashi  Sauber   1m23.582s (Soft)  Day 3
  15. Hamilton  McLaren   1m23.590s (unknown) Day 1
  16. Ricciardo  Toro Rosso 1m23.618s (Soft)  Day 1
  17. Ricciardo  Toro Rosso 1m23.639s (Super-soft) Day 2
  18. Webber  Red Bull   1m23.774s (Soft)  Day 4
  19. Vergne  Toro Rosso   1m23.792s (Super-soft) Day 4
  20. Hamilton McLaren  1m23.806s (Soft)  Day 2
  21. Rosberg  Mercedes   1m23.843s (Soft)  Day 4
  22. Button  McLaren   1m23.918s (Soft)  Day 3
  23. Alonso  Ferrari  1m24.100s (Medium) Day 1

At a first glance: best lap times were set using super softs except for Kobayashi that set the best time of the week using soft tyres, a glory run? The best on medium tires was Vettel on the Red Bull, amazing! Vettel’s lap time of 1m23.343s with the medium tires was only 1 second shy from Kobayashi on the soft tire. Now considering that super-soft tires do not last too many laps, and the impact of fuel loads, I would say that many teams like Williams, Force India and Sauber run super-softs with not much fuel load, and thus recorded excellent lap times.

So if we eliminate all super-soft lap times from the list above, this is what is left:

  1. Kobayashi  Sauber   1m22.312s (Soft) Day 4
  2. Vettel Red Bull 1m22.891s  (Soft)  Day 2
  3. Alonso Ferrari  1m23.180s (Unknown) Day 2
  4. Vettel  Red Bull 1m23.343s (Medium) Day 1
  5. Schumacher  Mercedes   1m23.384s (Soft)  Day 3
  6. Hulkenberg  Force India  1m23.440s (Unkown) Day 1
  7. Massa  Ferrari   1m23.563s (Soft)  Day 4
  8. Kobayashi  Sauber   1m23.582s (Soft)  Day 3
  9. Hamilton  McLaren   1m23.590s (unknown) Day 1
  10. Ricciardo  Toro Rosso 1m23.618s (soft)  Day 1
  11. Webber  Red Bull   1m23.774s (Soft)  Day 4
  12. Hamilton McLaren  1m23.806s (Soft)  Day 2
  13. Rosberg  Mercedes   1m23.843s (Soft)  Day 4
  14. Button  McLaren   1m23.918s (Soft)  Day 3
  15. Alonso  Ferrari  1m24.100s (Medium) Day 1

I have nothing against Kobayashi or Sauber, but 1m22.312s on the soft tire sounds too good to be true, maybe a glory run considering that with the same soft tire compound Kobayashi did 1m23.582s on Day 3. Now, we do not know if tires were fresh or used, BUT if it was not a glory run, then way to go for Sauber F1 Team!

Taking out Kobayashi best lap time, then we have Vettel and Red Bull coming first based on the 1m22.891s that Vettel recorded on Day 2. Alonso and Ferrari will then be in second position 0.289 secs off the Red Bull pace. That will be good news for Ferrari! Unfortunately we do not know which tires were used by Alonso for that run. BUT if Alonso was on soft-tires, then Ferrari is cooked! too far from the pace.

If we look at Massa he recorded a best ime of 1m23.563s on soft tires, so it is safe to assume that Alonso is fastest that Massa based on last year performances. So I think that Alonso was on soft when he recorded 1m23.180s.

The 1m23.343s that Vettel recorded with the medium tires was the fastest with that type of tire. So hats off to Red Bull! So let’s look again at the top 3 times then:

  1. Vettel Red Bull 1m22.891s  (Soft)  Day 2
  2. Alonso Ferrari  1m23.180s (Unknown) Day 2   +0.289 secs
  3. Vettel  Red Bull 1m23.343s (Medium) Day 1     +0.452 secs

After these lap times everyone that follows is almost 0.5 secs off the pace. Schumacher was considerably faster than Rosberg on same soft tires (0.500 secs of advantage), but we do not know the fuel load. If he was faster then this may indicate that Mercedes comes as the third contender for the 2012 season. Hulkenberg lap time of 1m23.440s was done with an unknown type of tire, it could have been super soft, or soft? but if softs, this will indicate that Force India is very close to the Mercedes, could this be possible?

Sauber appears very close to the Mercedes and even Massa’s Ferrari. With same soft tires Kobayashi managed to be at the same pace as Massa and Hamilton followed closely by Ricciardo with Toro Rosso. Unfortunately we do not know the type of tyres that Hamilton used on Day 1 to set 1m23.590s. BUT we do know that Hamilton set 1m23.806s with soft tires on Day 2, very similar to Button. What could this indicate? That McLaren is a full second off the pace? Again we do not the fuel loads… too bad huh!

Anyhow, my best interpretation of the pecking order is as follows:

  1. Red Bull: consistent, raw pace with all type of tires.
  2. Ferrari: very close to Red Bull but 0.289 secs off pace.
  3. Mercedes or Force India depending on load fuels.
  4. Sauber or McLaren or Toro Rosso, what was the tyre that Hamilton used to set 1m23.590s?

The time set by Alonso with medium tires of 1m24.100s is consistent with our analysis that he was using soft tires to record 1m23.180s. We hope this is a fair assessment since we do not want to have a win-all-Red-Bull championship.

What about Caterham, lots of work for them. Their car very far from the pace and Lotus unknown since they had to opt out of the test. Preseason testing resumes again in Barcelona on March 5 to 9.

From where this data comes from: various web sites sources, tweets by various formula 1 teams and formula 1 personalities. Enjoy!

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  1. Joseph
    February 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Go Ferrari Go! Red Bull once again the best of the grid…. so much experience with their current car configuration, they are miles ahead of everyone else… Hope to see some nice surprises from Force India, Sauber or Williams…

  2. Formulasfera
    February 24, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    I think that times is not representative save if you are in the same “programme” (glory run, short stints, long runs…).

    So I prefer to compare short runs with short runs, and long runs with long runs.

    It seems that all teams start with short runs, may be for reliability issues, to test tires, etc. as a first step. After understand all of that, they go for the long run to test other things, heavy fuelled (so times are not representative there).

    So clearly, Red Bull and McLaren were comfortably doing long runs with similar times and with no reliabilities issues. That’s mean for me they are close, but RBR-Vettel have the edge.

    Ferrari and Mercedes seems to be more in the first step of tests, so maybe Merc can have the edge over Ferrari (but who knows).

    For the rest, Toro-Rosso seems to have the edge (or Sauber? or Sahara FI?).

    Who knows.

    Performance will be in the next test and there everybody will know it!

    • February 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm

      If your thinking is right, then we should be preparing for a qualifying lap times next time around. I hope you are right because I will love to see that. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Adam harcourt
    February 25, 2012 at 5:51 am

    You seem to disagree with James then as he has redbull, mclaren and mercedes at the top. I don’t think you take fuel loads into account enough and are only looking at the tyres which to be honest are completely irrelevant if you don’t know fuel loads. For example at one point you say alonso was probably on the same tyres as massa because he was a bit quicker but massa could have had 90kg of fuel and alonso 60kg and massa on softs with alonso on hards.

    • February 27, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      Adam , you are right on the fuel loads! they play a big role on inertia acceleration, and this can apply to all teams and teammates. Unfortunately massa is coming from a big depression. He had a very low profile 2011. Ferrari cheered him up early this year, and the Ferrari PR machine tried to show that they give same support to its drivers. I was wondering why Ferrari will not let massa due a glory run and use him as the smoking gun. So i concluded that (maybe) they were on same fuel loads… otherwise (you are right) massa could have been faster if running with less fuel that Alonso. We will review it on next test.

  4. Jean-Christophe
    February 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    You failed to take into account the time set by Button on hard which was 1.23.442.
    The basis for your conclusions is rather flawed. You failed to take into account many important variables. Nice effort though. Have bookmarked the site.

    • February 27, 2012 at 2:43 pm

      1.23.442 with hard tires! that is a hell of a run for Button with that type of tyres. That time will have position him on 13 spot. Was he running low fuel load? we do not know. I missed that time with so much data to crunch and various websites to follow.

      You are right that there are other variables as Adam pointed out in his previous comment, but I like guessing and of course we have to take some assumptions. Thanks for stoping by!

  5. Sammy
    February 26, 2012 at 11:07 am

    I was at the circuit – I can tell you that all laptimes from Rosberg on day 4 are in-accurate as he was holding his foot from the throttle every lap in turn 3. As for Ferrari, I spoke with some mechanics (same hotel) and they seemed to be very confident in this years car. Next week they will do some runs with low fuel and super softs just to see where they are and to give the Italian press something to write about.

    • February 27, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Sammy thanks for your insights! This time of the year the guessing game is: who is the fastest. If Rosberg was holding his foot in turn 3 this means that Mercedes does not want to disclose their true potential, did I get that right?

      And your message appears to indicate same for Ferrari, so everybody is trying to disguise their true potential for competitive reason. I love this guessing game.
      We’ll see you in the next testing consolidated lap times then.

  6. Alex W
    February 27, 2012 at 2:53 am

    Hi, I’m pretty sure Button’s 1m23.200s was set on Hard tyres, a few sites were misreporting that, I recall.

    • February 27, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      Hi Alex, I think you mean 1.23.442, as reported by Jean-Christophe below, that was set by Button on hard tires.

  7. Jonas
    March 14, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Hard tyres lapping is the of most importance because it is used by teams to measure downforce performance more than softs

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