The last big pre-season test of the year saw all ten Formula 1 teams present at Barcelona this week with two teams highlighting the action.
The first was the debut of Brawn GP (ex-Honda), reliable, fast and topped the time sheets for the last two days of the test. Jenson Button shattered the qualifying lap record with a stunning lap of 1:19.1 on Wednesday. That is 1.4-seconds faster than Kubica’s time of 1:20.5 set in round two of qualifying for last years Spanish GP. Not to be out-shined, his teammate Rubens Barrichello shaved 2-tenths of that time on Thursday. It is clear that Ross Brawn and his crew where prepared for this season.
More after the jump!
McLaren impressed by trailing the field four consecutive days, not always in the basement, but close. They are struggling with aerodynamics and rear wing design. McLaren will attempt to sort this out in Jerez next week before heading to Australia for the season opener.
Overall, the field is quite close, just as I predicted. Ferrari is strong, as are BMW Sauber, Renault and Toyota. Red Bull and Toro Rosso look close to the leading teams and Williams have shown great improvement. Nico Rosberg placed the Williams team second on Thursday, 8-tenths behind Barrichello’s stunning qualifying run. Force India has shown improvement as well, splitting the two Torro Rosso cars on Thursday.
Since this is pre-season testing, lap times mean very little, but do give us an indication of performance potential. Not every team ran qualifying trim like Brawn GP on Wednesday and Thursday but, if Brawn GP’s times are any indication, Formula 1 cars may be quicker in 2009 than last season. A few other drivers posted low 1:20 times during testing this week.
It is still unclear who will run KERS in Australia, although many teams have been using the system throughout the test. I look for Toyota to be ahead of the others here, they have extensive Hybrid experience with their production cars. Ferrari have reported only one issue, that was their KERS cooling system. Kimi Raikkonen still managed to lead the field on Tuesday.
McLaren, Renault, Williams and Brawn GP will now head south to Jerez for the final test session next week, before the 2009 season begins in Mebourne on March 29th. The other teams are finished their testing programs and will begin to pack for the trip to Australia.
As for me, I have seen enough to prepare my 2009 season forecast. Stay tuned to Car Envy for my bold predictions on this season’s Constructor’s and Driver’s Championships.
[Photo credits: Cold Track Days]