This week we have seen all ten Formula 1 teams in action at the same time at the winter group test at the Circuit de Catalunya, near Barcelona in Spain.
By and large testing is usually a pretty dull affair, (unless your one of those armchair experts who excitedly devours all the photographs like they are going out of fashion looking for all the latest updates and gizmos) with the most exciting event being when someone’s car has a technical hissy fit and forces the poor driver to abandon it and walk back to the pitlane.
That is unless you are the World Champion at McLaren and fancy parking it in a gravel trap, immediately causing former World Champions scuttling off eagerly down the nearest escape road to oversee proceedings whilst the track marshalls recover your car using your favourite crane. However, don’t worry Lewis, at least it is giving Michael Schumacher something to do in his spare time, when he isn’t falling off motorbikes, polishing his trophies or counting his handsome Ferrari retainer for standing about like a spare part in the Ferrari Garage and distracting the media, allegedly.
This weeks group test, has been quite interesting, for more than just this reason alone though.
Firstly we should mention that the former Honda Team, which has been saved from extinction by none other than former Ferrari favourite Uncle Ross (Brawn) has surprised the pants off just about everyone connected to the sport. Given that up until a week or so ago, nobody knew if the team would even make it to the season opener in Melbourne, you can imagine the surprise, eyebrow raising and head scratching going on that the Brawn GP has spent the entire group test soundly thrashing everyone including Ferrari, McLaren and co.
Both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello respectively topping the timesheets on subsequent days in the BrawnGP challenger. Sufficed to say this has caused a flurry of excitement, discussion, arguments and financial bets across internet forums, as the formula 1 fanbase are trying to work out if indeed Uncle Ross has managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat like never before or if the truth of the matter is that the former Honda team are in fact showboating in a desperate attempt to attract sponsors with more money than sense. Although given that Honda spent at least a year or two recently failing to attract any sponsors, we do wonder if perhaps that could be an entirely fruitless and pointless exercise if it is indeed the case as some may claim.
At this point in proceedings we should point out that controversy is already rearing its ugly head prior to the season opener in two weeks time, with several team bosses muttering furiously away nineteen to the dozen about the illegality or otherwise of several car’s difusers. According to some, the Williams, Toyota and Brawn GP teams are all running difusers which may need clarifying by the FIA. By which we take it to mean someone runs off to the FIA complains bitterly, and hey presto next week the FIA confiscates somebodies new toy and out the pram comes that rattle.
Ferrari who have been consistently fast in winter testing (when their KERS system doesn’t keep breaking down) were last seen heading off for Maranello muttering that they thought they had the fastest car, and couldn’t quite believe they have had their thunder stolen by their former Technical Director. It is not all bad news however, we are to understand that ickle Felipe is pleased as punch with his new F2009 and hopes he will be go on to challenge for the World Championship with it, if only the FIA would agree to make F1 races a little bit shorter (one lap would do eh Felipe?).
We are a little less clear what the Kimblebot thinks of his new charger, aside from the fact we are still trying to decipher his mumblings, we understand he has been taking part in yet another artic event of some sort. It would seem the former Ferrari World Champion has been quite busy this winter entertaining himself at various events involving snow, but we are yet to work out how this fits into the bigger picture unless Ferrari have replaced horsepower with reindeers and skidoos, or are predicting an awful lot of snow during the season. Well you never know with this global warming malarkey or Ferrari‘s weather prediction systems.
McLaren meanwhile have been enduring a bit of a torrid time during the recent test at Barcelona, with their 2009 car consistently languishing down the timesheets leading to all sorts of speculation. Heikki Kovaleinen has informed us all that this winter he has in fact put on weight (which might account for why his car seems slower), but doesn’t really explain what has happened to the current World Champion’s, Lewis Hamilton. We can only presume McLaren spent too much time faffing about making vodaphone adverts about remote control cars and blackberry phones, and not enough time working on the damn car.
As per usual the McLaren PR department has been working like a perfectly oiled machine, with former team principal Ron Dennis declaring he is not worried about the pace of the MP4-24, but subsequently both Martin Whitmarsh and Norbert Haug have admitted they are concerned that they aren’t fast enough. Probably a good job Norbert isn’t driving the damn thing, we reckon. However, do not fret, the team claim to know what is wrong and are working even as we speak to resolve the problem.
Unsubstantiated rumours emanating from the F1 paddock from an unnamed source, have suggested some short-sighted bod at Woking has mistakenly popped the car axles on the wrong way round leading to the MP4-24 having no rear grip and in fact going backwards instead of forwards. We couldn’t possibly comment.
Meanwhile, just to make life a little bit fairer for everyone else Ferrari have announced they will reintroduce their traffic light pitstop system for the 2009 season, yes the very one that caused all sorts of manic mayhem with refuelling rigs in Singapore and near traffic halting pitlane collisions in Valencia. We are to understand from Sporting Director Luca Baldisserri, that Ferrari have implemented a solution to prevent such errors happening again, which only leads us to consider what new debacles it might unexpectedly throw up for trigger happy head mechanics and overenthusiastic Finns. Mentioning no names of course.
Testing continues from today at Jerez for McLaren, BrawnGP, Renault and Williams, while the rest of the grid have shot back to their respective factories ahead of Melbourne for two weeks of frantic head scratching, swearing under their breath and car tinkering.