Order restored itself in Arabia on Friday as previous days' sandstorms gave way to morning fog and sun with temperatures into the 80s thereafter for Formula One teams testing at Bahrain International Circuit. As if to endorse a return to...
Order restored itself in Arabia on Friday as previous days' sandstorms gave way to morning fog and sun with temperatures into the 80s thereafter for Formula One teams testing at Bahrain International Circuit. As if to endorse a return to normality, Kimi Raikkonen put Ferrari atop time charts with a quick lap of the 3.3-mile circuit of 1 minute, 33.350 seconds. Test times are always unofficial; other teams clocked Raikkonen at 1:33.325.
"The track was very slippery in the morning, due to the sand, but we managed to go ahead with our program," Raikkonen said. "It's a pity for the time we lost over the last days, but it didn't depend on us. This happens and you just have to accept it. My first day with the F60 on a dry track was extremely positive. I immediately had a good feeling, although it's still too early to say where we are compared to our competitors. The car is improving and there are no especially critical areas. We used the KERS also today and I'm happy with how it works, apart from some minor childhood disease."
Perhaps Raikkonen had a special toddlerhood, one that included hydraulic issues, because the team issued that excuse for the F60's only interruption to the day's testing. Raikkonen managed to cover 105 laps.
Jarno Trulli registered a 1:33.429 in 127 laps in the Toyota TF109. The Italian pronounced the effort a good day's work and said miles on the new car have shown it to be promising and workable. He praised the car's balance. Trulli finished two race distances in regaining track time lost to weather.
Test driver Christian Klein was in for BMW Sauber. The Austrian focused on setup and tire sampling in the F1.09. He covered 125 laps with a best of 1:33.666.
"In the morning, the track was still slightly wet as a result of being cleaned after yesterday's sandstorm," Klien said. "Because of this it took some time to build up a proper grip level. That gave me the opportunity to get used to the BMW Sauber F1.09, which I drove for the very first time. In the afternoon, the track conditions were much better and we were able to go ahead with our test program as scheduled."
Over in southern Spain, where air temps reached the 70s and track temps the 90s Fahrenheit, Scuderia Toro Rosso took its 2008 model, STR3, out on top with Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais topping charts in Jerez de la Frontera. The insistence of this car to go-go-go has led reporters to make a distinction of "2009 models" to boost McLaren Mercedes to headline status. But Bourdais rolled the STR3 to its final laps, 117 of them, with a best time of 1:17.472. Impending rollout of an STR4 reminds that the STR3 appeared at the Monaco Grand Prix last year and proceeded to deliver the best result of any Red Bull-generated entry, victory in the Italian Grand Prix.
Bourdais spent the final miles on qualifying simulation, testing three compounds of tires, and evaluating front and rear suspensions. His laps produced reliability checks on the Ferrari 056 engine. A minor mechanical glitch ended things an hour early but without sacrifice in data gathering.
"It's been a while since I've driven, and it's good to get back in the groove," Bourdais said. "We are just continuing to evaluate tires and understand how the slicks are working, as well as trying a few things on the geometry of the car. All in all, a useful working session."
Second-quickest -- with a 2008-spec rear wing on the MP4-24 -- was Lewis Hamilton for McLaren Mercedes. The English world champion toured the 2.75-mile Circuito de Jerez in 1:19.632 for his quick lap at the final moment of the working day. He completed 94 laps as the team sought to put mileage on the car while looking at setup and balance on slick tires and putting miles on the KERS device.
Fernando Alonso heaved the Renault R29 up time sheets with a positively competitive 1:19.846. The Spaniard completed 109 laps of evaluating the KERS system and development parts. Alonso worked in short stints through the morning before settling in for long afternoon runs.
"After doing so many laps with the car yesterday, we concentrated more on setup work today to get a better understanding of the car and make it easier to drive," Alonso said. "Overall, we have to be very happy, as we managed to do lots of laps and the car responded well to the setup changes we made. So I think we've found some good solutions. Every day the drivability of the car is improving and although we still have a lot of work to do before the start of the season, we are definitely moving in the right direction."
Chief test engineer Christian Silk pronounced the week a success.
"A very good day's testing," Silk said. "We've continued to make progress with the car and it ran well today, which allowed us to get more mileage and check our reliability. We're continuing to make changes and the car is responding very well to those and so we've already found a good balance. Overall, it's a positive end to the test for us."
Nico Rosberg joined Kazuki Nakajima in testing the Williams FW31. Nakajima took the morning shift to practice pitstops. Rosberg's afternoon produced a quick time of 1:21.217 in 71 laps. "The main target at the moment is to improve the balance on slick tires, something we are all learning about as quickly as possible," team technical director Sam Michael said. "We completed all of the systems, reliability and aero checks that we set out to at the beginning of the week. We finished off the test with some pitstop practice work with the race team so they could get used to all of the new equipment, and to give the drivers an opportunity to get used to pitting on slicks. It's been a productive week and we are looking forward to the next test back here in Jerez in the first week of March."
Said Rosberg, "I was only out on track this afternoon as Kazuki was scheduled to do his pitstop practices this morning. I also started off with pitstop practice work, which we had no issues with, which was good. I then did some normal running in the afternoon. We didn't have much time, I only managed to do two runs of 10 timed laps, but my impression of the car is still positive. We didn't experience any technical problems so our reliability is looking good, too. I'm already looking forward to the next test and getting some useful mileage in."
Rounding out the Jerez week was Red Bull;s Mark Webber, who finished 62 laps with a best of 1:21.313. A gremlin limited morning mileage but the Australian gort on track by lunchtime then embarked on long runs through the afternoon to evaluate tires, setup and suspension changes.
"Apart from a few minor niggles, which are to be expected with a brand new car, this first test has produced pleasing results," said head of race engineering Ian Morgan. "RB5 proved to be generally reliable and its performance seems encouraging straight out of the box."
Elsewhere, rumors swirl that the Honda team abandoned by the carmaker in December might be close to purchase and might yet appear on the grid in Australia on March 29. Drivers are thought to be Jenson Button and Bruno Senna. ... Takuma Sato is said to be talking to Red Bull about taking on test duties of both teams, Red Bull and Toro Rosso. Sato made a hard run at the driving seat kept by Bourdais. ... Sato's teammate at the defunct Super Aguri team, Anthony Davidson, has joined BBC Radio 5 Live for F1 commentary this season. ... A war of words continues between FIA president Max Mosley and the Grand Prix Drivers Association over the cost of superlicenses required for drivers to contest F1. Mosley has invited drivers to look elsewhere for racing if they don't care to "contribute." ... Formal introduction of USF1, a race team not the gene, is expected by the end of the month via Speed television, the Fox-owned cable channel that airs Formula One in the United States.