F1

McLaren journey to Jerez to test new car

McLaren journey to Jerez to test new car

It's a bit of a trek from Stuttgart in Germany to Jerez on the south coast of Spain, 2,343 km by road to be precise. The McLaren Mercedes Formula One 2008 cars however flew to the Spanish circuit for their shakedown, which was a shame as they...

It's a bit of a trek from Stuttgart in Germany to Jerez on the south coast of Spain, 2,343 km by road to be precise. The McLaren Mercedes Formula One 2008 cars however flew to the Spanish circuit for their shakedown, which was a shame as they passed some great spots on the way.

Heikki Kovalainen tests the new McLaren Mercedes MP4-23.
Photo by McLaren.

Strasburg, for instance, with its beautiful Cathedrale de N?tre Dame which is the highest medieval building in Europe at height of 142 m, soaring over Strasbourg's old town.

The team could have stopped for lunch in Lyon perhaps in the pretty Vieux Lyon area, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Surely a stop at Barcelona, would have been on the cards and a visit to the stunning yet still unfinished church of the Sagrada Familia by architect Antoni Gaudi.

Funnily enough the route would have taken the team through Valencia host of round twelve on the 2008 F1 calendar. A couple of laps around the proposed street circuit might have given the McLaren drivers the edge when they race there on August 24th.

According to Google maps its about 22 hours 4 minutes driving time, it's a safe bet that Google weren't basing that time on a McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 covering that distance, that would do it a bit faster even with the sight seeing.

Still it's a bit quicker by air, Pedro de la Rosa's car, the one at the launch in Stuttgart, left on Tuesday 8th at 2.00am and was at Jerez a few short hours later.

Heikki Kovalainen's car left the McLaren Centre in Woking Surry on the 8th of January and travelled directly to Jerez, arriving at the earliest possible opportunity when the local airport opened at 06:00.

Interestingly the Woking borough council on it's official website under the travel and tourism section lists the Brookwood Cemetery as the towns top place to visit.

It describes the attraction thus: 'A 400 acre cemetery opened in 1854 to provide a resting place for many of London's dead. Since then nearly a quarter of a million souls have been laid to rest there, including many Allied casualties from the two World Wars.'

Perhaps a better attraction might be the spectacular McLaren Technology Centre designed by renowned architects Foster and Partners only three miles from the town centre?

Having made the journey to the Jerez circuit, the cars were readied for the work ahead. The private test started today, Wednesday the 9th, where the focus for the two drivers and the team was the set-up of the two 2008 F1 machines and general familiarization.

Pedro de la Rosa tests the new McLaren Mercedes MP4-23.
Photo by McLaren.

The weather was good, Sunny in the morning, cloudy during the afternoon and an Ambient temperature of 18.7C. This was quite a lot nicer than where they had come from, Stuttgart was mostly cloudy with a high of 10C.

Kovalainen, having only been officially a member of the team for less than a month was excited to get his hands on the new car. "It was really great to get on track today with the MP4-23. It was my first session as a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver.

"I always really enjoy the first day a new car runs, there is always a very unique atmosphere, you know a little bit tense, a little bit excited," commented the young Finn.

The expectation is the McLaren will be a good car, the MP4-22 it was developed from certainly was, Kovalainen said of the new car: "The first impressions of the new car are good. We have a comprehensive development schedule to work through over the next couple of months. The car's performance today is definitely an encouraging starting point."

Kovalainen's cautious praise for the car was reflected by his laptime, he set a best lap of 1m20.559 nearly a second off the pace of test driver de la Rosa.

The Spaniard took the car that was unveiled at the launch around the 4.423km circuit in 1m19.655 and his assessment seemed more upbeat: "We covered 69 laps in total today between Heikki and me, which is a good start. The car felt positive and it has been an encouraging day."

Obviously de la Rosa's experience and familiarity with the team helped his performance and he commented, "This is the second time I have had the opportunity to make the track debut with our new car, it is also the eighth car I have driven for the team.

"It is great for me to be in the car from the very beginning, as I am able to instantly build up an understanding of the car and how it works, and then start to put this knowledge into the testing programme," he concluded.

That was in contrast to the new kid on the team, even with a full-season in F1 under his belt but as Kovalainen explained, "Today was also my first real opportunity to meet the test team, which was good because we will be spending a lot of time together over the next few weeks!"

The McLaren team has a lot of work ahead getting used to the new car and learning how to get the best out of it. "This time of the season, from when a new car is launched until the first race, is probably the busiest time of the year for the test team. We have 18 track days scheduled, including today, before the MP4-23s leave for Australia and a lot of work to complete in that time, but the motivation is huge with all the guys here," explained de la Rosa.

Lewis Hamilton was absent from the first day of testing but will get his chance tomorrow.

The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes test programme will remain in Jerez until Wednesday the 16th of January before moving onto Valencia on Tuesday, the 22nd.

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