Formula One on Monday kicked off what it calls 2009 winter testing -- neither in winter nor in 2009 -- at Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, Spain, with nine of 10 teams and 17 drivers in attendance. The three-day agenda includes reward drives...
Formula One on Monday kicked off what it calls 2009 winter testing -- neither in winter nor in 2009 -- at Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, Spain, with nine of 10 teams and 17 drivers in attendance. The three-day agenda includes reward drives for individuals from other race disciplines, such as World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, as well as test opportunities for open seats, notably for the day's quickest driver, Takuma Sato. Times, all unofficial, mean even less than usual in test sessions. This week's exercise is targeted toward adjusting to new rules and trying ideas, thus Ferrari's characterization that times are "no indicator." Still, everyone lists times.
Sato lapped the 2.89-mile site of the Spanish Grand Prix in 1 minute, 20.763 seconds in a Ferrari-powered Scuderia Toro Rosso. Sato completed 121 laps. Sebastien Buemi in the other STR3 came second quick in 1:21.071 among 117 laps.
After them came Alex Wurz in a Honda in 1:21.198. Wurz completed 77 laps. Wurz was joined by Brazilians Lucas di Grassi, last seen as a Renault tester, and Bruno Senna, GP2 runner and nephew of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna. Di Grassi and Senna are under evaluation as the Japanese carmaker team has not confirmed a driver lineup for 2009. The two newbies split time in the updated RA108. Wurz drove a version with aerodynamic adaption for next season's rules changes. He praised slicks.
"The view from the cockpit is just so much nicer with slick tires on the car," Wurz said. "As a driver, I prefer the driving style with slicks, so I am happy that the change has finally come, even if it is too late for me to race with them. My focus for today was on gathering information on the tires whilst running various 2009 downforce levels. We have come away with good answers and a clear direction, so I am pleased with the work that we achieved. It was nice to see the two young guys in action with Honda today. Both understood the car very quickly but how they develop from here with a full day in the car will be important."
Wurz hands off to race driver Jenson Button on Tuesday. The team's other racer, Rubens Barrichello, was absent from testing in favor of winning an endurance kart race in his hometown, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Di Grassi, who drove 48 laps, also continues Tuesday.
"My first day in the Honda car has been a good experience," di Grassi said. "The focus of my half-day program today has been to get the best possible feeling for the car ahead of my full day tomorrow. One of us had to be the first out on track today and that was me, but this morning the track was really very 'green' and took a while to improve. I ran with slick tires for the first time and in a car that is both new to me and which had a combination of 2008 and 2009 aero elements, so it was a totally new experience for me but a very enjoyable one."
Senna's test, which covered 39 laps, continues Wednesday.
"The first day of my first Formula One test has been just as big a moment as I expected it to be," Senna said. "I have also had a lot of fun and really enjoyed myself. This morning I focused on doing as much as I could to prepare for my turn. I listened to the team radio and watched and learned how the team works. I was feeling quite calm, but on my first lap out of the garage I realized the significance of the moment. This is a very special opportunity and one which has been a dream my whole life."
Only after Honda did anyone from the 2008 season champions weigh in on timesheets: McLaren Mercedes test driver Pedro de la Rosa, staying mum about a possible race drive at Force India, posted a 1:21.417 among 65 laps. Luca Badoer led Ferrari's test drivers with a fifth-best 1:22.038. His F2008 carried all the adaptive doodads, intended to provide downforce. The Ferrari included added weight to simulate the 2009 introduction of kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS).
Gary Paffett, another McLaren tester, was sixth-quick in 1:22.235 before the first race driver on charts, BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica drove an F1.08B to a 1:22.341 among 56 laps. Loeb, having a giggle and not intending to try F1 seriously, was eighth quick in 1:22.503 among 82 laps.
Nelsinho Piquet led the Renault racer effort -- teammate Fernando Alonso reportedly won't test until the real 2009 and the real winter -- with a 1:22.560 in 80 laps.
"It was a constructive day, although obviously we are right at the very start of winter testing and the cars will be very different next year," Piquet said. "Still, it's nice to get a feel for how things are going to be with the sort of setups we will be running next year and with slick tires. The car felt quite different today with these new settings, but the track conditions were good, which helped us."
Test driver Christian Klein followed for BMW Sauber in 1:22.883 in 53 laps. Klien drove a KERS-equipped car. "We are gaining more and more experience with the KERS system,:" he said. "But we still have a lot of work to do to fine-tune the system."
Williams poured its test efforts into the form of Nico Hulkenberg, who completed 116 laps and posted a best lap of 1:23.467. Independent team Williams, which was determined this past season to be among the sport's top outfits for brand recognition, announced last week retention of long-term sponsor Allianz. The confirmation followed announcement last month of an expanded sponsorship by Philips.
Force India test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi appeared next on charts, in 1:23.794, narrowly ahead of the team's race driver Adrian Sutil, 1:23.832. Liuzzi drove 86 and Sutil 88 laps. Reports have Force India's 2009 chassis delayed. The team has signed a supply and development deal with McLaren Mercedes.
Marc Gene completed 32 laps in a plain, old F2008 Ferrari whose only mod was slicks. Then came Senna, 1:24.343, 15th-fastest, for Honda, Giedo van der Garde, 1:24.908, taking a reward drive for winning the Formula Renault 3.5 series, and di Grassi, 1:25.512.
Toyota was the only team missing from Monday's activities.