Barcelona sees the start of the European leg of the Formula 1 season After the opening quartet of races outside the Old Continent, followed by a three week mini-break, the Spanish Grand Prix marks the start of the European leg of the 2010...
Barcelona sees the start of the European leg of the Formula 1 season
After the opening quartet of races outside the Old Continent, followed by a three week mini-break, the Spanish Grand Prix marks the start of the European leg of the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship. In fact, the break turned out to be shorter than planned because of the volcanic disruption to travel plans back from China, which meant freight took an additional three days to get home. However, with the longer than usual break, this has had no effect on Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's state of readiness for the Barcelona race.
Traditionally, the return to Europe sees the first major raft of technical updates on the cars. This time the workload cannot be compared to that of 2009 when the Scuderia, along with many other teams, was forced to react to the rule change, introduced after the start of the season, legalising the use of the double diffuser, which effectively required a major redesign of the car. This year, the programme has followed the planned rate of development for the F10, with two notable exceptions: the first concerns the rule change regarding the positioning of the rear view mirrors, which comes into effect this weekend and the second concerns Ferrari's adoption of the blown rear wing, an idea introduced by one team which will invariably be replicated by others as the season goes on. Using this idea is not as straightforward as simply fitting a new component to the cars, because it involves not just a different wing design, but also a driver-operated system to use it effectively. Evaluation has therefore been quite a lengthy process, involving simulation and test bench testing, prior to it making its track debut last Saturday during one of the four permitted straight-line aero tests, held at Vairano. Giancarlo Fisichella was at the wheel of the F10, while Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso were able to try the system on the simulator. On Friday in Barcelona, the wing will be tested by both drivers during the free practice sessions, as they will need to get used to actually operating the system and there will be no need to do a back-to-back evaluation against the existing wing as this has already been carried out at Vairano. After free practice, a decision will be taken regarding its use for qualifying and the race. Starting in Barcelona, Massa will have a new chassis (number 284) which fits the chassis planning for the year.
Another element of the F10 package that has undergone close scrutiny in recent weeks is the engine. A lot of work was carried out on the test bench, completing several long runs and this work produced some solutions which it is felt will solve the reliability problems experienced in Bahrain and Malaysia. The team therefore requested and is confident to receive as early as possible the authorisation from the FIA to make some changes within the framework of the current engine regulations and these modifications will be fitted to the engines to be used in Spain. While since China, everyone in the Gestione Sportiva has been working hard as always on their various areas of activity, it is fair to say that over the past weeks, the staff in the Engine department really produced a major effort, working night and day to analyse, evaluate and solve issues that have affected engine performance in past races.
This weekend sees the first of two races this season where Fernando Alonso can count on massive support and the additional motivation of racing on home turf and the Barcelona weekend will be special as it is the first time he will race on home soil in Ferrari red. Indeed, the grandstands which in past years have tended to be dominated by the blue of the Moviedo man's Asturias region will no doubt be matched this weekend by Prancing Horse red. The Spaniard won his home race here in 2006, a year before Felipe Massa stood on the top step of the Catalunya podium, while Kimi Raikkonen's 2008 win makes it a total of eleven Spanish Grand Prix victories for Ferrari.
The last three rounds of the championship were difficult to read in terms of evaluating the true performance levels of the various cars, even if one team clearly seemed to have the upper hand in qualifying, because in each case, either the races or qualifying were affected by a wet track. More normal conditions can be expected at the Catalunya circuit and, as this was the venue for the final pre-season test back in February, it should be the first race weekend to provide a clear evaluation of where the twelve teams stand compared to one another.