Jerez Day 1: Report from the paddock

By on Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Jerez, Spain, Paddock atmosphere

If yesterday the sun decided to welcome everybody in Jerez; today, it was a very thick fog that was in charge of the day’s greetings. Luckily, it disappeared as the sun began to rise and the day of testing could take place as planned.

However, the fog had some consequences for Red Bull: some parts they were expecting arrived late and they could not start their new season until almost noon.

The activity in the circuit started quite early, though. At 8:30 Williams presented their FW34 in a low-key ceremony. They just raised the door to their garage and there it stood: blue and white and shiny. Then, some mechanics rolled the car onto the pit-lane for the media to take pictures of the car and the drivers.

Half an hour later the tests officially started. There were not many spectators on the circuit today, but then again, it is Tuesday and Alonso was not driving. There was a very big Finnish flag in one of the stands, though. All the teams have run today except for Marussia, which was not present. Both Mercedes and HRT are taking part in these tests with the 2011 car. All the other teams are using their brand-new 2012 models. The drivers for today were Webber, Button, Massa, Rosberg (morning), Schumacher (afternoon), Raikkonen, di Resta, Kobayashi, Ricciardo, Maldonado, Kovalainen and Martínez de la Rosa.

Jean-Eric Vergne was not driving today, but he took some time to answer the questions of the media. Even if he is still relatively inexperienced in PR events, he left a good impression. He was able to answer a good number of politically difficult questions, without actually answering any of them. Nevertheless, he did say that his goal in F1 was to to learn and to get as close to the top as he possibly can… given the time.

Taking into consideration how early in the season it is, the first session of the first testing of the year started very smoothly. Although some teams suffered teething problems, the first red flag of the session and of the season came out almost 7 hours after the start. It was caused by Daniel Ricciardo when he had to park his car at the end of the pit-lane. The unscheduled stop was caused by a sudden drop in oil pressure. The car was recovered quickly and easily and the session was restarted after just 8 minutes. The only other red flag of the day was caused by Kobayashi when he ran out of fuel with about half an hour of the session left.

This season, the main technical problems seem to be related to the overheating of the areas around the new exhausts. Toro Rosso, Catherham and Ferrari are all believed to suffer this problem to some extent. This may be the reason why Kovalainen was only able to do 28 laps compared to, for example, the 104 laps of Kobayashi.

The fastest man on track today was F1-returnee Kimi Raikkonen, who started the day setting very good times. Whether those times are due to the outright speed of the new car or due to an extremely light car, it remains to be seen. It must be pointed out that none of his runs were especially long. His best time was 1:19.670 and he spent most of the day lapping at about 1:21 to 1:22. He was using medium tyres.

After the test session was over, Raikkonen said that they had suffered some technical issues during the day which had cost them some time, but he described his day as: “For a first day, it could have been worse.” He admitted that he set his best time on fresh tyres and also said that being on P1 today in Jerez does not make a difference to him because it is a test, but it would make a difference if that P1 was the result in Australia.

Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari were all on different testing programs that included soft, medium and hard tyres. It is impossible to say how much fuel they were carrying, but Massa’s best time was significantly slower that McLaren’s and Red Bull’s times. Only Kovalainen, Maldonado and de la Rosa were slower than him.

From the Red Bull quarters, the official statements were not too optimistic regarding the new season. Adrian Newey admitted to the media that the changes in this year’s regulations should affect Red Bull more than other teams. The reason for that is that their RB7 was designed around the blown diffuser while the other teams had to adapt the blown diffuser to their cars. Nevertheless, we would not get to know if Newey’s worries are justified or not until the cars are racing in Australia.

Final Times:

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1.  Kimi Raikkonen       Lotus-Renault          1m19.670s            73
 2.  Paul di Resta        Force India-Mercedes   1m19.772s  + 0.102  101
 3.  Nico Rosberg         Mercedes               1m20.219s  + 0.549   56
 4.  Mark Webber          Red Bull-Renault       1m20.496s  + 0.826   53
 5.  Daniel Ricciardo     Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1m20.694s  + 1.024   57
 6.  Michael Schumacher   Mercedes               1m20.794s  + 1.124   41
 7.  Kamui Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari         1m21.353s  + 1.683  106
 8.  Jenson Button        McLaren-Mercedes       1m21.530s  + 1.860   60
 9.  Felipe Massa         Ferrari                1m22.815s  + 3.145   69
10.  Heikki Kovalainen    Caterham-Renault       1m23.178s  + 3.508   28
11.  Pastor Maldonado     Williams-Renault       1m23.371s  + 3.701   25
11.  Pedro de la Rosa     HRT-Cosworth           1m23.676s  + 4.006   44

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