Gary Anderson's pre-season blog
Barcelona testing: Day three
This morning's running was a bit of a waste of time as the track started the day damp. It took a very long time to dry up and although it was slick-tyre weather as the chequered flag fell for lunch, it was nowhere near as fast as yesterday. Lewis Hamilton ended up fastest on a 1m28.053s, but you can't draw any conclusions from that because of the conditions.
It was an eventful day for a few people. Pastor Maldonado was the first to visit the gravel trap at Turn 5. Braking for the downhill left-hander is difficult because the inside front wheel gets light and locks easily. He didn't sustain any damage.
His old GP2 rival Sergio Perez was the next to end up in the gravel. Again, he didn't sustain any damage. Both of these guys are new to Formula 1 and we can give them the benefit of the doubt in these difficult conditions. Perhaps they need to back off a little in the damp and wait for the conditions to get good enough to really learn something.
There is nothing more annoying for a team like Williams or Sauber than losing valuable track time because an inexperienced driver gets over-excited and fires it into the hedge when on a reliability run.
The exception to the above is Felipe Massa, who has all the experience in the world and has managed to put the Ferrari into the gravel twice today. It's probably time for his engineer, Rob Smedley, to give him a slapping and get him to settle down a bit because it's so important to work through the test programme and not have the mechanics pulling gravel out of the car.
Rob worked for me at Jordan and he's very good at driver motivation and putting his arm around the shoulder to get them up there. But some drivers react to the other direction of a kick up the ****! With the mistakes we've seen Massa make consistently over the past year, the arm around the shoulder technique isn't working. Time to put on the steel toe-capped boots.
If you lost valuable track time during testing, you carry that deficit all the way through the season. It will be detrimental to Massa's relationship with the team because priority will be given to Fernando Alonso very quickly if these mistakes keep happening.
Hopefully the afternoon will be more productive and we'll have some interesting runs to look at in the next few hours.
We're finally seeing some cars run with relatively light fuel and put in competitive laptimes. Nico Rosberg's fastest time today, a 1m23.168s, was set on a pretty light load, although he did three laps, and that shows about where they are. They are going to need to find a bit of time. I'm sure if the top teams and drivers go for times, we'd see them in the low 1m22s or even the 1m21s. The more professional the team is, the less likely they are to show their true hand – they just need to know where they are rather than tell anyone else.
Although a lot of teams attempted race runs, Mark Webber was the only guy that did what you would call an organised race run, with a simulated grid in the pit lane.
Although fairly consistent, the run wasn't that fast overall. It's always a bit confusing, but we know he definitely started on a full tank, with just tyre changes in the pit stops.
As for the others, Jarno Trulli ended up sixth fastest on a 1m25.454s. That's a good start for Lotus. Despite having a few reliability problems, they do seem to be a step ahead of last year. Speaking to Jarno after he got out, he was pretty happy that he felt connected to the car, as opposed to last year when there was a disconnect and he couldn't drag the laptime out of it. It's a good omen if the driver feels he can use the car - especially if it's Jarno who is very particular on having a car how he likes it. They also have a development package to come for the first race.
Lewis Hamilton had one of McLaren's first really productive days, completing 93 laps and ending up third. In moving away from its complicated exhaust to a more standard one, the team has taken away some of the complexities aerodynamically and that has allowed it to try to get the best out of the set-up. We'll have to see tomorrow whether or not McLaren goes back to the more complicated exhaust system, and whether it's an advantage – sometimes the complication can outweigh the advantage.
From what I've seen today, it's going to be a tight, exciting season and, unlike last year, there will be no black and white (or rather red and blue) winner!
Inside testing : Daily Barcelona blog
With the wet conditions rendering this morning's testing pretty meaningless, it was a good chance to catch up with a few familiar faces in the paddock. Chief among them, F1's fastest beard, Nick Heidfeld.
It can't be easy to slide into a team in a "dead man's boots" situation – although thankfully, that phrase is thoroughly metaphorical in the case of Robert Kubica. But Heidfeld appears to be at home at Renault and speaks highly of the way the team works – a view shared by a lot of drivers who have been through Scuderia Enstone in its various forms over the years.
It's a big season both for Heidfeld and the team. After last year's renaissance, it's finally realistic to think of Renault as a team that could have a sniff of repeating its back-to-back drivers' and constructors' titles of 2005/6. Although it would be jumping the gun to declare the Renault R31 a potential race-winner, it could have race-winning potential.
With Heidfeld revelling in being back on the front line after finding himself on the outside looking in – and he's at pains to stress that he doesn't like the circumstances one bit – you can only imagine how it feels to have a car that might give him a sniff of a first win after more than 170 races. A few more winless seasons and he will end up surpassing Andrea de Cesaris's unwanted mark of 208 races without a victory, but providence has put him behind the wheel of what could prove to be the most competitive car of his career.
The loss of Robert Kubica is a blow for Renault, but Heidfeld's abilities will mitigate the losses. What's more, I'm told Kubica is taking a very active interest in progress chez Renault, and only two weeks after his accident is able to offer his own input into the direction of the car – doubtless helped by knowing well how Heidfeld operates after four years together at BMW Sauber.
Come the afternoon, the on-track action got a little more serious and did little to dissuade me from believing Red Bull and Ferrari are in the box seats right now. Granted, that's hardly a bold statement given last year's form, but it's an opinion that most in the paddock appear to subscribe to.
I'm dubious about the outright pace of Mark Webber's afternoon race simulation. It seemed a little conservative based on what we've seen before. Talking about his run in the evening, he admitted there are some things they'd do different next time, which you could take to include the potential to push harder.
It's also positive for the team that he didn't suffer any serious car problems during his own personal grand prix, after Sebastian Vettel's troubles yesterday – although eased speed and absolute reliability might be related.
As for the rest, forget Mercedes' fastest time. For now, having established that the car is far from where it needs to be, we're going to have to reserve judgment until the major upgrade package - including a promised innovative exhaust system - to hit the track. It's fair to say a major stride is required to have any hope of getting back on terms with the front-runners.