Jerez Day One: It’s all about reliability

This was the day that the F1 world was finally waiting for. The new cars finally got to show their stuff out on the track. Maybe we could get a glipse of what the 2013 will hold, maybe not. Most likely not. As we all know (and sometimes wish wasn’t true), times on the very first day (really any day) of the very first test are largely irrelevant. Though that doesn’t stop us from getting excited about them. Here is a run down of each team’s day in Jerez.

Red Bull:

Mark Webber got the first go in the new RB9, a car which most likely be the benchmark for all the others throughout the 2013 season. The day was mostly uneventful for the Aussie. He did a lot of solid mileage and ran without reliability issues. The perfect way to start a possible championship winning year. Mark enjoyed some time at the top of the time sheets (he ended the day second) but did have to deal with some understeer throughout the day. He is confident this problem will be sorted quickly.
“The car was very understeery today, so we need to improve that tonight and get it a little more responsive. We’re not having a grand prix tomorrow, thank God, so we’ll work hard, as will everybody else.”

Ferrari:

It’s hard to imagine how bad the Ferrari was at this point in 2012. The car was a menace to drive, it chewed its tires like a starving wolf, and the drivers were uncomfortable to push it to any sort of boundary.
The F138 is a massive improvement already after Felipe Massa described his new car as “on a different planet” compared to last year’s. Felipe also enjoyed solide reliable running all day and ended the day 6th fastest, 1.6 seconds down on Button. But I remind you, don’t read into the times.
“The car is much more balanced. I felt a good direction on the rear of the car as well, with traction. This is a track that is very difficult on the rear, degradation is very high. I would say that the difference to last year is huge.”

Mclaren:

Things didn’t start off even remotely according to plan as Jenson Button stopped on track on his third lap with an issue. It was soon confirmed that the MP4-28 was suffering from a fuel pickup-related issue.

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Most of the morning was lost from repairing the problem. Not all hope was lost, though, and when Jenson finally returned to the track, he found the going much…quicker. He set a blistering time of 1:18.861 with minutes to spare to end the day on top.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa labelled this time “incredible” but the Button was swift to recognize the relevence of this figure. “Some people run less fuel than others, and some people run a lot less fuel than others. Who knows? For a first day it felt good.”

Lotus:

After impressing during pre-season testing in 2012, Lotus were hoping for some improvement and reliability in 2013. This is exactly what they got. Grosjean got to break in the E21 today and was very happy with how the car responded. Romain also enjoyed a large portion of the day at the top of the timesheets as he went fastest early on in the morning. He ended the day third fastest and very satisfied with the E21’s progress even though he did a relatively few number of laps (55).
“I think it’s a good step forward, compared to where we were last year – which was already a good starting point.”

Mercedes:

There can only be one word to describe Mercedes’ first day in Jerez: Disastrous. Eleven laps into Nico Rosberg’s day, the back of the F1W04 caught fire. This ended any running the team did for the rest of the day. It was later determined that some of the electrics in the back of the car overheated and caused the bodywork to catch fire.

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Lewis Hamilton will desperately be hoping that these reliability issues are sorted before the season starts, or his move may have been all for nought. From what Nico could learn from his 11 laps, he seems upbeat about Mercedes’ prospects. “I think they have given us a good base and now it is up to us to make the most of it now, find out the problems and also improve it.

Sauber:

Nico Hulkenberg enjoyed a quiet day in Jerez. There were no major issues to get around and he enjoyed split running to the tune of 79 laps, the third highest of the day. This is much more important than any laptime he could have produced to day. Of note to Nico was the car’s ability in high speed corners, something it was praised for last year. “Roughly, from what I have seen, when I raced against the Sauber as well, their car looked pretty good on high-speed stuff, and that is what I think today. I felt pretty happy with it as well, the high-speed corners, and that was basically it. It is still a different car.”

Force India:

The Silverstone based squad also enjoyed a relatively quiet day in Jerez. Paul di Resta pounded round the track all day, completing 89 laps, the most of any other driver of the day. Another positive was that he ended the day 4th on the time sheets.
“I felt very comfortable all day and we managed to get through the programme as we focussed on collecting aero data and understanding how well the car correlates with our simulation tools at the factory.”

Williams:

It is known that Williams is running their 2012 car in Jerez in order to utilize as much time as possible preparing their 2013 challenger. They ran the car with several upgrades with the task at hand being to understand the new tires as best as possible so there are no problems with the new car. The 2012 car also featured a vanity panel, suggesting the same will for the FW35. There were no reliability problems to be concerned with and Maldonado completed a solid 84 laps.

Toro Rosso:

Daniel Ricciardo got the first taste of the STR8 and from the outset, things are looking positive. Again, there were no reliability issues to be noted and the Aussie completed a solid 70 laps. Daniel was very happy with the operating window of the tires and the set-up window on the STR8, something lacking on last year’s car.
“We have definitely got a bigger window to work with. Whether it’s going to be easier or more confusing, we’ll soon find out, but we definitely have got more options this year and that will help us.”

Caterham:

The Caterham also enjoyed solid running this morning, something it will hope to replicate all year long. there were no major issues to report from rookie Giedo van der Garde other than a lack of grip in slow corners. He feels this will be a simple fix, however. He completed 64 laps today and ended up just over 3 seconds down on Button’s fastest lap.

Marussia:

In one of the most important cars in the team’s history, the day could have been a lot better. Early on in the day, driver Max Chilton was getting ready to start pushing the car harder to find its limits. However, on the run into the Dry Sack corner, the rear suspension of the MR02 failed and the Briton went careening into the barriers. He was fine and Marussia are confident of solving the problem they faced today. Hopefully nothing like this will happen again. Max was enjoying the test up to this point and is excited to get back into the car.

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Testing was going well until that point. I’m looking forward to getting back out and to do a good test.”

TODAY’S TIMES:

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Jenson Button McLaren 1m18.861s 37
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m19.709s + 0.848s 73
3. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m19.796s + 0.935s 54
4. Paul di Resta Force India 1m20.343s + 1.482s 89
5. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m20.401s + 1.540s 70
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m20.536s + 1.675s 64
7. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m20.699s + 1.838s 79
8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m20.846s + 1.985s 14
9. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m20.864s + 2.003s 84
10. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m21.915s + 3.054s 64
11. Max Chilton Marussia 1m24.176s + 5.315s 29

This concludes my wrap-up of the first day in Jerez. Come back at the end of each day for my summaries of each team’s experiences.

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