Feb 27, 2013, 11:40 AM EST
We were greeted on day one by the sight of an almost full F1 paddock. Nearly 100 mammoth transporter and hospitality trucks, representing all of the 2013 teams and practically all of the drivers.
Everyone we spoke to from teams were pumped and ready to have a very serious four-day test, in preparation for the first race roughly three weeks away. They put in hundreds of miles of data collection, aero, drive train, drivability, reliability and most important of all, learning all they could about the new Pirelli tires, which this year have different construction and compounds, designed to degrade quicker, and they did. Leigh and I were talking to Mark Webber in the Red Bull hospitality center and he was not a huge fan. He had great difficulty in reading the tire wear and performance and thought there was a very narrow window of usability. Jenson Button on the other hand said he thought they were easier to come to grips with, no pun intended, and would be easier to understand. Unlike his MP428, which he had great reservations about, in spite of the fact that his new teammate Mexican Sergio Perez set the fastest time of the four days, Button wound up 11th.
The only new car at this the second test was the Williams, unveiled on the Monday. It was supposed to be just an evolution of last year’s car, but according to Dickie Stanford (the team manager who spent a long time with Leigh and I) it is really all new. He told us both drivers, Pastor Maldonado and newcomer Valtteri Bottas said the car was markedly better than the 2012 model. The Williams team ended up with the most laps 367, finishing 8th and 10th on the time sheet, but both less than a second off the fastest. The last day was cold and damp and between them the two did 36 laps with no time, just pit stop practice.
Ferrari, compared to this time last year, looked really good. Fernando Alonso pounded around for three days ,with 110, 76 and 97 laps. I’m sure he slept very well. He topped the time sheets on day three, with a time that kept him second over the four days. He did a lot of drive through laps which must tell them something, though Leigh and I couldn’t figure it out. Alonso also did a tremendous amount of practice starts at the exit of pit lane, as did most of the drivers. Felipe Massa drew the short straw, only running on day four, which was cold and damp, even so he managed 80 laps. The team must be headed to the next test on Thursday with so much confidence compared to last year.
The Lotus team too must be very confident going forward. Romain Grosjean ended up 4th overall and Kimi Raikkonen was 7th. Kimi took the first two days, on day one he was parked for hours with data logging problems. Lotus press officer Andy Stobart told us that they have reverted to last year’s system, temporarily. The second day Kimi had Gear box troubles, again in the garage for some time. Romain had pretty trouble free days doing 160 fast laps. We spoke to the team principal Eric Boullier and he seemed very confidant and pleased with his boys. He said that Kimi is Kimi and needs treating in a way that is a bit special, he is also satisfied that Grosjean will have a much less troubled year than last.
Leigh and I were lucky enough to spend some time with Christian Horner, who I have known since he was a schoolboy. He is a very smart guy and plays his cards extremely close to his vest. Neither of his drivers were particularly fast, but no one seemed concerned. We also spoke to John Wheatley, the team manager, and Kenny Handkammer, the chief mechanic, all of whom seemed very upbeat even though Sebastian Vettel ended up 5th and Mark Webber was 13th. They covered two hundred miles less than Williams or Ferrari. However on the last day when most teams were practicing pit stops, Red Bull reeled off a number of wheel changes in 2.1 seconds, staggeringly fast. The fastest race stop last year was Jenson Button with a 2.31 second. Kenny Handkammer was pretty pleased with that. He wanted a picture of himself with Leigh and I which he then tweeted, saying he was with his friends from NBC and racing legend David Hobbs, very flattering coming from someone like that.
The big change for this year is of course Lewis Hamilton moving to Mercedes and what it will do for him and them. On the first day, Nico Rosberg did the driving and they had a lot of unspecified troubles, spending some time in the garage. Despite that, Rosberg did the fastest lap of day one. Hamilton took over on day two and had essentially a trouble-free day turning 121 laps winding up 4th. He was having gear box troubles out on the track and we could hear him struggling. On day four Hamilton took the fast time in cold and damp conditions. They were never able to match the best times of the test but nevertheless look competitive.
The Sauber, particularly in the hands of Nico Hulkenberg looked very promising ending up third overall only three-tenths off. His old team Force India looked strong too Adrian Sutil looked very good but is not yet confirmed for the team; only Paul Di Resta is. They also tried Jules Bianchi but he did not drive until day 4 when conditions were at their worst. The Marussia machine only driven by Max Chilton was consistently faster than the new Caterham in the hands of Giedo Van de Garde and Charles Pic, both new to the team, always, in my opinion, a bad move with a new car no one is able to tell whether it’s the car or the driver.
Now testing is just that, testing. Impossible at this stage to really tell the relative strengths of the teams.
We can tell that Ferrari is ahead of where they were this time last year and Williams seems ahead. Red Bull … who knows? On time they are not there, however I’m sure they are very well aware that they are going to be strong, McLaren also looks good, but Jenson struggled badly last year mid-season and looks a bit as if he’s headed that way now. Mercedes? Hamilton has got to be worth half a second over Nico and that might put them in the ball park. We’ll know more next Sunday when the final test ends, but the real test will be P1 at Melbourne in March. See you there.
David Hobbs is the F1 analyst for NBC Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MrDavidHobbs.
Dec 7, 2013, 7:00 PM EST
A few minor bits and pieces of news around the IndyCar Series and the Mazda Road to Indy have popped up over the last couple weeks. Here’s a quick roundup, since the last one we did a couple of weeks ago: Besides Tony Kanaan having his first running in Chip Ganassi Racing IndyCar machinery, Francesco…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:00 PM EST
After a successful first season racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland in Germany, Connor de Phillippi has been retained by the German manufacturer for a second season as a Porsche Junior driver. De Phillippi spent three seasons in Star Mazda here in the U.S., but when options failed to materialize for an advancement to…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:30 PM EST
Jimmie Johnson accepted his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship at the season-ending Awards Ceremony with humility, class and thanks for his predecessors and the people around him that push him to be better. In opening, Johnson tried to draw off his peers with at least that many titles, the pair of legendary seven-time champions…
Dec 7, 2013, 1:00 PM EST
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Dec 7, 2013, 11:10 AM EST
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Dec 6, 2013, 7:01 PM EST
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Dec 6, 2013, 6:00 PM EST
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship announced its entry list late Friday afternoon, with nearly 70 cars confirmed across the merged series’ four classes: Prototype (P, combination of ALMS P2, Rolex Series DP and DeltaWing, Prototype Challenge (ALMS PC), GT Le Mans (ALMS GT) and GT Daytona (Rolex GT, ALMS GTC). Here’s a link to the…
Dec 6, 2013, 5:35 PM EST
Reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson added some more trophies to his mantle during yesterday’s NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon. But he’s not the only driver that was honored during the event. Among the major awards given out yesterday was the NMPA Myers Brothers Award, which went to three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart. “Smoke”…
Dec 6, 2013, 4:30 PM EST
It’s happened before for Lotus. Can it happen again? In 2013, Romain Grosjean was able to transform from one of Formula One’s most inconsistent drivers to one of its better ones, closing the year with four podiums in the final six races. Now, the Frenchman will be paired with the incoming Pastor Maldonado (pictured), who…
Dec 6, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
At last night’s NASCAR After The Lap show in Las Vegas, Jimmie Johnson indicated that he and his Hendrick Motorsports team’s efforts to re-create “The Hangover” weren’t quite done yet. Sure enough, he was telling the truth. In their re-creations, the group have used everything from stuffed chickens and tigers to a toy baby. Even…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:10 PM EST
Formula One’s top developmental league, the GP2 Series, will embark on an 11-race schedule next season with new stops at Austria’s Red Bull Ring and Russia’s new street circuit at Sochi Olympic Park. All 11 events will be held as support races on Formula One Grand Prix weekends. The season will unofficially begin in March…
Dec 6, 2013, 1:25 PM EST
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Dec 6, 2013, 12:14 PM EST
As a rookie stepping into one of the top seats in Formula One, Kevin Magnussen is under no illusions about the challenge he’ll face at McLaren in 2014. The Dane seems to have the right attitude, though, as he has basically been preparing for this role for nearly 20 years. “McLaren has been part of…
Dec 6, 2013, 12:00 PM EST
On Thursday, the Coca-Cola Company was awarded the 2013 NASCAR Marketing Achievement Award at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon held in the Encore Ballroom at Wynn Las Vegas. This marked the third time Coca-Cola has achieved this award, the first time any company has won that. Since 1998, although Coca-Cola has not opted to…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:45 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Placing sixth in the…
Dec 6, 2013, 11:15 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. Now comes our fifth-place…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:45 AM EST
After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, my colleague Tony DiZinno and I are now going to start taking a look back on how each of the 13 Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders fared this past year. We’ll continue on with…
Dec 6, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
Antonio Felix da Costa has been named a Red Bull Racing reserve driver for 2014, alongside Sebastien Buemi who continues in the role for a second season. Da Costa was widely tipped to replace Daniel Ricciardo at Scuderia Toro Rosso, but the team opted for Daniil Kvyat instead. Da Costa finished third in this year’s…
Dec 6, 2013, 9:44 AM EST
Jean Todt has won re-election as FIA President to a second four-year term, with the path made slightly easier by the fact he ran unopposed. David Ward, who announced his candidacy in August, withdrew in November. Over the next four years, Todt called his outline “ambitious,” but “built on the solid foundations of reforms” from…
Dec 5, 2013, 5:54 PM EST
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