D as are the facts of the first four days of the test: 14,949 Kilometers, 3,380 laps, 724 tires and a best time that, for once, did not go to Red Bull. Romain Grosjean set the fastest lap of the new cars with 1.18.419 minutes. A surprise for many. They had neither the new Lotus E20 nor the returnee Grosjean given it.
The McLaren press department was apparently also astonished. In the press bulletin from the third day of the test, it was not Romain Grosjean that was entered, but Kimi Raikkonen. But by then it had long since flown home. The Jerez test week answered some questions, but also left some answers open. For example: Who should prevent Sebastian Vettel from winning the third world title?
Vettel competition takes full risk
The usual suspects Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button don't have the car right now. While Red Bull continued to develop its successful concept, Ferrari and McLaren wanted to reinvent the racing car with risky solutions and alternative approaches. This shot backfired at first. This is how you make life easy for Vettel.
The new Red Bull RB8 is a good racing car. Mark Webber compares the first feeling 'to the RB7 in its early stages'. Only the idle times were longer than in the previous year. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber achieved a total of 297 laps. The two Lotus pilots completed 430 laps in the same period.
Otherwise, the new Red Bull did what the wind tunnel data and simulations had promised. The lap times were fast and consistent. The car is predictable and reacts logically to changes in set-up. You looked into satisfied faces. 'I'm happy with the first week,' Vettel commented on the start of the new season. 'Of course there is less grip, but you get used to it quickly.'
Alonso is slower than Lotus despite show time
His main opponents, however, left Jerez with mixed feelings. Ferrari has a lucky bag. A car that the engineers and drivers have yet to get to know. The chronology of Fernando Alonso's fastest lap on Friday shows that Ferrari had sent the Spaniard out on the track with an order for a show time. Alonso put the soft tires out in the morning when the conditions were ideal for record laps.
The team needed a sedative because back homethe media was already increasing the pressure. Let us assume the best case for Ferrari: Alonso and Grosjean were on board with similarly little gas. Alonso with the tire brand soft, Grosjean with medium. The time difference was 0.458 seconds. Plus the tire advantage. Plus the Alonso factor. Then the Ferrari should be a second slower than the Lotus at the moment.
Ferrari F2012 is bitchy
Superstar Alonso also needs one against a Sebastian Vettel in Red Bull Winning car. The ex-champion has to pray that Ferrari will quickly find the right combination in the data jungle. Bitchy racing cars don't have to be bad. There are examples where things went really well, but only in a very narrow voting window. The Ferrari F2003-GA was such a car. Or the McLaren MP4-15 from 2000.
This then requires a driver in the cockpit who feels comfortable walking this tightrope. Alonso would be one of them. Felipe Massa would probably have a hard time. At Ferrari you get the feeling that the F2012 has exactly this problem in it. The car is so different from its predecessors that Pat Fry, Nicolas Tombazis and Co. have to decipher it and find the magic window.
Is McLaren right with a deep nose?
With McLaren the case is a little different. McLaren stayed true to itself. Cars from Woking have been down noses for decades. So this time too. The concept is different from the rest, but no different from what the McLaren technicians know. But is it also correct? Lewis Hamilton expressed his doubts for the first time in Jerez: 'When I saw that all other cars have high noses, the question arises: Are they right or we?'
Adrian Newey does not build a car for nothing high nose. If he could, he would have been the first to put his nose down just to get the awful kink out of the chassis. But he says: 'Since the rule reform in 2009, only the high nose makes sense.'
McLaren without this season Super trick
Reality could overtake McLaren this year. Namely, that the success of the last three years was solely due to the fact that there was always a great trick that concealed the handicap of the deep nose. 2009 the double diffuser. 2010 the F-shaft. 2011 the blown diffuser. Now there is nothing left that gives you the lap time in XXL format. Classic design features and detailed work are now required. This could be the death knell for the deep nose.
When Lewis Hamilton set his personal fastest lap on Thursday with 1.19.464 minutes, the sentence slipped out of his mind. 'We were aggressive with the fuel.' That would mean: The McLaren is a whole second slower than the Lotus at the moment.
Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will be in Barcelona at the latestknow where the journey is going. There could be confirmed what Hamilton noticed in Jerez: 'The car is difficult to control in fast corners.' Vettel's first diagnosis sounds completely different: 'In fast corners I feel the slightest difference from before.'
Danger for Vettel from team mate Webber?
If Alonso, Hamilton and Button fail as opponents for Vettel, need other names. Mark Webber, for example. The enemy in your own house. The Australian wants to know again. 'I feel stronger than ever before.' Some will say that David Coulthard and Rubens Barrichello used to always motivate themselves with such slogans, but the third place in the World Cup shows the new freshness. It's like his very last run on the big goal.
Webber is one of those drivers who can only call up a really great performance every few years and who need a break in between. Damon Hill was one of those cases. The 1996 world champion did not have the energy of Michael Schumacher to be top every year. At Webber, the omens are correct. He slimmed down, the car slimmed down. This means that the weight difference to Vettel no longer has such a serious effect on the weight distribution.
Vettel warns of Raikkonen
Sebastian Vettel has also had an eye on Kimi Raikkonen. 'If the car is as good as it looked at Jerez, then Kimi is a serious opponent.' Vettel knows the Finn. Raikkonen plays in the league of Alonso, Hamilton and Button. Even after a two-year break. It has the speed, the experience, the calmness and the bite, especially if the car fits.
Even the iceman cannot completely hide his feelings. You could tell at the end of the first day of testing. Raikkonen senses that he is sitting in a potential winning car. Now the only thing that matters is that Lotus doesn't miss out on further development. Because you can already hear from the Red Bull underground: Adrian Newey will only unpack his Joker at the last Barcelona test in March.