T he Grand Prix of Barcelona started at 2.30 p.m. Only two teams competed. Red Bull sent Mark Webber into a racing simulation. Mercedes was represented by Michael Schumacher. Two hours later, the result was clear. Red Bull won. 'I think we had it under control,' said Mark Webber. Team boss Christian Horner also seemed relieved: 'We are happy with this day.' Red Bull feared until the very end that Mercedes might have built a miracle car.
Mercedes still leaves room
At the beginning of the turns, the lap times were in the long distance duel between the two opponents is not far apart. But the older the tires got, the more Red Bull's lead grew. At the end of the turn, Webber was on average more than a second faster. That doesn't have to be an alarming sign. The tires play a major role. And whether the drivers set off with a starting weight of 140 or 160 kilograms in the tank. Even then, there is still scope to disguise the true potential.
Mercedes was always on the road with used tires. That would explain why the lap times dropped earlier. 'There are sometimes glaring differences to new tires,' explains Jenson Button, who set out for an endurance run a little later. 'Our times were not comparable to those of the other two. We were on the track at a later point in time. After 3:30 pm, the asphalt temperatures drop so far that some types of tires fall out of their working window.'
Different tire strategies
Schumacher started his racing simulation like Webber on soft tires. The Mercedes driver then chose the hard mixture three times. Webber mixed it up. Soft was followed by hard, then medium and finally soft again. However, the Australian drove with a handicap. A gearbox failure kept him in the garage for half the morning. 'I couldn't set up the car at all and I'm practically cold in my racing simulation. For me, the vehicle felt better in Jerez.'
Michael Schumacher continued to display cautious optimism. 'It was a positive day because we drove without any problems. The new car is a step forward, but I still can't say how big it is and whether it's enough to improve space.'