The three official F1 test sessions are now over and the cars are on their way to Australia, but what can we conclude from the 12 days of running?
When it comes to developing a grand prix car, one thing is set in stone. Mileage is everything.
Both HRT and Marussia are already behind the Eight Ball having not run their 2012 car for anything more than a handful of shake down laps (AKA “Film Days”).
Being fast in testing (like Lotus F1) means nothing if your car is unreliable or has a design problem (like Lotus F1) plus, with new designs of Pirelli rubber for 2012 the big factor is “drop off” – the difference in lap time between when you put the tires on and when you take them off – and McLaren have shown the best performance when it comes to this kind of consistency during long runs.
Red Bull have been fast too, but just like in 2011 they have had reliability issues – this time with the gearbox – and we will have to wait a couple of weeks before we we will see if Adrian Newey and the gang have designed something fast enough to compensate for its shortcomings.
Ferrari have been grumbling quietly to themselves and dealing with various niggling issues without being particularly fast. They could be sandbagging. They could just be slow…
Mercedes chose to run their 2011 car at the initial Jerez test in order to get a baseline on the 2012 vs 2011 Pirelli tires. It might be a masterstroke, but their 2012 car could probably have benefited from those 300+ laps.
Expected mid-pack runners – Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso – have all shown turns of speed and all of them have put down a lot of laps, though none more than Williams who have shown the switch to Renault power could put them back towards the front of the grid.
Finally, Caterham looks like it has made the transition from back marker to mid-pack and will be fighting for points during the season.