News and views on motorsports

Friday, January 27, 2006

Testing Comments

At last, all the top teams have unveiled their challengers and are testing them in earnest. The scene for the 2006 season is starting to emerge. Prior to this Ferrari have been and still are topping the timesheets with the F2004 fitted with the new V8. Its interesting that Ferrari have been using the F2004 for testing rather than the F2005. Clear indication perhaps that last year's challenger was a monumental mistake for Ferrari. This despite Montezemolo's insistence that it was all the fault of Bridgestone.

My impression so far is that Renault and Honda are looking good during these tests. BMW have also been impressive from the times but with these mid field runners you can never tell until the first race is run.

Unlike 2005 where lap times during the long runs count for more as an indication of race performance, this year, where tyre changes are once again allowed, ultimate lap times I believe give us a better indication of the competitiveness of the teams. Once again, races will be run as a series of sprint races punctuated by stops for fresh rubber.

One team that so far has not looked good at all is McLaren. Neither Juan Pablo Montoya yesterday nor Kimi Raikkonen today have set the world alight with the MP4/21. The MP4/20 with V8 fitted does not impress as well. Perhaps the Mercedes Benz V8 is suffering from a lack of power? They're running pretty much the same number of laps as everyone else but their ultimate pace isn't there at all.

By contrast the lads at BAR are reporting a good and successful first test. Barrichello is said to be pretty pleased by his new mount. The car he says has no vices. Indeed the times look good right from the off.

Renault looks like a car of the same mould. Fernando Alonso leading the 2006 challengers from Button in the BAR. We should be watching for cars like these that look impressive straight out of the box. The teams will spend more time improving rather than playing catch up.

Michael Schumacher's run in the 248 F1 looks pretty decent although its only been a day. If the early months of 2005 proved to be good ones for Toyota, 2006 looks like its gone back to 2004 levels of competitiveness, meaning mid runner levels of pace. Not at all what a team aspiring to race wins wants right now. Especially when deadly rivals Honda looks to be blitzing the rest. I keep harping on this point but its fundamental. Honda's got one thing absolutely spot on compared to their rivals. They're based in the right country. Cologne is not where you want to be to build a championship team. I can't help but feel that if Toyota were based in England, where technical and manpower resources are more readily available, they wouldn't seem to be struggling year on year in mediocrity.

Still, its all early days yet. There are some 20 odd days of track running to go. It should be interesting to see how this all plays out. I still believe that this is still going to be a tough year to predict.

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