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None the wiser as F1 pre-season testing ends - A round up of lessons learned from 2011 testing

Published by Christine

Mercedes GP finished this week of testing in Barcelona on top, and with all pre-season running now complete, they've got the headlines that matter. Although it's clear there is nothing concrete to be gathered from the testing seen this year, there are some trends that are worth picking up on.

Too fast, too slow

Fernando Alonso faces an uphill battle in testing
Fernando Alonso faces an uphill battle in testingCredit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

Speed is the hardest thing to follow in testing, with so many different programmes and fuel loads on track at any one time. Unless you have all the data from all the teams and can make some complex calculations, you can only make vague guesses. Which is what I'm going to do right now. You'd be a fool to think that Red Bull aren't going to be just as strong as they were last year, but it looks like Ferrari may have closed the gap to them a little, whilst McLaren may have fallen back. Both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have mentioned the fact their car may need a bit of development.

There will be updates to every car by the time they get to free practice in Melbourne, and if any team can bring their car up to speed in the time allowed, it's McLaren.

The mid-field is harder to second guess. Toro Rosso put in some fast times, presumably under qualifying conditions, but is it possible they could have improved results this year? In fact, any weekend that could make them less invisible would be a step forward.

Sauber had a good result with Pérez during this final week, but equally it must have been a low-fuel run. His midweek chicane-cutting antics are simply suggestive of being a rookie, because it's unsual for a driver not to know Barcelona like the back of their hands.

How come everything around you is so soft and rearranged?

The new Pirelli tyres have been a hot topic in the paddock, with almost every driver offering up their thoughts on the unfamiliar rubber compounds. Paul Hembery, director of motorsport at Pirelli, has had his hands full for months trying to ward off all the criticism aimed at their tyres, and his latest discussions have been aimed at the multi-pitstop problem.

Considering we were having higher wear rates than we would anticipate in warm conditions, then it means a lot of the alarmist stories of having four or five stops are unlikely to be true, and are in fact quite false. In quite an extreme condition of wear, we were still looking at a three-stop strategy.

- Paul Hembery

I still think Sam Michael had it right when he spoke at the Williams launch. Pirelli are still working on development, the drivers will get used to it and the teams will learn how to set up the car to help. It's bound to be different from the days of Bridgestone days but that was always going to be the case. It'll be a couple of races before we can see the real extent of the degradation problem.

Halted at the gates

Liuzzi and Karthikeyan are sidelined in Barcelona
Liuzzi and Karthikeyan are sidelined in BarcelonaCredit: Hispania Racing

Where to begin with HRT? They announced Liuzzi very late, moments before unveiling their new car for the first time. Having tested with last year's chassis, and released only image renders of the F111, it was starting to look like it might not exist. The car was in Spain. At least, some of it was. With just two days of testing left for the team to try out their new car, the team were left in the garage waiting for spare parts.

The parts were shipped in but halted at customs meaning HRT couldn't leave the garage today either. It was exceedingly wet on the Circuit de Catalunya today anyway, so they would have had limited running, but as it stands the car will now debut in Australia. They don't seem to be any further forward than last year, which is a very worrying state of affairs.

To Melbourne, ho

With testing over, we've got just two weeks to fill before the 2011 action finally gets underway. The race in Australia is usually a chaotic and exciting season opener, so it may not be the best display of who is fast. It may be a couple of races in before we find out if any of the indicators from testing were pointing in the right direction.

All content in the series F1 Testing 2011