This is the warm, happy, fluffy time of year in Formula 1, before everyone discovers the true value of their 2012 cars and they can dream of great leaps forward and technical tweaks that really make a difference. The start of testing tomorrow will begin the process of disillusionment, although one must be a little careful about reading too much into the results that come from the tests. And the cars that go racing in Melbourne will not be like the cars that have been launched, at least not the cars from the big teams.
“All the teams will develop their cars, so the car that’s unveiled as they pull the cloth back will not be the car that’s being used in Q1 in Australia,” said Martin Whitmarsh at the recent McLaren launch. “There will be a greater evolution in some teams than others I would imagine. Is there grandstanding and sandbagging? Yes. Do all of the teams do it? To varying degrees. We don’t go out of our way to grandstand, as we’ve got a long-term serious programme. We see it every year, a team that may be on the point of a new sponsorship deal appears to be very quick in some tests and then suddenly doesn’t look quite so quick, when it gets to the first race. It is so easy as the weight sensitivity of F1 cars is such that you can make a car artificially a second or two quicker if you need to. We don’t do any of that. We could be accused of sandbagging in that we try to hold back a little bit. But, again, we don’t try and be too clever on ourselves. I think really testing for us is data gathering, it’s allowing our engineers to start to work with the drivers, understand the car, feed back information here so that we can do a better job of developing the car in the future, and to allow the driver and the race engineers to be in a position that they can optimise it at the right time, which isn’t during the winter tests. It’s when we get to Q1 in Australia.”
The winter testing is fairly simple this year. There will be 12 days of it. Tomorrow until Friday, and then an 11-day break before two back-to-back tests in Barcelona. The first starts on Tuesday, February 21 and runs until Friday, February 24. There is then another week break before the final test from March 1 to March 4.
Mercedes, HRT and Marussia have yet to unveil their new cars and both say that these will appear at the first of the Barcelona tests.