Date:Monday March 5 2012
The second test in Barcelona ended over the weekend and with it the final true days of testing for the teams.
The likes of Marussia have done some testing today (Monday) at Silverstone, while who knows what HRT have planned, but the chequered flag has waved on the official winter testing programmes.
So what have we learned? Well pretty much nothing, other than what the cars actually look like.
If the time sheets are to be believed Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus will be going head-to-head with Sergio Perez and Sauber for the 2012 Formula One World Championship as they were the two drivers to head the combined times after four days of testing.
Without Marussia and HRT in Barcelona, who would be the slowest over the four days? Oh that will be defending double F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull, completing 108 laps or 310 miles around the Catalunya circuit.
He was a full 1.331 seconds slower than Raikkonen's Lotus, but its likely that Vettel was completing long heavy fuel load stints, while Raikkonen may well have been doing testing to set up qualifying settings.
Overall it was a pretty mixed bag, Jenson Button's McLaren was third quickest, while Fernando Alonso's Ferrari was fifth, with Mark Webber in the quickest Red Bull in fourteenth and the Mercedes' of Rosberg and Schumacher sixteenth and seventeenth.
So what if anything have we learned?
Despite what the time sheets say, Ferrari were pretty pessimistic about their performance, highlighting just how worthless the time sheets actually are!
They have already stated that they are unlikely to be competitive enough to challenge for the podium in Australia and will be testing new parts, during the opening race of the F1 season.
'I am disappointed by our performance level at the moment, I think we've got a lot of work to do.' Ferrari technical chief Pat Fry told Autosport Magazine.
'The change we made last week to the exhaust position has put us a little bit on the back foot and we're trying to optimise to that. We've obviously still got a lot of work going on at the factory and we'll have new bits to test in Melbourne.'
There have been mixed messages coming out of Red Bull Racing. Obviously billed as the team to beat, Vettel has been quoted as not being completely happy with how things have gone for the team.
They've already ran an updated package, which was introduced over this final test, but reliability issues with the gear box, prevented them from completing the amount of runs that their rivals could achieve.
But that doesn't appear to be much of concern for Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner: 'I think it has been constructive. Looking back to 12 months ago when we were faced with a lot of KERS issues and so on, I think it has been a positive winter testing period.
'I don't think there is anything too different from the last couple of years. Certainly last year was tougher because KERS was a bigger issue and we ended up not running at the first race, but 12 months on KERS has hardly been mentioned this year.'
Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn was another happy team principal after testing, believing that the latest Mercedes was indeed an improvement on its predecessor: Some of the fundamentals are good, the cooling is good, the systems are working well and it means that all of our engineers can focus on finding performance from the very beginning.
'Whereas last year there was a lot of resource soaked up fixing problems with the car, so we have certainly moved a long way in 12 months.
But perhaps it was McLaren who left Barcelona the happiest? Their car has ran well throughout testing and over the final few days, like Red Bull, they introduced a new upgrade package in the form of aerodynamic upgrades.
But just like Red Bull, McLaren were not immune to technical issues and a hydraulic problem prevented Jenson Button from completing his full running programme.
'Immediately when we put the upgrades on it felt much better. There were some areas where we were lacking in the car, but we knew it would become better when we put the updates on.' Button said at the end of his testing stint on Saturday, 'It's great the upgrade we got today, but we weren't able to progress with it and get a perfect set-up. Hopefully tomorrow Lewis can have a nice, clean day and we can progress with it because there's still more to come. The feeling is positive though.'
Hamilton went on to complete 115 laps on Sunday and while he may have only sat sixth on the time sheets, he was completing race simulations and some analysts like Jamie O'Leary of Autosport Magazine, believes that Hamilton's laps were looking very strong overall.
So while others may have stolen the headlines, it looks like McLaren could be looking good heading into the final couple of weeks of the winter before the lights go out in Australia.
Date:Monday March 5 2012
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