The weather turned unusually cold with even some snow in Barcelona, as the second pre-season test session ended, but the heat of competition is clear within Scuderia Ferrari after the first eight days of testing on Spanish soil. The F138 has shown it has got off on the right foot and although there is clearly much work to do to fully understand its behaviour, both drivers were in a positive frame of mind after driving it over these past two weeks.
Between Jerez and Barcelona, the car has racked up almost 3000 kilometres and there is still four more days of testing coming up at the Catalunya Circuit, prior to the team’s departure for Melbourne, where the 2013 championship gets underway on 17 March. Those remaining days will be used to complete the analysis of the car while also working on getting the most out of it, in its current configuration. A good team spirit is a vital part of preparation, in the weeks leading up to the Australian Grand Prix, with the drivers and team members all focussing in a cohesive manner on what lies ahead, whatever the intemperate weather might have in store for the next few days in Spain, prior to the final test session.
Over the four days in Montmelo, Fernando and Felipe completed a total of 363 laps, a tiny bit more than their main competitors. After getting an initial feel for for the F138 and carrying out some aerodynamic testing over the first two days, for his final day in the car, the Spaniard was able to look at set-up work and do a tyre comparison. He ended his first on-track appearance of the year with the second fastest time of the week, set on the Soft compound. It rained for much of the Brazilian’s one day at the wheel and he completed a very useful wet weather test for the team, setting reasonable times, reporting that the car handled well in the cold and slippery conditions. However, lap times still mean nothing at this stage and again this past week, it was difficult to draw any accurate conclusions as to the pecking order down pit lane: this is down to the big differences in the programmes being run and the fuel loads carried on a track where every 10 kilos of fuel costs three tenths of a second per lap. Next week, the team will bring the first few development parts planned for the F138 to Barcelona and will spend the final days of testing, running various race weekend simulations and only then is there a slight chance that a truer picture of the performance levels of the teams will emerge.
Another really unknown factor at the start of the year will be the behaviour of the new tyres. The entire Pirelli range features softer compounds than last year and that will make a difference, not just in qualifying, where we can expect to see quicker times- indeed this was already born out by the fact that this week’s test times were quicker than those on the Saturday of last year’s Spanish Grand Prix at the same track – but also in the race. Tyre wear is once again a topic for discussion and one will have to wait and see what this will really mean in terms of how many more pit stops might be necessary. The tyre factor will therefore give the drivers and team personnel something to think about, as well as injecting some unpredictability and spectacle, which is bound to go down well with the fans.