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ARE FERRARI FOXING?

The big question now arising from the “Winter World Championship” is, are Ferrari foxing or has Michelin really got the jump on Bridgestone in the tyre stakes. Despite apparently going for some quick, low-fuel runs on what Bridgestone techs believed to be their softest and fastest tyres Michael Schumacher could manage no better than fifth outright in the latest two tests at Valencia and Jerez. More damning was that Rubens Barrichello could not even break into the top ten in either test. Only time, and Melbourne, will tell.

Ferrari’s biggest problem is that they are now the only major team on Bridgestone tyres and therefore the major Michelin runners, B.A.R., Renault, Williams and McLaren, have been able to do vastly more testing and evaluation and seem to have come up with a better product. Both Renault and McLaren, in particular, have been both reliable and quick, getting at least one car into the top four in both tests. At Valencia it was the two McLarens of Raikkonen and Wurz followed by the two Renaults of Alonso and Fisichella with Trulli in fifth and Michael Schumacher in sixth, a whopping 1.2 seconds off the pace. BAR have been occasionally very quick, Button topped the times at Jerez, but the Honda engine has had a tendency to go pop at the least opportune moment. Even Toyota and Sauber, who recently swapped from Bridgestone, have been occasionally getting a car in front of the Ferraris although their speed has been a bit erratic. The only major Michelin runner to not show any great speed with their new car, unfortunately for Australian fans, is Williams, who more often than not were in the bottom half of the top ten in these two tests.

Williams started the test at Valencia in good form but as everyone else lowered their times, the Williams duo’s pace remained static. Things got worse at Jerez with, apart from a low-fuel flier from Heidfeld netting second on day two, Webber and Heidfeld were propping the lower half of the top ten or worse. Then came the comments such as; “lots of work to be done before Melbourne” and “we will have some new parts for Melbourne which should make us quicker”. One hopes that the hard work and new bits pay off. Imagine a season in which Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Renault and BAR are all constantly fighting for and scoring wins and Toyota is nipping at their heels. The stuff of dreams.

McLaren took one new and one old car to Valencia to do some comparisons. Wurz in the old car was fastest on the first two days but Raikkonen put in a blinder on day three to set the top spot of the test. They arrived at Jerez with three new cars for Montoya, Raikkonen and De la Rosa and although Raikkonen’s test was rather brief, he only ran on the fourth day, Montoya was delighted with the MP4/20. In a new aero tweak since Valencia, McLaren has added a large pair of wings off the airbox that can best be described as looking like Viking horns. Montoya called it his “Darth Vader” car.

Where McLaren are very quick over a short stint, Renault are very consistent and quick over a race distance. Alonso and Fisichella were third and forth overall at Valencia and second and forth overall at Jerez although both suffered from minor reliability woes at Jerez. BAR had mixed fortunes with Jenson Button topping the Jerez test but Sato had two huge crashes, one on the first day when a rear wing collapsed and another on day two whose cause still mystifies the team.

Toyota were able to put up times in both tests similar to that of the best Ferrari with Jarno Trulli finishing just in front of Michael at Valencia and just behind him at Jerez and even Sauber were able to put Felipe Massa at the top of the timesheets on day one at Jerez. Jacques Villeneuve, however, seems to be struggling in his comeback attempt and finished his test down in 21st place and over three seconds off the pace.

As Melbourne gets closer some of the teams are starting to show off their weird and wonderful aero tweaks with which they hope to claw back some of the lost downforce. Apart from the “horny/Darth Vader/Viking” McLaren, Sauber have showed off a bi-plane front wing which has a secondary pair of wings running from the top of the wing end-plate connecting to the bottom of the raised nose-cone. Ferrari have a small, two-plane wing connected to the bottom of the main front wing and protruding forward, making it a sort of tri-plane. More comments about the Red Baron and his Focker can only be a matter of time. Jordan, who ran both Tiego Monteiro and Narain Karthekian at Silverstone, have added large wings to the cockpit sides just in front of he top of the side-pods and Paul Stoddart has announced that the new Minardi, when it comes out sometime around the San Marino GP, “will look like nothing else on the grid”. Can’t wait.

VALENCIA FORMULA 1 TEST Feb 1-5

BEST TIMES

DRIVER CAR TIME 1 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren MP4/20 1'09.005 (3) 2 Alexander Wurz McLaren MP4/19C 1'09.201 (1,2) 3 Fernando Alonso Renault R25 1'09.992 4 Giancarlo Fisichella Renault R25 1'10.135 5 Jarno Trulli Toyota TF105 1'10.198 6 Michael Schumacher Ferrari F2004M 1'10.209(4) 7 Nick Heidfeld Williams FW27 1'10.336 8 Takuma Sato BAR 007 1'10.465 9 Mark Webber Williams FW27 1'10.538 10 Jenson Button BAR 007 1'10.559 11 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari F2004M 1'10.681 12 Ralf Schumacher Toyota TF105 1'10.777 13 Olivier Panis Toyota TF105 1'11.061 14 Anthony Davidson BAR 007 1'11.406 15 Pedro de la Rosa McLaren MP4/20 1'11.729 16 Ricardo Zonta Toyota TF105 1'11.841 17 Adam Carroll BAR 007 1'12.172 18 Enrique Bernoldi BAR 007 1'12.298 19 Marc Gene' Ferrari F2004B 1'12.744 20 Alan van der Merwe BAR 007 1'13.117 21 James Rossiter BAR 007 1'14.736

(-) best on day

JEREZ FORMULA 1 TEST Feb 8-12

BEST TIMES

DRIVER CAR TIME 1 Jenson Button BAR 007 1'15.680 (4) 2 Fernando Alonso Renault R25 1'15.732 (3) 3 Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren MP4/20 1'16.198(2) 4 Giancarlo Fisichella Renault R25 1'16.654 5 Michael Schumacher Ferrari F2004M 1'16.668 6 Jarno Trulli Toyota TF105 1'16.743 7 David Coulthard Red Bull RBR1 1'16.822 8 Felipe Massa Sauber C24 1'17.273 (1) 9 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren MP4/20 1'17.336 10 Nick Heidfeld Williams FW27 1'17.387 11 Mark Webber Williams FW27 1'17.421 12 Vitantonio Liuzzi Red Bull RBR1 1'17.439 13 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari F2004M 1'17.449 14 Christian Klien Red Bull RBR1 1'17.583 15 Ricardo Zonta Toyota TF105 1'17.719(5)16 Ralf Schumacher Toyota TF105 1'17.773 17 Pedro de la Rosa McLaren MP4/20 1'17.958 18 Takuma Sato BAR 007 1'18.150 19 Anthony Davidson BAR 006C 1'18.296 20 Enrique Bernoldi BAR 006C 1'18.585 21 Jacques Villeneuve Sauber C24 1'18.612 22 Luca Badoer Ferrari F2004B 1'18.687 23 Nelson Piquet Jr BAR 006C 1'20.835

(-) Best time on day

Sam Snape
16-02-05

HEIDFELD GETS THE NOD

As this site predicted, Nick Heidfeld was announced today as the second race driver for the Williams team for the 2005 season. At the launch of their new car, the FW27, Frank Williams named Heidfeld as the race driver and Antonio Pizzonia as the test and reserve driver. “We have decided, at the last minute, that Nick Heidfeld would be the team’s regular driver. It wasn’t an easy decision to make.

“There was little to chose between the two of them, and we were in a fortunate position to be able to chose between two drivers who would be a credit to any Formula 1 team. Ultimately, however, it is Nick who got our vote, but I am delighted that we have strength in depth with Antonio taking up the position of official test and reserve driver.”

Nick Heidfeld, predictably, commented; “I really wanted this job. Driving for Williams is the greatest opportunity of my career. I will do everything I can to show that I deserve this place and I’m counting the days to the first Grand Prix.

Mark Webber admitted that he was pleased to see Heidfeld become his team-mate. "It's been a fairly heavy fight for the seat and I'm happy to be Nick's team-mate. I haven't had any podiums like Nick has and I'm looking forward together with him to push the team forward."

Having a German in the second seat will not be disappointing for engine supplier BMW, either, who had been pushing for Heidfeld’s inclusion in the team for some months. It had been hoped that he may have tested the Williams last year with a view to replacing the injured Ralf Schumacher but this was blocked by Heidfeld’s then boss, Eddie Jordan who didn’t want to lose his star driver.

Sam Snape

01-02-05

HEIDFELD CLOSES IN

The battle for the number two seat has concluded with Nick Heidfeld again outpacing Antonio Pizzonia on the only day that they ran similar programmes. Heidfeld suffered an engine failure on the first day to finish half a second down on Pizzonia but on the second day, when they were both put on the same programme with identical fuel loads, Heidfeld edged out his team mate and topped the days times. Pizzonia set the overall second best time for the test on day three, however this was after Heidfeld had departed the test and the pressure was off. Pizzonia is a quick and promising driver but Heidfeld, with less experience with the team, settled in remarkably quickly, provided good feedback and has been generally the quicker of the two. I cannot see anything but Heidfeld being named as Williams’ number two driver on Monday.

Red Bull’s David Coulthard surprisingly topped the test times with a rapid 1’09.175 and once again Klien proved the quicker of the two aspirants for the second seat on the one day that he and Liuzzi ran together. Liuzzi set the forth overall best time, over a second faster than Klien, but this was after Klien had left the test. Klien startled everyone by being the quickest on day one. All in all a good test for Red Bull, despite the fact that they were the only team still using last years (faster) cars, after the turmoil of having both their popular team principal, Tony Purcell, and managing director, Dave Pitchforth inexplicably fired and replaced by Christian Horner and Gunther Steiner, who had previously sacked from the job when the team was called Jaguar.

One of the teams running their 2005 cars was Toyota who had Trulli, Panis and Zonta continuing to rack up miles in the TF105 with Trulli finishing 7th fastest overall. The new BAR 007 was a bit disappointing with both Sato and Button being off the Toyota’s pace and with more engine problems from the new Honda. Another two enormous engine failures during this test, makes it a total of four since the new car began testing just last week.

Renault were the fastest “new car” team at Valencia as they debuted their latest car, the R25. It was a promising start with Alonso, despite encountering hydraulic problems, finishing the test with the 6th best time ahead of Trulli and with Fisichella ending up just one tenth slower than the Toyota’s quickest time.

Meanwhile, at Catalunya, Ferrari turned up with the car that they will start the 2005 season, the 2004M. Michael Schumacher gave the car its first public outing and ended up second fastest to team-mate and test driver, Luca Badoer in the interim car. Despite an oil leak on Schumacher’s car on day two the Ferraris ran like clockwork and raced up a total of 402 laps between them.

Juan Pablo Montoya briefly ran the new McLaren, the MP4/20 on the first day and although putting in just 37 laps was only half a second down on Schumacher’s time. One expects that it will get faster once it has a serious hit out over a longer test.

Sauber were also on hand to test the reliability of their new car and although off the pace of the Ferraris, covered over 1400 kilometres on one engine before Jacques Villeneuve brought proceedings to a premature halt by having a big accident at the forth gear Campsa corner, completely destroying the right rear corner of the car.

VALENCIA

BEST TIMES DRIVER CAR TIME 1 David Coulthard Jaguar R5B 1'09.175 (3) 2 Antonio Pizzonia Williams FW26C 1'09.447 3 Nick Heidfeld Williams FW26C 1'10.079 (2) 4 Vitantonio Liuzzi Jaguar R5B 1'10.224 5 Franck Montagny Renault R24 1'10.252 (4) 6 Fernando Alonso Renault R25 1'10.398 7 Jarno Trulli Toyota TF105 1'10.597 8 Giancarlo Fisichella Renault R25 1'10.636 9 Takuma Sato BAR 007 1'10.803 10 Anthony Davidson BAR 006C 1'10.841 11 Christian Klien Jaguar R5B 1'11.241 (1) 12 Olivier Panis Toyota TF105 1'11.460 13 Jenson Button BAR 007 1'11.557 14 Ricardo Zonta Toyota TF105 1'12.676 15 Andy Priaulx Williams FW26C 1'12.790

(-) fastest on day

BARCELONA

BEST TIMES DRIVER CAR TIME 1 Luca Badoer Ferrari F2004B 1'15.446 (1,2,3) 2 Michael Schumacher Ferrari F2004B 1'15.902 3 Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren MP4/20 1'16.536 4 Felipe Massa Sauber C24 1'17.470 5 Jacques Villeneuve Sauber C24 1'18.108

(-) fastest on day

Sam Snape

31/01/05

NEW CARS AND OWNERS

Valencia’s Ricardo Torno circuit was the venue for the unveiling of the second and third new cars for 2005. Both BAR and Sauber showed up with their new cars and of the two the BAR was generally the quicker. The BAR 007 in the hands of Button and Davidson completed three days of running and set quite good times, but they did have two engine failures so Honda seems to have some work to do.

The test was dominated by McLaren with Montoya being quickest on day one and Alexander Wurz topping the sheets for the remaining two days. Wurz was in fact, over a second faster than anyone else during the test with a time of 1’09.510.

Renault were also there, still with last years cars and ended up with second and third best overall times to Alonso and Montagny respectively. They continue to rack up plenty of miles for Michelin.

Sauber turned up with their new C24 model with Jacques Villeneuve at the wheel for the first two days doing set-up and long distance work and Felipe Massa, who took over on the final day to record the forth best time of the test.

Meanwhile, at Jordan a deal has been struck for Russian born Alex Shnaider to take control of the team. The team will continue, for 2005 at least, to be called Jordan Grand Prix but may change its name to Midland in the future. This means that Shnaider’s Midland F1 team that was to use Dallara designed chassis next year will now no longer have to pay the $48 million entry deposit and will have immediate access to Jordan’s F.O.M. funding.

Eddie Jordan confirmed that he will continue to play a role in the team, taking on the role of commercial director while Shnaider will be the team principal. “I will remain involved with the team throughout the 2005 season and will be working with Jordan in a variety of capacities as we move forward.

“I have devoted 35 years of my life to motor racing and have had some really fantastic times. The last fourteen years when I have been lucky enough to be involved in Formula 1 have been a highlight, naturally, and winning our first Grand Prix in 1988, which broke the grip that the top teams of the time had on the sport, is for me a personal triumph.”

One hopes that Eddie will continue with the team in the longer term, it really would be a shame to lose his flamboyant style for ever.

BEST TIMES DRIVER CAR TIME 1 Alexander Wurz McLaren MP4/19C 1'09.510 (2,3) 2 Fernando Alonso Renault R24 1'10.688 3 Franck Montagny Renault R24 1'11.179 4 Felipe Massa Sauber C24 1'11.215 5 Jenson Button BAR 007 1'11.255 6 Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren MP4/19C 1'11.336 (1) 7 Takuma Sato BAR 006C 1'11.388 8 Anthony Davidson BAR 007 1'11.499 9 Enrique Bernoldi BAR 006C 1'11.724 10 Jacques Villeneuve Sauber C24 1'12.217

(-) fastest on day

Sam Snape

23-1-05

FERRARI TOPS THE LIST

Ferrari broke out of their winter hibernation and topped the timesheets at the end of the latest test at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. This, however, was not all that it seemed. Michael Schumacher in last years car was the one at the top of the list, were it should be but in the car running with this years aero package they struggled to better the times set by the new Toyota. Indeed on day 1 Michael was six tenths slower than Trulli and only marginally faster on day two. It was only on the final day that Rubens Barrichello managed to slip in a fast time on a day that the Toyotas were beset by engine and hydraulic dramas.

Toyota themselves were content to concentrate on set-up work on the new cars although this was hampered by the very slippery track conditions as well as the mechanical problems. With only four cars running this years package, which has about 20% less downforce, it was no surprise that the two new Toyotas were near the bottom of the timesheets overall. The only other two were the Ferraris and of them on Barrichello broke under the 1 minute 17 second barrier with his quick day four time.

The only other two teams in attendance both continued their respective “driver shoot-outs” with once again Nick Heidfeld proving a match for Antonio Pizzonia in The Williams and Christian Klien showing a clean pair oh heels to Liuzzi at Red Bull. Although Pizzonia actually pipped Heidfeld for the first time here it was mostly because his fast time was set late in the day on a cooling track with fresh tyres. Heidfeld however, was still very impressive, setting second best time on day two, just three tenths behind team leader, Mark Webber.

At Red Bull, David Coulthard continued to show his ability and actually topped the charts on day three with the third best time of the entire test. Despite a massive head on crash into the barriers Klien still set a time exactly one second faster than Liuzzi’s best although Liuzzi impressed when he beat both Klien and Coulthard on day two.

If I had to guess who the number two drivers will be at these teams, it would be Heidfeld for sure, and probably Klien, who has the benefit of a years experience, with Liuzzi as the Friday tester. If Liuzzi proved the faster of the two over the first four races I would then start thinking about a switch.

BEST TIMES DRIVER CAR TIME 1 Michael Schumacher Ferrari F2004 1'15.461 (1) 2 Rubens Barrichello Ferrari F2004B 1'16.131(4) 3 David Coulthard Jaguar R5B 1'16.134(3) 4 Antonio Pizzonia Williams FW26C 1'16.230 5 Mark Webber Williams FW26C 1'16.627 (2) 6 Olivier Panis Toyota TF104B 1'16.796 7 Nick Heidfeld Williams FW26C 1'16.954 8 Christian Klien Jaguar R5B 1'17.035 9 Jarno Trulli Toyota TF105 1'17.335 10 Ralf Schumacher Toyota TF105 1'17.490 11 Vitantonio Liuzzi Jaguar R5B 1'18.035

(-) fastest on day

Sam Snape

22-01-05