Raikkonen the early pacesetter as F1 returns from winter hibernation
IT MIGHT have been a chilly start to proceedings, but Formula One 2012 breathed into life, as the cars took to the Jerez circuit this morning. This is the first winter test of three before the Australian Grand Prix on March 18 and gives the drivers their first opportunity to drive the new cars, new Pirelli tyres and adapt to new technical regulations, such as the banning of blown diffusers.
This morning, it was the Lotus Renault of Kimi Raikkonen that set the pace. The 2007 world champion, returning to the sport after two years away in rallying looked like he had lost none of his speed, with a time of 1 min 19.6 secs around the southern Spain circuit. Lotus technical director James Allison told Planet F1 that the initial pace should be downplayed. “The teams are doing a whole mixture of different programmes at the moment and we obviously don’t have any clear idea of what the others might be working on currently. We will start to know where we stand as things unfold over the coming days and weeks, but it’s still very early doors and the real picture will only come together when we get to Melbourne for the first race.”
There has been some criticism about the new noses, especially the step, ‘boxer nose’ which has been developed by the likes of Ferrari and Force India to meet the regulations criteria. McLaren are one of the only teams to go down the slope, more prettier route. Sky Sports pit analyst Ted Kravitz admitted this morning on the channel that the beauty element has gone; “Unfortunately, they won’t look any prettier, apart from the McLaren, who seemed to have gone down a different concept. The one that will be interesting is Red Bull, which was a strange online launch, so we only got a few pictures. It will be interesting to see how good that looks on the track.”
Due to new components arriving from the factory in Milton Keynes, Mark Webber could only manage eight laps before lunch, but still set the fifth fastest time. Paul di Resta was second fastest in the new Force India, 0.1 secs behind Raikkonen. Nico Rosberg was an impressive third fastest in a modified version of last year’s Mercedes GP. Mercedes won’t reveal their 2012 challenger until next week. The German has handed the driving duties over to Michael Schumacher this afternoon. McLaren and Ferrari had quiet mornings, with Jenson Button and Felipe Massa failing to trouble serious times.
All teams, excluding Mercedes are only running one driver per day. Marussia Virgin are the only team not present at this test, with Mercedes GP and Hispania running modified models of last year’s cars.
It is very early to predict how the season or even the week will unfold, but there was certainly no sign of rustiness from the Iceman, Raikkonen this morning.
UNOFFICIAL TESTING TIMES FROM JEREZ THIS MORNING – THE TOP 7
1. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus Renault) 1.19.670 (50 LAPS)
2. Paul di Resta (Force India Mercedes) 1.19.772 (52 LAPS)
3. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 1.20.219 (56 LAPS)
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.20.694 (40 LAPS)
5. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.21.472 (8 LAPS)
6. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber Ferrari) 1.22.112 (29 LAPS)
7. Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes) 1.22.316 (22 LAPS)