Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Barcelona Day One: Lost in Translation

Yesterday marked the beginning of the second pre-season Formula 1 test at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain. The Barcelona track hosted eleven of the twelve teams on the opening morning, with only HRT missing the first of four planned days of running. The Spanish team’s 2012 campaign has gotten off to a rocky start after its latest single-seater failed two crash tests in the run up to the second meeting of the season. Of the teams competing in this year’s World Championship, only HRT and Marussia have failed to turn a lap in their 2012 challengers and with only seven days of testing remaining (including today) it looks as though neither is destined to move closer towards the sharp end of the grid anytime soon.

HRT wasn’t the only team with woes in Barcelona after yesterday’s action. Lotus's E20, which had a very promising first test in Jerez, only completed a total of seven laps before Romain Grosjean was forced to sit out for the rest of the day. In the wake of the disappointment, Lotus technical director James Allison revealed that the E20 was experiencing chassis problems. “Before we were due to fly chassis E20-01 out to Barcelona in replacement of chassis E20-02- damaged this morning- we ran a series of simulations at the factory based on the data provided by our brief running on track today.” He stated “As a result, we were able to identify an area which requires some additional work. It will be more productive for us to carry out these modifications to both chassis at Enstone rather than send E20-01 out to this week’s test. We’ll put the right measures in place and we will be able to fix the problem before next week.” Even though missing the rest of the Barcelona test due to chassis problems is a huge and worrying setback, Eric Boullier is remaining calm and positive at least when speaking to the world’s media. “We draw faith from the fact that the E20 was quick out of the box in Jerez and showed its reliability there.” The Lotus team principal insisted “We have a lot of work ahead of us over the next week but everyone at Enstone is ready for this challenge.” Faith is most likely something that Boullier will be desperately hanging onto in the coming days.

One team that carried on its almost untarnished record during the first day of the test was Red Bull. Sebastian Vettel drove the intimidating Red Bull RB8 to the fastest time of the day, beating out Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg by just over three tenths of a second. Initially at least, the time itself did not seem particularly daunting, but when I discovered that Vettel had set it while on hard tyres, I was left to wonder exactly how fast the World Champion’s latest car is capable of going. No doubt the rest of the teams have taken notice and more than one aerodynamicist will be asking themselves exactly what they have to do in order to best Adrian Newey.

As for Ferrari, the Maranello-based team’s F2012 carried on its puzzling form by setting the fifth fastest time of the day. The team’s official website stated that they were concentrating particularly on data acquisition and trying to gain as much information about the new car as possible. Fernando Alonso once again reiterated that the only times that matter are those that the car sets during race weekends. “I know there is much expectation from the outside, but we are totally focussed on ourselves, without giving a thought to what is going on around us. We will only start to properly understand the situation in Melbourne.” Bizarrely and worryingly enough, the quote itself reminds me of something that my friend Walter came up with one afternoon while we were still in high school. Walter had just learnt how to drive and was explaining his driving philosophy to me “The key” he stated knowingly “is to focus only on yourself and not pay attention to the other cars around you!” Not surprisingly Walter was one of the worst drivers that I have ever met. He once even crashed his car into a parking stall in front of my apartment! Anyway, the point that I am trying to make is that while I’m happy that Ferrari are so focused on the task at hand, I hope that they aren’t completely oblivious to what’s going on around them. Hopefully whatever Alonso really meant to say was simply lost in translation!

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