Well the first official test of the 2011 season has come to an end in Valencia with Lotus-Renault GP driver Robert Kubica ending the time sheets on top. Despite technical problems early in the final day of running, he came out ahead of Adrian Sutil and Jenson Button running interim 2010 cars and Mark Webber’s RB7 in 4th. It was interesting to see the top 10 drivers spread by just 1.6 seconds as the day came to a close, with only Hispania’s Narain Karthikeyan and Jarno Trulli’s Lotus falling outside this range; the latter of whom did not complete a single competitive lap time during the day as he waited for new power steering components to arrive. It was also interesting to see Virgin’s Timo Glock finishing 6th overall and just 1 second off of Kubica’s pace setting time, but of course fuel loads are totally unknown at this early stage of testing. The thing I find most interesting however are the post test comments made by the teams and drivers:
‘Red Bull have done an awesome job’ Mark Webber said on the new RB7; Kubica said he was ‘satisfied’; ‘Happy’ was how Sebastian Buemi felt after his first taste of the STR6; Button feels that the new MP4-26 was ‘built for him’; Williams rookie Pastor Maldonado said the first impressions of the FW33 were ‘really good’; and Sauber rookie Sergio Perez was also ‘very happy’. Even Hispania, having finished 3.3 seconds off the pace, declared themselves ‘really satisfied’. ‘Obviously the lap times are not so important’ the teams' new Indian recruit said post-test… Well, sorry Narain, but they are actually pretty damn important!
I always find it fascinating at this time of the year when the teams talk up their chances ahead of the seasons opening round, yet I wonder how many of them are sitting down in their debriefing sessions saying to themselves, ‘F#@%! We have really messed this up!’ Wouldn’t that make for a headline! It’s almost as if every year the drivers get so accustomed to driving their every day road cars during the winter, that when they arrive for the first test they’re just blown away by how good F1 cars are again! In which case, I’d be really satisfied too driving a Hispania shitbox!
Nevertheless, time will be the judge as the opening round in Bahrain draws nearer and with just 12 days of testing left until opening practice in the desert city, the true pecking order will soon come to light and the facts sifted from the annual pre-season bullshit.