FEBRUARY 1, 2010
Valencia Test, Day 1
The 2010 Formula One pre-season kicked off today at the Valencia circuit, on the outskirts of the city of Valencia, Spain. Seven new cars hit the track on a day with fine weather, allowing most of the teams to put in significant mileage and learn more about their new cars.
Mercedes GP started off the day by revealing it's new chassis (along with Toro Rosso), and all eyes were focused on Michael Schumacher's return to Formula One. The German had to sit out the first three hours of the test, as his team mate Nico Rosberg was given the honour of being the first man to drive the Mercedes MGP W01. Any doubts one might had Schumacher's ability to still be able to perform at the highest level were quickly put aside, as he was on the pace from his first run and with the track conditions improving all the time he easily beat Rosberg's mark at the end of the afternoon, to finish with the third best time of the day.
The seven-times World Champion was delighted with his return to action, and said, "In a way I feel like I did in 1991, to be honest. When I first drove a Formula One car I was shocked on the first lap and extremely excited from the second lap onwards. It was exactly the same today and I feel like a young boy that has a new toy on his hands and is enjoying himself!"
When asked about how his physical conditioning Schumacher said, "I Feel fine. I have worked out very well and prepared myself in a extremely precise way and this is the result."
On the performance of the new MGP W01, Schumacher said he was very happy with the first day of running, "I think we have done a very good job. The team has done superb job in preparation for this test as all we had to do was some control checks, as the car ran reliably all day. We completed more than 80 laps today and for a first day of a new car that's a super job."
Schumacher will now take a day off on Tuesday while his team mate Nico Rosberg continues with the development work of the car. He will return to action on Wednesday for the final day of the test.
In his first proper test of an F1 car since his accident during qualifying for last year's Hungarian Grand Prix, Felipe Massa topped the time sheets for Ferrari, in what was the chassis' first run after the shakedown scheduled for Fiorano was cancelled due to bad weather conditions.
During the course of the day Massa was always amongst the quickest and having completed more than 100 laps with his new car was obviously happy with the way things had gone. He said, "The first impressions from the car are very positive. The car is easy to drive, has more grip than last year's car and it's also easy for the mechanics to work with. It was a very satisfying day, but clearly there's still a tremendous amount of work to be done, because out competitors are also very strong. We didn't have the slightest mechanical all day, and the grip was there from the first run and already then the car was already well balanced. Then we worked on the set-up and improved the car. That with the fact the track was also improved during the day allowed us to improve our lap times by quite a lot during the day."
When asked if he is feeling in good physical condition, the Brazilian reassured everyone, and said, "I felt one hundred per cent fit. I did one hundred laps and I could have done another one hundred laps, to tell you the truth. I ready to work with the team, I'm ready to race and I'm also very happy I'm back to where I was before my accident."
Massa will test on Tuesday, then handling over the car to his team mate Fernando Alonso on Wednesday.
Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa set the second quickest time of the day, in what was a good start for this new partnership. After seven years as test driver for McLaren, his first impressions of the C29 were quite good.
De La Rosa said, "I'm happy with this first day of work with my new team, with the way the car handled and with the way we worked. For me it was also a good test, as I adapted to the speed quite quickly, even though I haven't tested for nearly one year. Obviously I'm a bit tired but I feel better than I expected and I reached my limit quite quickly. My feeling for the car is good: it's stable, nice to drive and that's a good beginning. Obviously there are a lot of things to try, a lot of things to change, but I feel the baseline is good. And we didn't have any reliability issues, which is quite positive."
The Spaniard will rest on Tuesday, handling the car over to his team mate Kamui Kobayashi to have his first run with Sauber, and then returning to the wheel of the C29 on Wednesday.
Nico Rosberg only drove in the first part of the session and held the second quickest time when he stopped, but eventually slipped to fourth on the time sheets. On his first day of work with the team that won both championships last year, the young German was in a good mood.
Rosberg said, "The car felt great and everything worked the way it should, so it was a good way to start this relationship. Of course we have no idea of what the others were doing and with so many different fuel levels available it will take more time for everyone to know where they are in relation to the other teams."
Gary Paffett had a quiet day finishing fifth on the timesheets, and was the only driver to run the new McLaren MP4-25. The team conducted all the system checks in the first four hours of testing with no reliability issues hindering their progress. Later in the day McLaren sent him out for longer runs, and again his lap times were consistent, but running, allegedly, on a higher fuel level he didn't improve his earlier times and slipped down the order to fifth place. Lewis Hamilton will drive the car on Tuesday with World Champion Jenson Button taking over and making his first outing with the McLaren on Wednesday.
Rubens Barrichello was the only man to bring out the red flag during the day, when a throttle problem stopped him out on the circuit 25 minutes before the end of the session. The Brazilian admitted to some problems on his first day of testing with Williams, but was happy with the feeling he had for the car and the Cosworth engine.
Barrichello said, "We did struggle with the balance of the car, as we had too much understeer all day - a consequence of running with the narrower front tyres, so we'll have to work on that for the next two days. There were some small problems, as one has come to expect with new cars, but I felt pretty comfortable in the FW32 and I'm happy with the Cosworth. The engine was one of the reasons I really wanted to sign for Williams and today's running confirmed the feeling I had about the Cosworth engine."
The Brazilian will run the car again on Tuesday before handing the car over to Nico Hulkenberg for the final day of testing.
Sebastien Buemi's track time with the new Toro Rosso STR5 was limited by a gearbox control problem that kept him in the pits for nearly five hours, but eventually did enough running to avoid ending up with the slowest time of the day.
The Swiss driver felt it was, "too early to make any conclusions about the way the car handles. As I did very few laps at full speed, but the first impressions are good and I'm looking forward to a trouble-free day on Tuesday to have a better idea of where we stand."
Buemi will remain in the car on Tuesday, with his team mate Jaime Alguersuari taking over on Wednesday.
The Renault R30 of Robert Kubica ended the day with the slowest time, in his debut with the team, but that didn't seem to bother the Polish driver. Kubica said, "Of course it's nicer to be at the front, but lap times in testing are meaningless and depend more on the team's program than on anything else. Today we did what we had planned to do, we completed our program and I'm happy with the balance of the car and with the level of reliability we seem to have. Of course there are a lot of little things to be done in the car to improve it, but that's what we are here for and I didn't see or feel anything today that makes me worry about the pace of this car. I don't think we'll be in a position to win races in 2010, but we should do a good job, nevertheless."
Kubica will rum the car again tomorrow before new signing Vitaly Petrov gets his first run in a Renault on Wednesday.
Best Lap Times:
1. Felipe Massa (Ferrari F10), 1m12,574s (102 laps)
2. Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber C29-Ferrari), 1m12,784s (74)
3. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes MGP W01), 1m12,947s (40)
4. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes MGP W01), 1m13,543s (39)
5. Gary Paffett (McLaren MP4-25-Mercedes), 1m13,846s (66)
6. Rubens Barrichello (Williams FW32-Cosworth), 1m14,449s (75)
7. Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso STR5-Ferrari), 1m14,762s (18)
8. Robert Kubica (Renault R30), 1m15,000s (69)