FEBRUARY 1, 2006
How well did Rossi do?
Valentino Rossi is no slouch in a racing car, but that does not make him a potential World Champion either and the idea that Ferrari would allow the Italian biker to race a car without him having the potential to win races is hard to believe. Rossi ended the day in Valencia with the ninth fatstest time of the day, ahead of five regular F1 drivers. If this reflected the reality of the situation it would not be outrageous for the teams to fire all the drivers as it can hardly be expected for a rookie with only a couple of racing car tests to his name to be able to compete with men who have been racing karts and cars for years and years. The reality is that Rossi was driving a 2004 Ferrari and this is a car which, because of regulation changes, is faster than the current machinery. The question that needs to be answered is how well did Rossi do when one compares his times to the times of others in the same car. The 2004 Ferraris have sat around not doing much in the course of 2005 and so there is probably not a bad comparison between the times which the cars set a year ago in tests and the times run today. Back then, with Michael Schumacher behind the wheel an F2004 lapped Valencia in 1m10.209s. Rossi's best time today was a 1m12.856s, which is 2.6secs away from the times a year ago. This can only ever be a rough guide because of the many possible combinations of tyres, fuel loads and aerodynamic settings but it is as good as we are going to get. Ferrari engineers will have a much better idea of how Rossi did and whether ultimately he will have the potential to make it in F1. New drivers tend to take time to get down to the times and so one cannot write off Rossi completely as 2.6secs may seem a lot but is not bad at all given his experience. What will be more important is how he progresses in future tests.
Similarly the testing going on at the moment does not really show much because no-one knows who is doing what. For the record, however, Fernando Alonso lapped the track in 1m11.291s which was a fraction ahead of Jenson Button's Honda. Michael Schumacher was half a second off in his Ferrari and Juan-Pablo Montoya was next up for McLaren.
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