JANUARY 10, 2002
No surprises yet in Barcelona testing
THERE has been a flurry of reporting about the first Formula 1 tests of the year with all the latest quotes being rushed out by the drivers. At the moment there is little that can be gauged from the tests as most of the teams are using older machinery and not really going for times. There is a considerable amount of work going on to test new parts, tires and engines. The fact that David Coulthard is fastest is not really a surprise as the car he is using is basically last year's MP4/16. Ferrari is not far behind with Luca Badoer driving so it is safe to assume that if Michael Schumacher was at the test he would probably have had the edge on the McLarens. The BMW Williams team is keeping a low profile and doing its homework quietly.
Renault is currently using the old Benetton chassis and is about where it would be expected to be in the pecking order and the three new cars which have been running: from Jaguar, Toyota and BAR have all failed to make a huge impression so far. In part this is because the testing has been mainly shakedown runs. Jacques Villeneuve said that he was pretty happy with the new BAR-Honda 04 and that it is a definite improvement over last year - but this is really not saying much as by the end of the year the BAR-Honda 03 was off the pace. Villeneuve said that there is a lot more to come when the car is developed some more - but this is true for all the other teams as well.
Toyota and Jaguar have so far not shown any pace at all, the best times being set by the two teams being some seconds from the best laps recorded by McLaren.
The tendency these days is for F1 news to be instant but it is going to be several weeks before a better picture emerges of who is going to be quick - and we will probably not know for sure until qualifying in Melbourne as the top teams are unlikely to be showing off their paces at this early stage. Letting the opposition know too early whether the car is quick or not gives the rival organizations the time (and the motivation) to make their cars go more quickly.
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