It finally started getting noisy again. First test of the year is a rather nervous affair with a first day of school feeling about it. No one really sure what’s going to happen.
Testing started in Valencia and the teams are making the usual “early to say much”, “everything went very well” and “very happy with the new car” noises one would expect.
I had a look through the grid and for the first time since 1999 there are four world champions lining up on the grid, and they are all in what should be competitive cars.
Mercedes is hot off winning both drivers and manufacturers championships last year and I don’t see how adding Schumacher to the mix is going to make them worse. Rosberg has never really shown he can sit with the really fast cars on the track. I doubt Michael will give him the chance, and what ever Ross Brawn says the team will be built around Michael challenging for the championship.
McLaren have the last two world champions in their cars. Last year when the team started testing they were about two seconds off the pace of the fastest cars and it took 8 months of hard work to claw that time back. McLaren does not make that kind of a mess twice and seem to be right there in Valencia.
Ferrari has Alonso joining Massa. Like the two McLaren boys this should be a fun battle to watch unfold over the next few months. I think Alonso should be the quicker, but potentially not by much.
The new rule changes are interesting, with no refueling and longer cars it’s going to help the smoother, finesse drivers more. It’s going to become all about tires and preserving them as fuel loads are equalized during the race.
Hamilton and Button have two very different driving styles; Button has the reputation for being unspectacular and very smooth. Hamilton on the other had is a little more spectacular in throwing the car around more. With a longer wheelbase dictated by the big fuel tank the car is not going to be as responsive to that style.
Looking at last year (I love stats and Wikipedia) Hamilton seemed to be at his best when the fuel load was lighter. Best example maybe Turkey, starting with a light car he just flew through the field, untill the first fuel stop took a lot of his advantage over the rest of the field away.
Going back to the last time there was no refueling (80’s and early 90’s, my personal F1 golden period) it was certainly the smoothest drivers that worked out how be gentle to their tires (Prost was the master, Piquet and Schumacher) did very well. Button, Alonso and (of course) Schumacher seem to be todays drivers whose style may allow fewer stops. I may add Weber to this list, not sure.
On the other side was what were known as the “putters” (as opposed to smooth driving “placers”). Senna and Mansell were notable “putters”; they drove the car hard and were more aggressive, but through style and set up were unable to make the tires last as long.
Personally I think Hamilton is quicker, he’s been with the team longer and he’s got motivation by the bucket load after loosing his title to his new team mate. The unknown and potential leveler for Button is the new rules that may suit him a little more. If Hamilton can adapt then that advantage is gone and Button gets beat.
If Red Bull can keep last years momentum going and the usual suspects turn up in competitive cars this is going to be fun to watch.