Good vibes for Ferrari during the Formula 1 test drives at the Circuit de Catalunya

Spanish Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was the fastest driver this week at the Montmeló F1 circuit, leading the field Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during the Formula 1 Test Days. However, the lap record was recorded by McLaren’s new driver, Mexican Sergio Pérez, who needed just 1 minute 21.848 seconds to complete the Catalan track.

Paco Cavaller

February 22, 2013 10:32 PM

Barcelona (CNA).- Ferrari, and Fernando Alonso in particular, turned on the heat all week during the pre-season tests at the Circuit de Catalunya. While still not recognised as the top team, the Italian manufacturer has confirmed that it is at the level of its main competitors, McLaren and Red Bull. In both qualification and race simulations the Ferrari put in a major performance and showed a high level of reliability. Now, all the F1 cars take a break until next Thursday, when the motors will roar again at the Catalan track for the last 4-day test before the first round of the F1 World Championship at Albert Park in Melbourne.

The highest time over the four days was notched up by Mexican driver Sergio Pérez with a time of 1 minute 21.848 seconds which he reached on Wednesday, the second day of practice. The best time on Thursday was the 1 minute 21.875 seconds made by Fernando Alonso a time that shows that the Ferrari F138 is on the heels of the McLaren.

Red Bull showed most of its potential two weeks ago, during the first testing days in Jerez, but in Montmeló they were more of a blur. Only Sebastian Vettel on Wednesday racked up a decent time but he was still 0.349 seconds slower than Pérez. Proof of the changes taking place is that while last year all the teams were trying to find out the key to Red Bull’s car performance, now it was Ferrari who took care to cover its car with a canvas, protecting it from Red Bull spies.

The “middle class” teams remain behind the leaders of the pack

Last year’s Formula 1 World Championship was astonishing because of the extreme equality gap between the top teams and those mid-table or “middle class” car manufacturers. If what we’ve seen during these tests is anything to go by, teams such as Lotus Rénault, Sauber, Williams or Force India, seem to be further from the top than last year. Nevertheless, some of these teams have turned in some decent performances: the Williams FW35 for example driven by Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas showed a high level of reliability, turning in 150 laps in a day without a hitch.

The Lotus car was driven by former World Champion Kimi Raikkonen on Tuesday and Wednesday, while Frenchman Romain Grosjean did so on Thursday and Friday. It was the Frenchman who completed a fast, reliable and regular race simulation of 60 laps on Thursday and showed the public that Lotus has everything in place for 2013. Another driver to make some noise during the race simulations has been Sauber’s Mexican rookie Esteban Gutiérrez in his official debut on the Formula 1 circuit.

Mercedes, Marussia and Toro Rosso take a step forward

All three teams have made a giant leap forward this season. Last year, the subsidiary team of Red Bull was somewhat lost between the three ‘slow teams’ (Caterham, Marussia and HRT) and the ‘middle class’ cars. This week at Montmeló the team has been competing with these ‘middle class’ cars and Jean-Eric Vergne has shown his improvement driving a single-seater.

As regards last years three ‘slow teams’, Caterham was also faster than Marussia and the Spanish HRT, which will not take part in the 2013 Championship due to a lack of funds. In this year’s pre-season tests Marussia has had the upper hand over Caterham in the table. New driver Max Chilton, has worked so well with the car since tests began in Jerez, he has displaced Caterham driver (and former Marussia driver) Charles Pic.

Last but not least, we must consider Lewis Hamilton’s new team: Mercedes. Along with Nico Rosberg, they have already shown that this year they pretend to fight for the Championship no holds barred and have the car to do so.

A rest week, a final test and an amazing kickstart in Melbourne

As for their plans for the next few days the Formula 1 teams will leave all their racing material at the Circuit de Catalunya and the drivers will come back to Barcelona next week in order to complete their final pre-season testing days from Thursday 28th of February till Sunday 3rd of March at the Catalan track. Two weeks later, a World Championship that is expected to be as exciting as last year’s starts with the Australian Grand Prix, at the semi-urban Albert Park circuit in Melbourne.