Tuesday, December 5, 2006

F1’s Young Guns

With Formula 1 testing having just completed its first round of winter testing this past week in Barcelona, the ever changing of the guard continues its forward march. The post Schumacher era sees a massive revamp of the Formula 1 teams and driver line-ups. With 2006 machinery running solely on Bridgestone rubber teams ran a gambit of data acquisition programs. Once again the time sheets improved daily as the track “rubbered-in…”

1. Renault:
Renault sent new race driver Heikki Kovalainen (Age 25) who will partner Giancarlo Fisichella in 2007 to Barcelona along with new testing recruit Nelson Piquet Jr. The 2006 GP2 runner-up. Piquet Jr. showed his speed by outpacing Kovalainen during the first two days of testing. On the third day of testing the “Reggie” apparently bolted on a fresh set of Bridgestone’s, emptied the fuel tank and sent Kovalainen on a “flyer.” Kovalainen responded by jumping up to third quickest lap at the end of Thursday’s testing…

2. Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro:
Ferrari sent current “hot-schue” Felipe Massa. (25) To Barcelona along with test drivers Luca Badoer and Marc Gene. Not surprisingly Massa topped the time sheets the first two days with Badoer third. Gene replaced Massa on day three while Badoer jumped to the top of the time sheets…
Meanwhile Kimi Raikkonen (26) who will join the Prancing Horse as Michael Schumacher’s replacement was on winter holiday… (Perhaps drinking Hakkinen’s Johnnie Walker?)

3. McLaren-Mercedes:
With McLaren boss Ron Dennis having just confirmed reigning GP2 Champion Lewis Hamilton. (21) As Fernando Alonso’s (25) teammate for 2007, the spotlight was focused brightly upon Hamilton’s debut…
McLaren sent the young Brit along with hopeful race driver Pedro de la Rosa to Barcelona. Double world champion Mika Hakkinen joined the squad on Thursday. De la Rosa showed his typical front row pace, (2nd: Day 1; 4th: Day 2) Hamilton was a very impressive sixth the first two days, while Hakkinen languished towards the tail end of the grid. Hakkinen had not tested in 5 years and spent a single day acclimatizing himself to the confines of his F1 cockpit. The reigning World Champion is currently on his honeymoon after marrying Raquel del Rosario, a Spanish singer in Maldives…

4. Honda
While team leader Jenson “Crash” Button is currently on holiday following cracking two ribs go karting, Honda sent Rubens Barrichello and tester James Rossiter to Barcelona. Barrichello who has tons of Bridgestone experience was a solid fifth fastest on Day 1. Rossiter soldiered on mid pack while new testing recruit Christian Klien joined the Honda party on day three. Klien did a solid job while making his Honda debut…

5. BMW-Sauber F1:
Polish F1 star Robert Kubica (21(continues pushing team leader “Quick Nick.” (Nick Heidfeld) who’s under even more German media scrutiny after Schumacher’s retirement. Heidfeld finished fourth with Kubica seventh respectively on Day 1. Heidfeld jumped to second quickest on Day 2 before making way for Timo Glock. Kubica jumped up the time sheets on Day 3 while being to only non-Ferrari driver to crack into the 1:16’s…
Although Heidfeld downplays the possibilities of race wins in 2007, look for BMW Sauber to keep improving next season.
Nineteen year old testing sensation Sebastian Vettel who’s under contract to Red Bull will continue as test driver, Glock may also see spot testing duties…

6. Toyota
Choosing to be different, Toyota showed up on day two to begin its winter testing program with veteran tester Oliver Panis logging the day’s fifth fastest time. New test driver Kamui Kobayashi posted the day’s slowest time while making his Toyota debut. Race drivers Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher then joined the fray Thursday and quickly got down to business. On Friday Toyota had the track to itself and both race drivers set quickest overall testing times…

7. Red Bull Racing:
The team’s soon to be ex-Ferrari powered chassis languished near the bottom of the time sheets during the first day of testing. New recruit Mark Webber managed to outpace teammate David Coulthard, with Webber slotted into P15 with Coulthard P16. The Red Bull cars were the slowest on Day 1, with Webber managing to pull his way up the time sheets on day two…

8. Williams:
Williams ran a limited test program with race driver Alex Wurz and test driver Narain Karthikeyan. Wurz ran mid-pack day one before dropping down the time sheets during day two. Karthikeyan ran solidly mid-pack during his testing duties…
Although currently on holiday (partying with Kimi?) look for improvement from the 2005 inaugural GP 2 Champion Nico Rosberg (21) now that Williams has switched to Toyota lumps…

9. Scuderia Toro Rosso:
Toro Rosso’s young duet: Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi (25) and American Scott Speed (23 zf) continued Cosworth’s swan song, utilizing the ubiquitous 3.0 liter V-10’s for one of it’s final tests. Luzzi and Speed took their customary spots towards the rear of the grid during testing…
Next season should hopefully see Toro Rosso continue their march forward with Red bull Racing’s Ferrari V-8 customer engines, possibly running the entire Red Bull package?

10. Spyker F1 Racing:
Spyker was the only team not participating at the test, perhaps due to lack of engines? With much change occurring Spyker will also become a Ferrari customer next season with a new “hot schue young gun” alongside Cristjian Albers…

10. Super Aguri F1:
“Super Best Friends” sent one car to Barcelona for new recruit Anthony Davidson to run. “ANT” did a good job in his first official outing as an F1 race driver, running 10th on day one…

And so the winter “Olympics” begin… Although I know not to take too much out of these testing times, it’s hard not to get carried away reviewing the time sheets. Yet keep in mind that those whom win the winter“Oylmpics tend to falter in the sweltering heat of racing season. Next stop for testing is Jerez…

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