Winter testing cannot be used to predict who is going to be fast next year, especially when the weather is really bad as it has been for the past few weeks.
Some teams concentrate more on the mechanics of testing rather than worrying about speed. Some teams use very little fuel in testing and therefore appear to be faster due to the absence of weight. It is all very subjective and can be difficult to judge teams against the other.
However, it can be useful. Although you wouldn’t want to place any bets based on the outcome of testing, it does usually prove to be an indicator of what to expect in the year ahead.
So far, the major teams are proving that they are a force to be reckoned with, yet again. McLaren, with their new signings of double-champion Fernando Alonso, and rookie youngster Lewis Hamilton, seem to always be near the top of the times for each test they attend. Hamilton has been particularly impressive, sometimes even showing up his more experienced team-mate.
Ferrari are definitely lacking something now that Michael has gone, but I don’t think they will be down for too long. Kimi Raikkonen’s move to the red team will no doubt prove to be an explosive partnership, although there isn’t too much evidence of it as yet. The Ferrari’s seem to be there, towards the top, but not really shining. They have been known to hold back in testing, though, to keep their real speed under wraps.
The same can be said for Renault, who appear to be feeling the loss of Alonso quite heavily. They are usually equal to each other, and tend to be about fourth or fifth fastest, which will disappoint the defending champions of the constructors title. However, with such upheavals as a change of drivers, personnel and paintwork on the car, it’s hardly surprising they’re feeling a bit ruffled.
Really, the rest of the teams can all be bundled together under one heading: Good, but not as good as the rest.
I am very disappointed with Honda’s performance. Last year they played up how well they were going to do and really didn’t live up to the hype. This year they have been pretty quiet on hat developments the team are making to get another win under their belts. I thought their reserved attitudes meant they had something quick up their sleeves, but apparently not.
Red Bull Racing are disappointingly low as well, along with Williams and Toyota . Although Ralf Schumacher in the Toyota did scrape a headline by coming top on one particular testing day, it appeared to be a bit of a fluke.
To sum up what we have learned from pre-season testing so far, the main contenders – Ferrari, McLaren and Renault – are proving our feelings right that they are the ones to watch. The best of the rest is probably Toyota, but until we get to that first grid of the season, it’s really anybody’s game.