Testing has taken place in Barcelona and Bahrain, and is ongoing in Jerez, and I thought now would be a good opportunity to take a look at what we can glean from the testing results.
Itís never as simple as looking at the fastest car, because testing is a time for teams to try different setups, and work on different areas. You may find some teams practicing qualifying runs, which means theyíll be flying round the track as fast as possible, and you may find others loading the car up with fuel to see how it runs heavy. Itís difficult to compare directly, but we can still see how everyone has been getting on.
Fernando Alonso returned to Renault and immediately topped the timesheets. While this was undoubtedly a light run, it sent out the right message to everyone: heís back with a team heís comfortable in, and now heís taking no prisoners.
Renault seemed to have improved on last yearís car but whether it will be enough to get him fighting for another championship is yet to be seen.
Ferrari and McLaren both seem to have retained their form from 2007, with Ferrari appearing to have the edge. Raikkonen has topped the timesheets more than anyone else, and he seems very comfortable and in a good position to defend his title.
BMW struggled in early testing, finding some mechanical issues that needed to be thought about, but they appear to have got the better of them now, so are looking good for the coming season.
Red Bullís Mark Webber has been speaking about his new car and says he is very happy with the reliability it has shown over the winter. One of the biggest problems for the team last year was the number of retirements due to mechanical failure, specifically the gearbox. Webber seems hopeful that this problem has now been solved.
Towards the back of the grid, Honda have a new look, but it doesnít seem to have improved their pace all that much. Their sister team Super Aguri havenít been testing much, due to financial concerns. The new team Force India have been impressive, with a 4th fastest run on one of the days, but whether itís enough to move them up the field, weíll have to wait and see.
From the looks of things, the teams are closing up in performance terms quite considerably. Last year there were four drivers fighting for wins, and three teams performing outstandingly well. Hopefully this year, there will be more people challenging each other, and the championship will go down to the wire.