Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain. Only 7 of the 13 teams signed up to race in the 2010 Formula 1 World Championships arrived at Valencia for the inaugural testing session. They were: Ferrari, McLaren, MercedesGP, Williams, Sauber, Renault and Toro Rosso.Following the end of the testing ban that lasted throughout the 2009 season and into the winter break, the preparations for the 2010 season began with the first of the pre-season test sessions on the 1st of February at the
After Felipe Massa topped the timesheets for Ferrari on days 1 and 2, Fernando Alonso also came out on top on day 3 proving that the new Ferrari F10 was definitely a fast car. The teams then moved on to Jerez de la Frontera for another 8 days of testing over the following two weeks. At the first Jerez test, the previous 7 teams were also joined by 2009 Runner-up Red Bull Racing, Force-India and the first of the debutant teams Virgin Racing. Another one of the debutants, Lotus Racing, joined the rest of the teams for the second Jerez test. Over the two weeks at Jerez, several teams took turns to top the timesheets on different days including Mercedes, Red Bull, Williams, Sauber, McLaren and even Toro Rosso.
All 11 teams then moved on to the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona for the final 4 days of pre-season testing in the last week of February. Here again, Webber for Red Bull, Hulkenburg for Williams, Rosberg for Mercedes and Hamilton for McLaren all took turns to top the timesheets on separate days. Analysing the lap times from all the testing sessions directly is pretty meaningless because of the uncertainty of the differing amounts of fuel load a car could be carrying at any given time. Due to the mid-race refuelling ban, the cars this year have fuel tanks big enough to carry enough fuel to last an entire race distance. So during a flying lap in testing, a car could have had anything from 10kg of fuel to 160kg or more fuel on board. The difference in that fuel weight could result in more than 5 seconds a lap in pace. Then there is also the question on the type of tyres being used, as fresh super-soft tyres would almost certainly be quicker than used medium or hard tyres. On top of that, the teams continuously brought in aerodynamic updates throughout all 15 days of pre-season testing, and several teams are likely to bring in more updates for their cars before the first race of the season in Bahrain.
The debutant teams Virgin and Lotus did not have an entirely smooth start to their testing programmes, with both teams having problems on reliability. That was to be expected however, as both of them are not just starting brand new from scratch but are also working on much smaller budgets compared to the bigger teams. In case of Lotus, they got their entry to the 2010 Championship confirmed very late last summer after the announcement of BMW Sauber's withdrawal. This meant that Lotus had very little time to gather its team of personnel and design a completely new Formula 1 car from scratch. The Malaysian owned team is headed by Malaysian airline AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes, while former Toyota and Renault technical chief Mike Gascoyne is in charge of the technical side. Their fellow debutant team Virgin had more time to design and develop the car, but working on a small budget, they decided to avoid the use of wind-tunnels in designing their car. Formula 1 teams these days normally use Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and wind-tunnel to design and develop the car, but Virgin's design chief Nick Wirth said that they only used CFD since they thought it would be sufficient. It remains to be seen whether that is the case or not.
It is just over 10 days to go until the first race weekend of the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship kicks off in Bahrain. Four teams, that is Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes, will be fighting up front but for now, it is absolutely impossible to predict who has the capability to win the first race. It promises to be a hugely exciting and close season this year. Until Bahrain, drive safely everyone!