Formula One™ (protected trademark) Winter Testing – Jerez 2012
The start of the 2012 F1 year is under way with the launch of most teams’ cars and the first four day testing session at Jerez. I would have preferred Valencia which is only an hour from home but Jerez it was. My day started at 04.45 hrs on the first day of testing, I flew from Valencia to Seville and drove to the Circuit of Jerez arriving in brilliant sunshine at 10.30 hrs.
From experience I know that the first day of testing can be somewhat slow as for many teams it is the first time their car has hit the asphalt. In previous years it has been known for some teams to skip the first testing session to give more time to prepare the new car for the upcoming season. This year I was in for a surprise! The only team who was not present was Marussia who said they would not be in attendance.
The rest of the teams were all set up in the paddock, HRT were running their 2011 car driven by Pedro de la Rosa and Mercedes were using last year’s car but with some 2012 extras.
The first time I visited Jerez was back in 1989 when Ayrton Senna took pole position, fastest lap and won the race driving a Mclaren MP4/5. Other drivers included Prost, Patrese, Alboreto, Arnoux and many more. 1994 was my next visit to Jerez and I think I can say between then and now not much has changed!!
So here I am back at Jerez, a real racing circuit for the drivers. Some good fast corners, slow ones and some good straights. A great mix you could say in order for the teams to get to know their new cars.
The driver line up for the first day were Webber, Massa, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Kovalainen, Maldonado, Ricciardo, di Resta and de la Rosa.
The first thing that struck me about the new cars was how good they looked in real life. The front ends are different and each car varied slightly. Clearly the McLaren MP4/27 front-end design was different from the others but, hold on, and let’s wait until the first race to see what the other teams have up their sleeve.
Another thing I noticed was how low and sleek the rear of the cars have become, in some way reminding me of the cars of the 80’s. Also, it did not take long to notice the different noises coming from some cars – yes, some are playing games with the exhausts. Mercedes, although running an old car, were obviously doing something as could be heard in the corners. Again I suppose we will have to wait until the first race to see if any team wants to protest about another. Day One saw something in the region of 713 laps and no major incidents.
Wednesday, or Day Two, turned out to be a cold and windy but sunny. Today I headed for a different part of the track – main straight, pit exit and first corner. The main players remained as the previous day except Schumacher had the full day and Force India switched from di Resta to Jules Bianchi in the afternoon session.
Now as many of you know, I do like to meet people in F1 circles and this trip was no exception. I was fortunate enough to meet Peter Windsor, ex-Williams man, F1 journalist, writer and the man who does ‘The Flying Lap‘, a live show online each Wednesday. I spent quite a few hours with Peter and he was a real encyclopedia of information on F1 over the years and I mean years. Mind you, I was still the oldest one out of the two of us! We were joined by a couple of other F1 guys, one who has his own website and does a lot of photography (your humble servant – Uncle Iberian) and the other – an occasional writer for a Spanish motorsport magazine and also an FIA scrutineer. What a combination. If any of you are interested, go and look up Peter Windsor and you will not regret it.
My last day at Jerez was to be the third day of testing and I knew Fernando Alonso was to take over from Massa. Anyone who follows F1 in Spain will know that if Alonso is around then so are the queues. I arrived at the track by 09.30 hrs and knew I must leave by around 17.00 hrs to drive back to Seville to catch my 20.00 hrs flight back to Alicante.
Driver changes were the order of the day. Vettel took over from Webber, Alonso from Massa, Grosjean from Raikkonen, Hamilton from Button, Perez from Kobayashi, Van de Garde from Kovalainen, Senna from Maldonado. The first casualty of the day was Jules Bianchi of Force India who was caught out on cold tyres and a cold track. His day and that of Force India was ended with no times even being recorded.
The weather had improved from the previous day and the cold wind had gone but the fans where pouring into the circuit and we all know why, ‘Alonsomania’ but all in good spirit.
For me – I was waiting for my paddock visit. Security was very tight and the rear of the garages were heavily protected by track security and also team security. Nobody who was not authorized was going to get near those cars in the garages. However, I had a good camera and from the top of the garages I could get some good shots of the cars.
The paddock was in its usual mode, VIPs pretending to like being there and enjoying something they knew nothing about. I just love watching paddock life. Probably to some it is not exciting and unless you know who is who you can walk right past them without a thought. I saw Ricciardo and Perez in the paddock but nobody took any notice, also Keke Rosberg was there. For today the main focus was the Ferrari motorhome and Fernando Alonso.
17.00 hrs was fast approaching and I had to make my exit but not before I took my last pictures and saw the most I could.
Over my three days I saw 2,626 laps run or 11,628 kms on the Jerez circuit. I recalled my previous visits the thought of one day returning. We will see. My final thought is that I think 2012 will be a good year for F1 with some closer racing and some surprises.
Hope you enjoy reading my experience.
Uncle Iberian says: “I can only add it was good fun indeed, although for some press people F1 testing is boring and unnecessary. I guess it is… if you’re locked in the media centre while staring at lap times and never venturing out to see the cars in action. Horses for courses. I was really impressed by Paul di Resta and Romain Grosjean, I’ll be watching these guys closely during the season; the cars looked monstrous but aggressive – acceptable.”