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Today’s Times at Paul Ricard

These are the times for the simulated Canadian circuit at Paul Ricard today. The configuration was run yesterday as well so I have added the times from both days as a rough guide to how the teams fared.

Kimi

Kimi Raikkonen

Although testing times are notoriously poor as predictors of race performance, it is interesting at least that Scott Speed remains the second fastest driver of the two days. It must be said, however, that Liuzzi may have encountered problems as the team did not run this afternoon.

Today:

1. Raikkonen, Ferrari – 1:28.624
2. Fisichella, Renault – 1:29.209
3. de la Rosa, McLaren – 1:29.249
4. Montagny, Toyota – 1:29.312
5. Coulthard, Red Bull – 1:29.834
6. Rossiter, Super Aguri – 1:29.869
7. Sutil, Spyker – 1:29.869
8. Heidfeld, BMW – 1:29.978
9. Button, Honda – 1:29.989
10. Nakajima, Williams – 1:29.990
11. Liuzzi, Toro Rosso – 1:29.993

Best Times for the Last Two Days:

1. Raikkonen, Ferrari – 1:28.624
2. Speed, Toro Rosso – 1:29.039
3. Kovalainen, Renault – 1:29.070
4. Kubica, BMW – 1:29.157
5. Webber, Red Bull – 1:29.179
6. Montagny, Toyota – 1:29.205
7. Fisichella, Renault – 1:29.209
8. de la Rosa, McLaren – 1:29. 249
9. Wurz, Williams – 1:29.359
10. Coulthard, Red Bull – 1:29.834
11. Rossiter, Super Aguri – 1:29.869
12. Sutil, Spyker – 1:29.869
13. Heidfeld, BMW – 1:29.978
14. Button, Honda – 1:29.989
15. Nakajima, Williams – 1:29.990
16. Liuzzi, Toro Rosso – 1:29.993
17. Barrichello, Honda – 1:30.108
18. Klien, Honda – 1:30.235
19. Albers, Spyker – 1:32.245
20. Winkelhock, Spyker – 1:32.756

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A Thought or Two on Speed

With the off season nearly at an end, it is time to step back and make our predictions based on the testing we have all been following so avidly. Or so it seems, judging by the number of experts pronouncing the obvious.

Of course Ferrari look the team to beat and McLaren and Renault are their nearest competitors – anyone could work that out after a quick look at the timesheets from the various testing venues used. And it is hardly controversial to suggest that Massa will be faster than his teammate in 2007 – again, that is pretty clear from testing.

Speed

Speed – ambiguity intended

It is so easy to forget that this is just testing and that the truth will only emerge once the season gets underway. Many a team has been embarrassed by their race performance after having a brilliant winter and others come good after a race or two. That’s what makes for a great season, after all – the unpredictability of racing.

That is what I keep telling myself, anyway. F1 could really use a closely-fought championship with several drivers and cars battling for honors – so I hope that all the indicators are wrong and Ferrari will not have the enormous advantage in the races that is so obvious in testing.

But allow me to point at one last interesting fact from the final day of testing in Bahrain: Scott Speed’s 8th fastest time in the Toro Rosso. Not only was he quicker than the Red Bull duo (which must be incredibly frustrating for them) but he has also given an answer to Gerhard Berger’s doubts about his commitment. I stand by what I have said about Speed in the past – our resident American is much better than anyone gives him credit for.

But it also vindicates the psychological skills of that man, Berger…

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Wheels Within Wheels

It looks as if Ferrari-style wheel inserts are indeed going to be used by other teams in 2007, if this photo of the Renault in testing is anything to go by.

Inserts

Although a protest was never mounted against the inserts, it can hardly be denied that they serve an aerodynamic function, whether or not they assist in brake cooling. This is the official F1 site’s view on the matter:

Ferrari 248 F1 – brake cooling drums

This interesting feature used in Malaysia is an evolution of similar devices seen on cars last year, but Ferrari have taken it to its extreme. The cooling drum not only covers the brake disc and calliper, preventing heat being transferred to the wheel rim, it also creates a seal of sorts with the wheel itself. It completely fills the space inside the wheel rim, not only improving brake cooling, but also dramatically reducing the vortices generated by the rotation of the wheels, hence making this area more aerodynamically efficient.

At least that is an admission that the inserts do have an aerodynamic effect. I suppose the argument is that this is not their primary purpose; they are there to keep the wheel rim cool and any aerodynamic effect is purely incidental. Which is fine until you notice that the inserts are used only on the rear wheels.

Something seems wrong there – the front brakes do most of the work as all the weight of the car is thrown forward as soon as it begins to decelerate. And that means they get hot, considerably hotter than the rear brakes. Surely any heat protection for the wheel rims should appear on the front wheels first; and, if the system is that effective, why not put it on all the wheels?

Of course, the wheel wells on the rears are much deeper than on the fronts and so they produce stronger vortices and drag and this would argue for putting the inserts at the back before bothering with the front. But would not that call into question the primary intent of the inserts? It is all very mysterious.

Not that it matters, of course. If everyone is going to use them, the playing field is level and we can forget the whole business. But it does make me wonder what the next dubious brush with the regulations will be. That’s part of the fun of F1 after all – watching the engineers and designers slip their tweaks past the FIA.

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All Eyes on BMW

With Nick Heidfeld going fastest on the second day of testing in Bahrain, BMW continues to look the most likely team to upset the status quo of previous years. Consistently quick and now seemingly reliable, the F1.07 is obviously very good and team manager, Mario Theissen is having to work hard to keep the hype at a reasonable level, insisting that they are not yet in a position to challenge for the championship.

It is a sensible approach to the season; far better to exceed expectations in the actual races than to underperform after having set your sights too high. If the car races as well as it has tested, the results will do the talking for the team.

The big question mark must be over BMW’s choice of drivers. Heidfeld is certainly quick on occasion but can he maintain the speed throughout a full season? I cast doubt about Nick’s motivation in an earlier post and it remains to be seen whether he can prove me wrong.

And Robert Kubica is still an unknown quantity, raising hopes with his few race performances last year but not quite as quick as his teammate in testing. He’s an ugly blighter too but that never seemed to hold back Michael Schumacher.

In fact, a part of his looks that he shares with Michael and some other supreme sportsmen is that his eyes are too close together. Don’t laugh – this trait appears again and again in top athletes and might be a very visible sign of potential sporting prowess. Think of Bjorn Borg’s near-squint and Jochen Rindt.

Faces

Well, okay, I mention this very tongue-in-cheek but it might be an interesting area for scientists to investigate – probably a more useful field of endeavor than chasing polar bears around the Arctic. And it does remind me that, in the sixties, there was a scientific study of F1 drivers to see whether they had anything in common that was different from the normal run of humanity.

They measured and tested and experimented but, in the end, could come up with only one difference: blink rate. It seems that you and I and most of humanity blink about four times a minute – but F1 drivers blink only about once every two minutes. Which may have something to do with levels of concentration but also shows that it’s all in the eyes.

With further investigation of this phenomenon, they might even be able to devise a test to see whether a driver will make it into the big time. That could put a stop to the usual ladder of karts, Formula Renault, F3, GP2 and so on, meaning that F1 could get them even younger.

Hmmm, on second thoughts, forget I ever said this…

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