Lewis Hamilton as finished day one of the Paul Ricard test out in front, 1.2s clear of the number two driver and 1.3s ahead of Renault hotshot Nelson Piquet Jnr. The British driver has continued his momentum from the first four races and has been achieving a lot of headlines recently, as well as garnering praise from some lofty Formula One figures. Incidentally, second place driver Ralf Schumacher has also grabbed some column space following the Spanish Grand Prix. Ralf’s manager – Hans Mahr – has been bigging his driver up in the media, exclaiming that he has no worries about Ralf being retained by Toyota for next year, and rates his man highly.
So highly in fact, that Hans has neglected to mention the German’s excessive salary, being out qualified by his team mate Jarno Trulli at every Grand Prix so far this year, and has generally been outperformed by Trulli, four points to one.
I am not worried. Ralf is one of the very best drivers, even if he is having a little problem with the setup of the car at the moment. We will arrive at a contract which corresponds with Ralf’s achievements, and those achievements will continue to improve. Hans Mahr.
So Ralfie will be dipping into his pocket to give Toyota a refund then!?
Anyway, enough of the snide jokes, on with the test. Red Bull Racing continued their improvements, with Mark Webber finishing the day in a respectable fourth, just 0.1s behind the Renault, but even less ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Williams. Another small amount of time down was the Ferrari of Felipe Massa, followed by Honda’s test driver Christian Klien. BMW fielded Timo Glock while James Rossiter debuted for Super Aguri. Scott Speed finished tenth while Fauzy propped up the timing sheet in eleventh and last place in the Spyker, 3.8s shy of Hamilton’s pace setting lap.
Ignoring Hamilton’s time for a moment, as his margin clearly indicates he set a blinder of a lap while the others weren’t particularly bothered about records, and ignoring Fauzy’s lap because he is a complete rookie, Speed was only 1.2s down on Schumacher. This shows just how close the midfield bunch are, and as proven in qualifying so far this season, anyone between BMW and Toro Rosso could end up being Formula One’s fifth team (assuming Renault improve towards the end). The competition has been strong so far among this group of Honda’s, Aguri’s, Williams’ and Toyota’s, and if I were a betting man, I’d be very unsure of where to put my money. Williams and Renault are the strongest contenders to break free from the middle ground, but Honda could easily find the magic solution to their issues and propel themselves up to BMW’s pace. Super Aguri could also manage a similar feat, especially if they keep going as they have done in the last 18 months.
The midfield is becoming a very interesting area to watch, and I’m keeping a close eye to see what the teams do in attempt to push forward.
1. Hamilton – McLaren – 1m05.699s
2. Schumacher – Toyota – 1m06.920s
3. Piquet Jnr. – Renault – 1m07.056s
4. Webber – Red Bull Racing – 1m07.161s
5. Rosberg – Williams – 1m07.189s
6. Massa – Ferrari – 1m07.271s
7. Klien – Honda – 1m07.357s
8. Glock – BMW – 1m07.712s
9. Rossiter – Super Aguri – 1m08.026s
10. Speed – Toro Rosso – 1m08.143s
11. Fauzy – Spyker – 1m09.443s