With the first day of testing at Jerez being the first chance that teams had to run their 2013 cars, the emphasis was more on understanding the new machines and getting miles on the clock than going for raw speed.
As a result most teams opted for a series of relatively short runs throughout the day in order to learn as much about their cars as possible, with pushing their new machines to the limit firmly out of the question. Therefore it meant the majority of lap times were probably a good 3-4 seconds off a representative time at Jerez.
It is therefore too early to look into Jenson Button’s pace at the end of the day. His time of 1:18.861 was almost a second faster than Mark Webber managed, but it’s clear given the McLaren driver set the time on a five lap run on fresh tyres at the end of the day that it was a deliberate effort to put a marker down to the rest of the field. With the cars running so far off the ultimate pace, if a team really wants to top the timesheets it isn’t that difficult to do so.
The reason McLaren went for the lap time at the end of the day was most likely an attempt to deflect attention away from Button’s fuel pump issue in the morning, as with their car now at the top of the timesheets it means people are more likely to talk about the potential pace of the new McLaren and not so much any reliability concerns. It could also be a psychological ploy to show their rivals that they are in good shape and haven’t been affected by the issue earlier today.
It’s worth remembering that Button’s time was set on the harder tyre, which is generally slower over a single lap than the softer compounds. Taking into account that softer tyres are normally more than half a second a lap quicker than the hard compound, and the fact the teams weren’t pushing their cars to the limit today, a lap time in the 1:16s is probably where the true pace of these cars will be come the end of the week.
Elsewhere it was a fairly quiet day. The likes of Lotus, Ferrari and Sauber completed what were clearly predetermined testing programmes without incident, with the only other stoppages coming when Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes suffered an electrical fire and the rear suspension on Max Chilton’s Marussia failed, causing the Brit to crash at the end of the back straight.
With the first day of testing ahead of the new season completed, there will be no let up for the teams as they return to Jerez on Wednesday for day two of the first pre-season test.
1) Jenson Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes – 1:18.861 (37 laps)
2) Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault – 1:19.709 (73 laps)
3) Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus-Renault – 1:19.796 (54 laps)
4) Paul di Resta (GB) Force India-Mercedes – 1:20.343 (89 laps)
5) Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:20.401 (70 laps)
6) Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari – 1:20.536 (64 laps)
7) Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari – 1:20.699 (79 laps)
8) Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes – 1:20.846 (14 laps)
9) Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams-Renault – 1:20.864 (84 laps)
10) Giedo van der Garde (Ned) Caterham-Renault – 1:21.915 (64 laps)
11) Max Chilton (GB) Marussia-Cosworth – 1:24.176 (29 laps)