Mercedes AMG Petronas
This team has made the biggest jump in performance as compared to last season. But the results don’t show that exactly because of their tyre degradation troubles in the first two races and Michael Schumacher’s issues in the first four. They delayed the launch of the W03 until the second preseason test and the reason for that was found out to be the innovative Double DRS system. This device has helped both Michael and Nico to regularly qualify inside the top 10 – barring some unlucky circumstances – and even challenge for the front row. Apart from a one-off in China, the car has not been as quick on Sundays as it is on Saturdays. One reason for that is the team has not been able to operate the tyres in the correct temperature window. Apart from this, a few technical and pitstop problems have plagued the team.
As the Mugello track consists of fast corners, similar to tracks like Silverstone, it will provide a good opportunity for the team to test the different compounds of tyres and try to iron out the problems which have prevented them from reaching any higher than 5th in the constructors’ standings. Even then, we should see some good laptimes from the W03 because of the long straight where the Double DRS will come in handy.
Sauber F1 Team
They had two spectacular back-to-back races in Australia and Malaysia which resulted in them being a superb 4th in the standings. But the next double header was equally disappointing with only 1 point from China and Bahrain. As is the case with others, they have also been caught out by the closeness of the grid – finishing on the podium in one race and struggling to get into the top 10 the next. This is another team, apart from Mercedes, whose car has caught the eye of the paddock – one because of the hole in the front bulkhead (similar to the F2008 Ferrari) and second because of the interesting rear of the car which has exploited a grey area in the regulations regarding the area in front of the rear wheels. It is an honour for a small team like Sauber as defending champions Red Bull have tried taking ideas from the rear of the C31, and more recently Ferrari are expectedly following the same path.
One of the positives seen in the first two races was the C31’s extreme kindness on the tyres and the team will be looking to get stronger in that area during the test with some updates, so that even if they qualify somewhere around the 4th-6th row, they can do lesser pitstops and jump their rivals. The team having a small budget, we might not see some big visual upgrades on the car (as we might see on the F2012) but the Hinwil-based team will still be working day in day out to try and replicate their Sepang form.
Another team apart from Mercedes which has made a big step up in performance this year. It is proved when we see that the FW34 has won more than thrice the points in four races as compared to what they could manage in the entire 2011 season. Although the car has not been upto speed in qualifying with neither driver making it regularly into Q3, the race pace has been very good and Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna have looked to threaten the frontrunners at some points during the first three races. It was very disappointing though for them to retire both their cars in Bahrain due to gearbox problems, although that could have been a strategic decision so that they could change the gearboxes for the next race without incurring any penalty.
We can expect to see some major updates on all areas of the car during the test as they try and improve their qualifying pace to have a better chance in races. It will be interesting to see their long run pace as compared to their rivals who will also introduce big updates on their cars- it will provide an indication whether Williams are well and truly back on the up and towards the glory path which has eluded them for almost two decades.
Force India’s pace promised a lot during preseason testing but the team has been lacking on pure pace both in short as well as long runs. As a result they have not been able to reach Q3 regularly and have also failed to match their rivals on identical strategies. It is no surprise that their major points came at Sepang in mixed conditions, and in Bahrain with an excellent two stop strategy.
This is a team that has its work cut out in Mugello to try and improve the car significantly to replicate their late 2011 form where they just missed out on 5th in the constructors’ standings. Like some other teams, updates are expected around the exhaust region as the car is lacking the downforce and balance – the two fundamental things for a good lap time.