Testing times in Tuscany - Mugello preview 30 Apr 2012
Many of the Formula One teams have significant car upgrades planned for the next round of the season in Spain and this weeks Mugello test - the first proper in-season test since 2008 - will be their first chance to try them out. The Italian circuit, owned by Ferrari, is likely to be pretty green when the session commences on Tuesday and establishing baseline data will be among the first tasks. After that, however, it will be three days of hard work, trying out new parts, new set-ups and, in some cases, some fairly new drivers. We take a team-by-team look at the pre-test form book
Red Bull Racing
Championship standing: 1st, 101 points
The reigning world champions may have started the season in uncharacteristically low-key fashion (at least by their high standards), but that hasnt stopped them coming away from the opening flyaway rounds leading both the drivers and constructors standings. Its taken an awful lot of hard work and an awful lot of set-up experimentation - notably with exhaust exit solutions - to endow the RB8 with the combination of qualifying speed and race pace needed to win a Grand Prix in 2012, but with that mission now accomplished, the team must feel they have a solid foundation for their title defence as they commence work at Mugello.
Driving at Mugello: Webber (Tue, Wed am), Vettel (Wed pm, Thur)
Championship standing: 2nd, 92 points
McLaren were not the biggest fans of reinstating in-season testing, but after the way their 2012 campaign stalled at the last round in Bahrain, they may well be grateful for the extra track time - and pit-stop practice! Neither Hamilton nor Button will drive at Mugello, but one shouldnt read too much into their absence. Testers Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey are more than capable of conducting whatever development programme the Woking team have planned.
Driving at Mugello: Paffett, Turvey
Championship standing: 3rd, 57 points
Since the start of the season, Lotus team boss Eric Boullier insisted that given a normal race weekend - i.e. normal weather, normal track conditions, normal levels of luck - they would be podium contenders, and so it proved in Bahrain. The E20 has shown that its a fast and flexible machine, and there is no reason to believe Lotus cannot use the Mugello test to help build on that performance.
Driving at Mugello: DAmbrosio (Tue), Grosjean (Wed, Thur)
Championship standing: 4th, 45 points
All eyes will be on the Scuderia at Mugello, and not just because they own the circuit. After the radical F2012s largely disappointing results, major upgrades are planned ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix and fans and journalists attending the test will be hungry for signs of their potential success - or otherwise. So fundamental are the cars supposed flaws, many believe Ferraris chances of mounting a serious title challenge in 2012 could rest on what they achieve over these three days.
Driving at Mugello: Alonso (Tue & Thur), Massa (Wed)
Championship standing: 5th, 37 points
Mercedes F1 W03 can win races. Nico Rosberg has proved that. What remains unclear - probably even to the team - is whether it can become a car capable of winning on a variety of circuits in a variety of conditions. There is also still a question mark over its tyre degradation, but with Ross Brawns men in buoyant mood and upgrades ready to be evaluated, this test should ensure Mercedes are back at the very sharp end with the paddock arrives in Barcelona.
Driving at Mugello: Rosberg (Tue am, Thur), Schumacher (Tue pm, Wed)
Championship standing: 6th, 31 points
After taking some of the frontrunners by surprise in the first two rounds, as highlighted by Sergio Perezs spectacular second place in Malaysia, Saubers race showings have been less impressive in the last two Grands Prix. Keeping pace in the in-season development race is always tough for teams on more modest budgets, as Peter Saubers squad know only too well, and they must extract maximum value from their three days in Tuscany if they are stay in the game come the European rounds.
Driving at Mugello: Kobayashi, Perez
Championship standing: 7th, 18 points
After the disaster that was last season, Williams have risen in near-phoenix like fashion. Four rounds into 2012 and they have scored almost four times their 2011 total, despite two double DNFs. The aim now is to maintain that upward trajectory and the team will be testing a number of short- to medium-term performance upgrades, as well as longer term development items, with third driver Valtteri Bottas sharing driving duties with Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna.
Driving at Mugello: Bottas (Tue), Senna (Wed), Maldonado (Thur)
Championship standing: 8th, 17 points
Some were predicting great things of the Silverstone squad following pre-season testing, but with the midfield battle proving even tighter than expected, things havent quite panned out that way. Paul di Resta has scored all but two of the teams 17 points, but has had to work very hard for them. The VJM05 clearly has potential and Mugello should help the team unlock it.
Driving at Mugello: Bianchi (Tue), Di Resta (Wed), Hulkenberg (Thu)
Championship standing: 9th, 6 points
The Italian squad finished 2011 on a high, but have struggled to carry that momentum into 2012, at least in terms of point-scoring finishes. On its day the STR7 is clearly a quick car - Daniel Ricciardo qualified sixth in Bahrain and team mate Jean-Eric Vergne clocked the fourth-fastest race lap - but overall performance has not met boss Franz Tosts expectations. On the plus side, both new drivers have been doing a sterling job despite their relative lack of F1 experience, and getting more miles under their belts at Mugello can only help them and the team.
Driving at Mugello: Ricciardo, Vergne
Championship standing: 10th, 0 points
Against expectations, Marussia have come away from the opening four flyaway rounds ahead of Caterham in the standings, helped by two-car finishes in three of those races and steady progress in terms of performance. Timo Glock experienced some handling problems in Bahrain that the team want to get to the bottom of at Mugello, but in the MR01 the Russian-owned team appear to have a solid basis on which to build the rest of their 2012 campaign.
Driving at Mugello: Pic (Tue, Wed am), Glock (Wed pm, Thur)
Championship standing: 11th, 0 points
Tony Fernandes team havent yet made good on their threat to regularly trouble the midfield runners, but their lowly place in the table does mask some real progress. A mixture of misfortune and reliability issues has led to a lack of finishes, but a glance at the fastest lap charts from the opening rounds shows the CT01s race pace to be consistently and clearly superior to that of its traditional Marussia and HRT rivals. If the Mugello test can iron out its weaknesses and build on its strengths, that elusive first point may not be far away.
Driving at Mugello: Gonzalez (Tue), Petrov (Wed), Kovalainen (Thur)
Championship standing: 12th, 0 points
Having missed all three pre-season tests, HRT will not be attending this one either. They have updates in the pipeline for the reliable, but less than speedy F112, but these will only be ready for the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, hence the team are instead concentrating their efforts on relocating to their new base in Madrid.
Driving at Mugello: N/A
Note - driver line-ups provisional and subject to change.
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