Over the past few years I have been discovering new parts of Formula 1 which go toward making up the whole season – in 2009 it was pre-season testing. As a McLaren fan I was waiting with baited breath to see how the new MP4-24 was going to perform.
Lewis Hamilton testing in Jerez, Spain in February 2009
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Things seemed to be going well for McLaren in February when the testing took place in Jerez, Spain. From my limited knowledge of testing this didn’t appear to be the test of how fast the cars would go but more a fact finding mission – highlighted by Sebastian Bourdais being the fastest man in his Torro Rosso by some 2 seconds a lap on the final day of testing!
It was a month later in Jerez and Barcelona that would be more of an indication of how the cars would fare heading into the first race in Australia, and it was during this testing session that things started to take a turn for the worse for McLaren.
Heikki Kovalainen testing in Jerez, March 2nd 2009
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March 1-5 2009 – Jerez, Spain
Day 1 – Pedro de la Rosa – 7th out of 8 drivers
Day 2 – Heikki Kovalainen – 6th out of 7 drivers
Day 3 – Heikki Kovalainen – 4th out of 8 drivers
Day 4 – Lewis Hamilton – 8th out of 9 drivers
Day 5 – Lewis Hamilton – 3rd out of 6th drivers
Not the strongest set of testing, and at this point I was a little concerned. Bear in mind just a few months ago we’d seen Lewis Hamilton crowned the Drivers Champion, how could the MP4-24 be so much worse than the MP4-23? At this point, as a McLaren fan, you start to persuade yourself that maybe McLaren are still testing various bits of the car and not going for out and out speed, it’ll be better in Barcelona.
Lewis Hamilton testing in Barcelona, March 12th 2009
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March 9-12 2009 – Barcelona, Spain
Day 1 – Heikki Kovalainen – 10th out of 10 drivers
Day 2 – Heikki Kovalainen – 9th out of 11 drivers (10th & 11th Torro Rosso)
Day 3 – Lewis Hamilton – 10th out of 10 drivers
Day 4 – Lewis Hamilton – 8th out of 11 drivers
Things took a turn for the worse, if you can believe that, in Barcelona as McLaren seemed to fall even further behind the leading cars. This set of testing also saw the introduction of the new rear diffuser on some cars (not McLaren), and the circus that ensued. It also saw us introduced to the brand new Brawn GP cars, and their blistering pace. Maybe McLaren are sandbagging, yes, that’s what must be happening because they surely can’t be that bad, can they?
March 16-19 2009 – Jerez, Spain
Day 1 – Lewis Hamilton – 4th out of 5 drivers
Day 2 – Lewis Hamilton – 4th out of 4 drivers
Day 3 – Heikki Kovalainen – 1st out of 2 drivers
Day 4 – Heikki Kovalainen – 2nd out of 2 drivers
So that was the end of the testing, and the last session in Jerez didn’t seem to point in the desired direction of the McLaren MP4-24 being a race winning car (remember that come Hungaroring). At the time I was hoping that there were last minute modifications that would make Lewis and Heikki competitive come race day, but it wasn’t a fun time to be a McLaren fan.