Rossi’s F1 Test

Earlier this week reigning MotoGP Champion Valentino Rossi took part in a two-day F1 test, at the Circuit de Catalunya. Rossi was pleasantly surprised by his lap times, and he suggested that a move from MotoGP to F1 was possible.

Rossi’s Ferrari F2008 was operated by Ferrari’s “Corse Clienti” division, rather than the F1 racing team. This was due to the F1 testing ban, which ends on February 1st. Rossi’s car was fitted with GP2-specification “slick” tyres, as part of the F1 test ban. I personally dislike the testing ban, but I fully understand the need to reduce costs in Formula One.

Valentino’s best time was 1′ 21.9″, which was very respectable. Let’s compare his performance to the 2008 Ferrari drivers at the same circuit. The first two qualifying sessions for the 2008 Spanish GP were run with low fuel levels*. Kimi Raikkonen’s fastest lap was 1′ 20.7″, whilst Felipe Massa’s best time was 1′ 20.5″. If you look at the lap times “on paper”, Rossi was over a second off the pace, but Rossi’s time must be seen in context. He was running on GP2 slick tyres, and not 2008-spec grooved Bridgestones. The 2008 Qualifying session took place in sunny conditions, but Rossi’s test took place in much cooler weather. The lower temperature should have been an advantage to Rossi, as cooler air equates to higher air density, and therefore more engine power. Another factor to consider is that Corse Clienti may have been running the F2008 conservatively, compared to the F1 team’s “all-out” 2008 efforts. The engine may have been “de-tuned” to conserve its mechanical condition, and the aero package may have been different … only Clienti know the answer to that! Interestingly, Felipe Massa drove the car at the same circuit today (Jan 22 2010), so Ferrari will be able to make a comparison, using telemetry.

(* From 2003 to 2009, the third qualifying session (Q3) took place with heavy race fuel loads, and the times were slower. I therefore disregarded those times. If Rossi set that time with a detuned engine and a heavy fuel load …. he is a genius!).

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