12 Formula One teams will be in Barcelona in the first week of March, for the final four day pre-season test of 2012. It will be the first time that all 12 teams run their 2012 cars at the same time.
We can look forward to two more launches as HRT and Marussia reveal their 2012 challengers to the world. It will be the first time HRT take part in a pre-season test with their current car. They were in Jerez a few weeks ago, but with their 2011 car.
The up-coming test should see the return of Lotus, who pulled out of last week’s test after identifying an issue with their chassis. After a week or so back in the factory, they should be good to go.
In terms of what the teams are likely to be testing, there should be upgrades on some of the cars. Often the teams will start testing with a fairly basic car, and then bring a significant upgrade to the last test in preparation for the first race. So there could be some slightly different looking cars. Any changes to exhausts will be followed closely by all of the teams. Although it is no longer legal to run the exhaust through the diffuser, the teams have now learned that exhaust gases can play a part in producing downforce. Some teams will doubtless be testing exhaust-related solutions on their cars.
There should be quite a few race simulations. Now that reliability issues have mostly been resolved, the teams will want to concentrate on tyre and fuel management over long runs. Performance over long runs will be interesting to watch, as the teams start to find the performance in their cars. Pitstop practice could become more common, as the pit crews fine-tune their skills in anticipation of the start of the season. We will hopefully see some qualifying simulations. Although the teams will not want to give away too much of their true pace, they will also want to gather as much data as they can about low-fuel setups.
The pecking order will only become clear in Australia. In qualifying, we will find out who is the fastest. In the race, we’ll find out who has the best all-round package. Until then, we can only speculate.