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Massa to debut new Ferrari

Felipe Massa will be the first man to drive the 2013 Ferrari Formula One car. The Brazilian will drive for the first three days of the first pre-season test in Jerez, Spain, starting on 5 February, before handing over to new Ferrari test driver Pedro de la Rosa for the final day of the Jerez test. Fernando Alonso will not feature until the second test in Barcelona starting on 19 February.

While Massa and De la Rosa are testing in Jerez, Alonso will be focusing on his physical training in advance of another long, demanding season. The Spaniard should not suffer from a lack of testing, however, as the schedule has been arranged for him to complete most of the second test in Barcelona before sharing the final test with Massa.

Ferrari are emphasising the importance of Pedro de la Rosa’s test day in Jerez, as it will assist him with the simulator work that forms the major part of his testing role.

The team confirmed yesterday that the engine in the new car was fired up for the first time on 23 February and that the work of assembling the car is progressing well.

The full Ferrari driver schedule for pre-season testing is:

Driver Venue Date
Felipe Massa Jerez, Spain 5 Feb
Felipe Massa Jerez, Spain 6 Feb
Felipe Massa Jerez, Spain 7 Feb
Pedro de la Rosa Jerez, Spain 8 Feb
Fernando Alonso Barcelona, Spain 19 Feb
Fernando Alonso Barcelona, Spain 20 Feb
Fernando Alonso Barcelona, Spain 21 Feb
Felipe Massa Barcelona, Spain 22 Feb
Felipe Massa Barcelona, Spain 28 Feb
Fernando Alonso Barcelona, Spain 1 Mar
Felipe Massa Barcelona, Spain 2 Mar
Fernando Alonso Barcelona, Spain 3 Mar

De la Rosa joins Ferrari

Following the demise of HRT, Pedro de la Rosa has been looking for a job. And now he has found one. Perhaps HRT’s closure has worked out well for the Spaniard, as his new role is as test driver for Ferrari.

De la Rosa’s chief task will be simulator work, for which he should be well prepared after a long stint as test driver for McLaren, during which time he worked with Fernando Alonso in 2007. Additionally, the Spaniard has raced for Arrows, Jaguar, McLaren, Sauber and HRT, in the process earning valuable racing experience. Aside from his roles within race teams, de la Rosa was Pirelli’s test driver during 2010 after losing his seat at Sauber to Nick Heidfeld midway through the season, which will have given him a unique perspective on the behaviour of Pirelli’s tyres.

Unfortunately for de la Rosa, he is unlikely to spend time on track in the 2013 Ferrari, as in-season testing is banned and pre-season testing limited to just 12 days this year. Race drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will doubtless take care of all 12 testing days, which leaves de la Rosa spectating when not in the simulator. Nonetheless, there is always the possibility that one of the race drivers could become unavailable for a race, which might result in de la Rosa realising every driver’s dream of racing for Ferrari.

De la Rosa on his new role: “It is amazingly motivating to be working for a team like Ferrari, not just because of what it represents in the history of Formula 1 and motoring in general, but also because it will be a completely new and very stimulating experience for me… I really hope I can get to work as soon as possible and to help in the development of the car. I am happy to be collaborating with Fernando again and also to be working with Felipe. There’s not much time until Australia, but there is a lot to do and I am available to help the team from right now.”

De la Rosa – King of Consistency

Formula One is a prototype series. The teams all build their own cars, and constantly develop them throughout the season. As a result, some teams end up with cars that are better than others. Unfortunately, that can make a good driver look bad, and vice versa – the car is crucial to the success of the driver, and there is only so much a good driver can do with a bad car.

What all of this means is that judging driver quality simply by looking at the points table does not work. Judging team-mates on points can be a good measure of relative performance, but beyond that points do not tell the full story. For illustration, points are not useful in comparing Lewis Hamilton to Timo Glock, simply because the McLaren is quick and the Marussia is not.

Points can also be distorted by non-finishes. As an example, Michael Schumacher has finished only seven races so far in 2012 and his average finishing position is seventh, which also happens to be the seventh best average finishing position of any driver this season. Yet he is lying 11th in the points table due to a large number of non-finishes.

So there needs to be another way to assess a driver’s season. One such way is to look at a measure of consistency. Consistency is a crucial quality in a racing driver – it’s no use winning one week and then coming last for the rest of the season. The obvious measure of consistency is the standard deviation of finishing positions. Ranking the drivers in such a way on their results up to the Italian Grand Prix (and of course excluding the DNFs) gives the following table:

Rank Driver Team Std Dev
1 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1.6364
2 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 2.0028
3 Charles Pic Marussia 2.2828
4 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 2.3789
5 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 2.4103
6 Paul di Resta Force India 2.5391
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2.5702
8 Timo Glock Marussia 2.6181
9 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 2.6424
10 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 2.6443
11 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 2.8316
12 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 3.5155
13 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 4.1925
14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 4.2374
15 Sergio Perez Sauber 4.2701
16 Felipe Massa Ferrari 4.4073
17 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 4.4789
18 Pastor Maldonado Williams 4.8865
19 Bruno Senna Williams 4.9810
20 Mark Webber Red Bull 4.9897
21 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 5.2984
22 Romain Grosjean Lotus 5.5076
23 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 5.7228
24 Jenson Button McLaren 6.3168

Looking at the results, the surprise winner is Pedro de la Rosa. But perhaps that is not so surprising. De la Rosa has had a very successful career as a test driver, which places enormous emphasis on consistency – the less erratic the driver, the more the engineers can rely on the data collected without having to consider the driver as a variable.

It is interesting to note that championship leader Fernando Alonso ranks only seventh, and title-challenger Lewis Hamilton languishes down in 21st. By contrast, Michael Schumacher is first of the drivers in competitive cars, suggesting that the seven-time champion is having a better season than the points table reveals.

The analysis does, of course, have limited meaning. It measures only consistency, not whether a driver is consistently quick or consistently slow. An erratic driver can still win the championship as long as there are a few very good results mixed into the chaos, but a consistently slow driver will not be competitive.

British Grand Prix Preview Quotes – HRT

Pedro de la Rosa: “Silverstone is a beautiful and classic circuit; it’s a place I really like. I’ve raced in many categories there: Formula Ford, Formula Renault, Formula 3 and Formula 1. It’s a quick, high downforce track with a lot of quick corners linked together. It’s very demanding on the tyres, so the logical thing is to go for three stops. Strategies will play a big part. It’s not the most favourable circuit for us so we’re going to have to grind our teeth because, apart from that, it’s also one of the toughest tracks for a driver. We’re going to try and continue the good work from the last grands prix, finish this race and improve on our result in Valencia. That is our objective.”

Narain Karthikeyan: “I’ve got very good memories of Silverstone as I’ve raced a lot there in the past in junior categories, it’s one of my favourite tracks on the calendar and a place I expect to do well. Copse and the Becketts complex are special corners and are up there with the most exciting ones in the championship but I don’t know the new part of the circuit as I didn’t race at Silverstone last year so it will take me a few laps to adapt. After a positive weekend in Valencia, with a good performance in qualifying, I’m hoping to continue from there and build on it in Great Britain.”

Dani Clos: “I’m very happy to step into the F112 once again in Silverstone, a place where I’ve got good memories since I’ve made the podium every time I’ve been in GP2. After Barcelona I’ve really been looking forward to this new opportunity. The work we’re carrying out with the team is positive and I think that I can make a good contribution. I will be able to run in better conditions than in Barcelona because the car was new back then and I had to carry out various aero tests. Now I’ve got a new opportunity, not to prove anything but to work with the team and evolve as much as we can.”

Luis Pérez-Sala, Team Principal: “In Valencia we had a positive weekend and were able to confirm the good sensations we’d felt in the last few races. Silverstone is one of the most emblematic and historic circuits in the Championship and racing there is always something special. We want to see how our car performs at the British track with the latest upgrades because it’s a track that contains various quick turns and that’s where we suffer most. On another note, I’m happy that Dani will have a new opportunity to sit behind the wheel of the car for the first free practice session. This time he’ll be able to get more out of the session because in Barcelona there were many things to test and he had to focus on them, but now he’ll be able to get the most out of the experience. Besides, it will be the second time he drives the F112 this season so he won’t be stepping into the unknown and won’t need a period to adapt.”

Valencia Preview Quotes – HRT

Pedro de la Rosa: “Just like in Barcelona, I’m really looking forward to racing in front of our home fans in Valencia. At the Valencia Street Circuit we will encounter high air and track temperatures so the brakes will be put through their paces once again, but we’re confident we can make the necessary modifications to overcome the problems we experienced in Canada. Valencia has long straights but overtaking isn’t easy and it is a high-downforce track. I think we can do quite well here, although it’s not as favourable to our car as Canada, because there are a lot of braking areas and slow corners which are good for us. We’re looking forward to putting in a good performance in front of our fans and we want to continue with our progress from the last few races, where we’ve been at a good standard, but here we want to confirm this improvement in the race.”

Narain Karthikeyan: “Valencia will be our third street circuit in a row, and our team’s second home race. It is our second visit to Spain in just about five weeks but the circuit is as different as it could be compared to Barcelona. It shares some characteristics with Montreal and Monte Carlo, like emphasis on low-speed traction so I expect our car to do well here. Apart from that, it is a beautiful place and weather is pretty hot, just like India, but the track itself isn’t a huge challenge. Yes the walls are close but the adrenaline factor isn’t close to Monaco or even Montreal. But on the back of the promise we showed in Canada, I’m looking forward to the race and hopefully we’ll have a chance to build on it this time.”

Luis Pérez-Sala, Team Principal: “We’re looking forward to racing in Valencia, as it will be the second time we do so at home this season. In Canada we were quick and performed well but were unable to finish the race. In Valencia we want to confirm this progress and achieve a good result, plus doing so in front of the Spanish public is even more special. I think that the characteristics of this circuit adapt well to our car and I hope we have good reliability and finish the race with a positive result.”

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