Planning For A Rainy Day
January 10, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
All last season the biggest problem for teams with Michelin tires was a lack of testing in rainy conditions. Now teams like McLaren, Jaguar and Williams find themselves in the middle of a three-day test that has seen nothing but rain.
While some engineers say the rain is helpful in establishing a proper race setup, they are also quick to point out that they can’t take proper readings in such wet conditions.
Eddie Irvine led testing in Barcelona on Thursday, posting a top time of 1:19.252. McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen was second fastest, running a best time of 1:19.361. Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer, Juan Pablo Montoya and Alexander Wurz rounded out the Top 5.
Despite the fact that he got 50 laps in, Irvine said the third straight day of wet weather has left the team unclear of where they stand, exactly. Jaguar was one of the only cars on the track with the 2002 model.
“We have come here to test the new R3 in the expectation that we will have warm weather,” Irvine said. “But that is far from the case. We simply haven't been able to generate a picture of where this car stands yet.”
Jaguar technical director Steve Nichols said the poor weather conditions are not the best way to test a car, but admitted some good came of the week.
“The weather hasn't been very cooperative,” Nichols said. “Even if you are trying to collect aerodynamic data all the mist and spray and everything makes it difficult. We've also had a few little mechanical niggles. But these little problems that we are having now are all little problems that you've got to solve eventually. It's still early days.
“It's not been a complete waste of time but we could have done with a bit more dry weather.”
While Nichols may concede it’s not a waste of time, Toyota driver Mika Salo was frustrated on what was supposed to be his first open test session Thursday.
Salo told reporters he was upset that the team was so far behind the rest of the pace and wasting valuable testing time sitting and watching puddles form.
“It is absolutely a waste of time,” said Salo, who was slowest of the day and completed just 36 laps. “If someone could build an indoor track somewhere where it's nice and 30 degrees inside it would be perfect. It's right to test here but it (the weather) is very hard for us because all these other teams already have all the information they need from previous years while we have nothing.
“For sure we are a lot behind at the moment and we are just trying to catch up. But everyone else is going forwards as well and we have to do double-sized steps to catch up. I think we have a big enough company and lots of good people so I'm sure that they can do it.”
For a team like Williams, however, which struggled racing in wet conditions all last season, the test this week was a good way to get some time in under rainy skies.
“The team completed a productive test despite changeable weather conditions,” said Sam Michael, chief operations engineer for Williams. “We managed to complete significant mileage in dry, intermediate and wet conditions which will make a positive contribution to both Michelin's tire work, and of course has provided significant reliability and durability running for the new engine and gearbox.
“Besides this we also made some good progress with some brake developments and electronic control software analysis. Because of the varied conditions, it has, however, proved difficult to read too much into anyone's performance here, but I am very satisfied with what we have achieved.”
Testing at the Barcelona track continues Friday, with weather expected to be 51 degrees and partly cloudy.