Even after Lewis Hamilton and McLaren dominated the first race of the Formula One season in Australia, the team principal, Ron Dennis, was cautious, and events in Malaysia and Bahrain – where Ferrari were dominant – proved the wisdom of that.
"We don't really know what our pace is at the moment," Dennis said. "We won't really know how competitive our car is until after Barcelona. Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain are very different circuits and do not reflect the true pace of the car. Barcelona will be where it is at."
Ahead of next weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, most of the teams tested at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya and, as is often the way with these things, the results remained supremely inconclusive. Ferrari were fastest one day, but Bahrain's winner, Felipe Massa, was running on the much faster slick tyres that will be raced in 2009; Rubens Barrichello was quickest one day for Honda, as were Fernando Alonso in a revised Renault and, in the wet, Mark Webber for Red Bull. Yet none of the days could be described as definitive as everyone tried the latest packages of technical updates that had been planned since the start of the season.
Hamilton did not set particularly quick lap times but he is still buoyant ahead of the start of the European season despite the errors that made Bahrain his worst showing in F1 and cost him his lead in the World Championship as he failed to score.
"You learn something in every race, even if you win," said Hamilton. "I think we have come a long way, and looking into the next race I feel very confident that we can do a better job."
Referring to the updates on his McLaren MP4-23, he said: "There were a few but not a lot. But we definitely made some steps forward and I think at this test everyone is doing something different. Some people are running slick tyres and some people are running grooves. We just focused on our job; the car feels a little better and I feel a little bit more comfortable in it. We feel quite strong here."
Next weekend sees the official start of the motorsport against racism campaign that was instigated by the disgraced FIA president, Max Mosley, after an incident of racism at a previous test in Barcelona. Mosley, who threatened at the time to take away the country's grand prix if there was a repeat, will not be in Spain, but will be going to the less high-profile climes of the Jordan Rally.
He has been widely condemned by former world champions such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Damon Hill, Niki Lauda and Jody Scheckter for his recent sex scandal, but yesterday the Australian Webber became the only driver courageous enough to speak out. "The scandal has brought the sport into disrepute," he told the BBC. "All of us in F1 are role models, and F1 cannot have scandals of this type."
Mosley faces a vote of confidence in a secret ballot of FIA members at an extraordinary meeting on 3 June.
"Whether Max chooses to resign, or how the vote will go, is a matter for him and the FIA membership," Webber added. "We have confidence in the people – they have all the information they need to make the decision that will see if he can continue. He's in a very, very influential position and it's a very important role that he has."Reuse content