It’s a notoriously difficult art to interpret the results from any open test session, but a closer analysis of the lap times – in addition to consulting with those in the know – would indicate that Red Bull Racing is still the team to beat, with the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix less than four weeks away.
Since pre-season testing at Valencia and Jerez, a consortium of other teams – including the likes of Mercedes GP, Renault and Williams – have taken up the challenge of competing with the ‘big three’ outfits: Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull Racing.
But word from the paddock still seems to paint Red Bull as the early favourites to defend their Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles, despite not having ended any of the four days at Jerez on top of the timesheets.
“Red Bull was clearly the best and the strongest at Jerez,” Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost told the Blick newspaper.
Even Rubens Barrichello, who took his Williams FW33 to the quickest lap across the four days at Jerez, is quoted as saying: “Red Bull are in front.”
Fernando Alonso echoes similar sentiments, telling the Spanish media: “On the basis that Red Bull had a half-second advantage at the end of last year, they remain the reference for everybody.”
“From what I’ve seen so far, I would say Red Bull remains the favourite,” Renault debutant Nick Heidfeld told Auto Motor und Sport.
And from within the Red Bull team itself? Well, Mark Webber is, not surprisingly, talking up his prospects, while remaining wary of the threat from the team’s main rivals, Ferrari and McLaren.
“In general, teams that were fast last year are still fast, us included,” he said.
[Original image via Sutton Images]