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Ferrari testing new car design in Spain and Bahrain given deadline to rearrange

We look at the last minute alterations Ferrari and McLaren are making before Melbourne grand prix

Posted Mar 09, 2011 by Shaun Edwards

Felipe massa

In less than 3 weeks, the teams will be assembling on the grid in Melbourne to battle it out for the 2011 season opening grand prix. Yesterday, the final testing session kicked off in Barcelona giving the teams a final chance to assess their upgrades, make refinements to technology and also a last chance for Pirelli to assess how their new tyres are bedding in.

This testing session was due to be held in Sakhir in Bahrain but because of civil unrest in the country not only was the main race cancelled but so was the testing session so this four day programmes has been hastily rescheduled and moved to the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.

Early reports from Spain suggest Ferrari are testing a slightly improved design of their 2011 car the 150° Italia (renamed after a trademark dispute with Ford). The new design, currently being driven by Felipe Massa, is sporting a change to the exhaust with a concept very similar to that of the Red Bull team whereby clear air flow off the top of the diffuser has been achieved by enclosing the exhausts in a flat sleeve that exits just under the rear wing. This is a pretty risky strategy for the Italian team because they are introducing a new design in the final testing session rather than the first giving them very little time for feedback or alterations before heading to Australia for the end of this month. In fact the concept hasn’t even been proven by Red Bull so nobody is really sure whether this system is going to burn the back of the car.

It is a risky strategy but one that McLaren seem to be adopting too with the British team making a number of changes to the car in order to hopefully improve on their performance this season. Lewis Hamilton and the rest of the McLaren team have been plagued by problems in this final testing session including an exhaust failure problem this morning which halted testing altogether. These kinds of woes only add to the notion that McLaren are falling behind pace before the season has even started. One expert did point out that if McLaren do anything well it is their ability to develop a car as the season progresses so I think the car we see in action now is by no means the finished product.

Mark Webber topped the timesheet on day one of testing with a lap time of one minute 22.544 seconds, although we’ve only had the morning of day two, Sebastian Vettel seems to be well and truly on top with a blistering lap time of one minute 21.865 seconds. Vettel looks unlikely to be beaten today or for the rest of the session.

Meanwhile the GP cancellation in Bahrain is rumoured to have cost £25million, a fee which the F1 administration are thought to have picked up the tab for. But there are now suggestions that the end of the season may be reshuffled in order to accommodate a rescheduled race in Bahrain. Ecclestone have said they have until May 1st to make a proposal and then the F1 supremo says he will see what he can do.

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