Kimi Raikkonen ended the 2012 pre-season with this year’s fastest Barcelona laptime, but the Finn is not yet predicting a win in Melbourne at the end of next weekend.
“No one will know how fast any of the cars are until we get to qualifying at Albert Park,” said the returning 2007 world champion.
Lotus – fast at Jerez and also at the Circuit de Catalunya – is expected to trail pacesetters Red Bull and McLaren this season. Yet in reality, the situation is deliberately clouded: Red Bull had a bad final day of testing on Sunday, but when he was running, rivals expected Sebastian Vettel’s RB8 was brimmed with fuel. And when he came into the pits, there was the odd sight of team mechanics using large umbrellas to hide the car’s newly-added secrets, including the sidepod exhaust.
“I think that’s a question for Charlie Whiting,” said Ferrari’s technical director Pat Fry when asked about the legality of the solution.
Even so, Red Bull’s position of dominance seems to have been somewhat eroded for 2012, with Mercedes chief Ross Brawn suggesting the RB8 is closely matched by its rivals unless the team has been “running a huge amount of fuel”.
Sebastian Vettel told DPA news agency: “McLaren are strong. Mercedes are definitely stronger than last year and Lotus and perhaps some other teams should not be forgotten — Sauber, Force India. Ferrari seem to be having some difficulties.”
World champion Vettel’s final comment appears undoubtedly true, with the famous Italian team’s drivers oddly banned from speaking with the media while technical boss Fry confessed that all is not well.
“I’m always pessimistic,” said the Briton, who said a podium for Ferrari in Melbourne is not likely. “I’m disappointed with our performance at the moment.”
Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, ignored his media muzzle and told Barca TV. “In the first races we will suffer – we are not yet at 100 per cent. We’re not in as good shape as (Barcelona players) Messi and Iniesta.”
But for now, it’s all talk, and so the reticent Raikkonen summed it up well: “Like I said, I don’t know, probably no one does,” he is quoted by Germany’s Sport1. “In two weeks, we’ll know.”