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NASCAR Formula 1

Formula 1 First Barcelona Pre-Season Test: Lessons Learned

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Almost 48 hours have passed since the end of the first round of Formula 1 testing in Barcelona, thus giving us time to digest what we learned. Here are the main points to take away from this round of tests:

Tires are going to play a huge role in 2013 and the teams that gain an understanding of the new Pirelli tires the quickest will be way ahead of the game. Most teams have commented that the new tires degrade much quicker than in 2012, which means that they will need to revise their pit strategies. Reliability was the main focus in Jerez, and tires and speed the focus during round one of Barcelona. I’m expecting more of the same next week, but less speed and more tires. I’d bet on teams running a lot of race simulations to get a better feel for the tires.

Mercedes continued the trend they set on the final two days in Jerez by running impressively in Barcelona. Nico Rosberg had the team on top of the time sheets on day one, and Lewis Hamilton did the same on the final day. Days two and three saw Mercedes occupy fourth in the pecking order. Four straight days of top four times is impressive, and a much needed upswing after the mechanical mishaps that made headlines early during the Jerez tests. This Mercedes team and their F1 W04 will find quite a few podiums in 2013, and probably pull-off more than one win.

Fernando Alonso of Ferrari skipped the Jerez session all together and made up for lost time by being in the cockpit three days in a row in Barcelona. Alonso wasted no time getting back to business running the third fastest time of day one. He followed it up by running fifth on day two before topping the time sheets on day three.

The fact that Alonso can drive is news to no one. He is a two time World Champion and deserves the respect that comes with that. Still, no matter who you are, it is impressive to just hop back in to an F1 seat and be fast without so much as a single lap in the first test session. I think that losing last year’s Driver’s Championship by three points still stings and Alonso is going out with something to prove.

That brings me to Red Bull Racing. Red Bull cannot rest on its laurels or they will get their doors blown off in 2013. Alonso and Hamilton are both being looked at hard and expected to deliver this season. Teams like McLaren badly want to make some noise and knock off the three time reigning champions. Red Bull must be on their toes.

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber are top notch and I don’t think they are the type of guys who would get lazy and enjoy the spoils of victory, but they have to drive like they are being chased because they are. I feel like I’m leaving out a certain team and driver that could really threaten for the Championships in 2013…oh yea…

Lotus F1 Team has been blazingly fast and Kimi Raikkonen should always be in the conversation when it comes to 2013 contenders. Lotus was amongst the top four fastest teams on every day of testing until day four in Barcelona when the team focused on data gathering runs instead of testing for speed. Romain Grosjean has been impressive, which gives great hope to Lotus fans who are hoping that his days of hit and miss driving are in the past, but Raikkonen is still the number one man at Lotus.

Kimi is a former World Champion and has been driving like one. After spending two years out of the sport he returned in 2012 and finished third in the Driver’s points. That is crazy impressive. On day two in Barcelona a gearbox issue kept the Iceman in the garage for all but the final two hours of testing, and still he managed to run the second fastest lap time that day. Lotus and Raikkonen will be strong challengers for the Constructor’s and Driver’s Championships in 2013.

Overall there weren’t really any big surprises out of Barcelona: Mercedes is still improving, Alonso can still drive, Red Bull isn’t the only great team, and Lotus is F-A-S-T.

The third and final round of pre-season tests will run from Thursday Feb. 28 – Sunday March 3, and will once again be held in Barcelona.

Follow Spenser Walters on Twitter @SpenserWalters