2009 Paul Ricard test results

March 11-13 saw the first taste of the 2009 GP2 season at the Paul Ricard test circuit. 3 track configurations were used in the 3 testing days, with the following top 5 in each:

Day 1:
Javier Villa – Super Nova: 1’11″930
Lucas DiGrassi – Racing Engineering – 1’12″079
Kamui Kobayashi – DAMS – 1’12″140
Romain Grosjean – Barwa Addax – 1’12″262
Pastor Maldonado – ART – 1’12″270

Day 2:
Lucas DiGrassi – Racing Engineering – 1’08″841
Dani Clos – Racing Engineering – 1’08″961
Pastor Maldonado – ART – 1’08″985
Romain Grosjean – Barwa Addax – 1’09″015
Javier Villa – Super Nova – 1’09″076

Day 3:
Lucas DiGrassi – Racing Engineering – 1’09″536
Vitaly Petrov – Barwa Addax – 1’09″658
Andreas Zuber – FMSI – 1’09″663
Pastor Maldonado – ART – 1’09″691
Javier Villa – 1’09″875

Main conclusions: Group of fast drivers repeatedly at top of time sheets during all 3 days: Di Grassi, Villa and Maldonado. Other notables were Grosjean and Petrov who were fast all 3 days the test lasted.

Not surprising to see Javi Villa running well at Paul Ricard. He feels right at home on this track, but we need to wait until next week’s test at Montmelo to evaluate if his challenge for 2009 is for real. Di Grassi is surely the most consistent driver, with Maldonado close behind. Online magazine Italiaracing has labeled him the “new Pantano”, a fitting description of his title objectives – as well as the clear intentions from Alfonso de Orleans.

As opposed to F1, GP2 tests are mainly “real” and there is little playmanship to trick the other teams or impress potential sponsors. Track time is expensive, hard to come by and drivers and teams maximise it to gain experience on all levels. Paul Ricard telemetry is abundant in GP2 teams, but the individualities of each driver makes it critical to gather as much data as possible where there have been driver changes – a reality in all teams except DAMS.

The only note to add is the little running time some of the teams had during this test. Curiously, this was confined to those without official drivers – mainly Durango and DPR. The Italian team ran with very limited activity, especially when looking at Nelson Panciatici. The same can be said of DPR and Giacomo Ricci. Leaves a doubt in my mind if this is due to “problems” (mechanical and/or physical) or if it’s just a way to minimise risk and expense… until someone is signed.

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