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Formula One testing kicks off in Jerez

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Hear that? Yup, it's the sound of F1 engines bringing 2012 to life. It's also the sound of cobwebs being blown. Get this, after the first morning on the first four days of F1's first of four official pre-season tests... Kimi Räikkönen is heading the time sheets.

Testing is a black art. It is impossible to tell what's really going on and the relative pace of the new cars. All the teams have different schedules and each car is at a different level of development. That said... Kimi's time this morning of 1.19.670 is quicker than anyone managed in all of last year's Jerez testing, which must say something about this year's blown-diffuser-less ‘slower' cars. That he set the time on the medium hard tyres just two hours after a two-year lay-off at least confirms his commitment. For now.

Of the big three - Jenson Button (McLaren), Felipe Massa (Ferrari) and Mark Webber in the new Red Bull-with-a-hole-in-it (see below) - there's little to say. They all spent the morning getting their new cars shaken down and didn't appear to want to take the game to Kimi. That was left to Paul di Resta, who finished the morning session just one tenth shy of the former champ.

We've now seen all the new F1 cars bar the Mercedes, the Marussia (used to be Virgin) and the HRT. Sad to say, they ain't all that pretty. New safety regs dictate the silhouette of the nose must navigate around an invisible rectangle just above and in front of the wheels.

Since the depth of the front of the monocoque is also regulated, and since most teams want to keep that part of the car as far away from the track as possible so as to maximise the amount of air that goes under the car, the only solution seems to be an ugly step down. It's a technique pioneered by small boys across the world, who've found the only way to make the front of their Lego racers pointy, was to use one of those slopey bricks. You know the ones.

McLaren don't have this problem as its aero-philosophy calls for a lower monocoque anyhow. Still, they must feeling like the guest who misread the dress code right now. Their party-fear can only have increased yesterday when this year's nemesis-car, the Red Bull RB8 launched... with a step in the nose. And not only that, a step in the nose with a hole in it.

Ah yes, Red Bull's ‘hole'. Fact is, 24 hours after it was made public nobody knows what it's for, though the consensus seems to be that it's to aid cooling, especially of the KERS system that did cause Red Bull a bit of bother last year. That said, the smart commentators also reckon that would be a departure for Red Bull's in-house genius Adrian Newey who is said to have a loathing of ‘holes'. More extreme commentary suggests it might even be a red herring, designed to do nothing more than waste time over at McLaren.

We will learn more over the next three and half days.


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