Former Formula One team owner Giancarlo Minardi reckons that it is not yet possible to draw conclusions on the likely pecking order for the forthcoming grand prix season as the protagonists make sense of the new technical regulations in testing.
With just over half the field currently running cars that comply with the 2009 specifications, and two yet to even unveil their latest contenders, Minardi believes that there is still a long way to go before anyone can consider themselves a frontrunner. The first major group test of the year saw Toro Rosso rookie Sebastien Buemi leading the way in inclement conditions, but at the wheel of the 2008-spec car that took Sebastian Vettel to victory at Monza.
Williams' Nico Rosberg was the best of those running new machines, but the weather - and the fact that Ferrari skipped Portugal to test closer to home - meant that the results were inconclusive. On top of that, too, there are still doubts that several 2009 challengers - the Williams among them - confirm exactly to the new rulebook.
"Right now, it is certainly not easy to make a thorough analysis based on the first test,” Minardi admitted on his personal website, “I had the impression that all teams are slightly off track, especially with KERS.
"I think the Ferrari has done very well in its run at Mugello, despite the bad weather, and being very close to home could very easily help the team overcome the various problems that you can have when you debut a new car. As we have seen in Portugal, the weather was the biggest obstacle of the first days of testing, creating many difficulties for the teams. McLaren decided to run with a 2008-spec rear wing in order to get temperature in its tyres......"
With radically overhauled aerodynamics, a new breed of Bridgestone slick and the option to run the KERS - kinetic energy recovery systems - technology this season, there is a lot for the teams to get their heads around, and Minardi believes that it will be some time before everyone is happy with their technical direction. Indeed, with no in-season testing permitted, he fears for those who do not have a decent grip on the new rules before the opening round in Melbourne late next month.
"At present, the teams must try to solve new problems arising from the new aerodynamics, while trying to make the best possible situation for the tyres," he claimed, "I am waiting impatiently for the next test, for now we have all the teams together on the same circuit as Ferrari, Toyota and BMW are going to try the high temperatures of Bahrain to try to test their KERS and the strength of their engines, as the new aerodynamics affect the dispersal of heat, while others will be at Jerez in Spain “
The abolition of in-season testing will also cause a rethink when it comes to the first day of grands prix weekends, according to Minardi, who pointed to the diverging opinions of Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso as proof that teams may be torn between using Fridays for general testing with an eye on the entire season, or focusing solely on the event at hand.
“We are facing a radical overhaul of the regulations and, as we already have witnessed, this has been interpreted differently by different teams," the veteran admitted, "Right now, everyone is trying different solutions - and never the same - to avoid being copied. As we all know, from the beginning of the championship, they will not be able to do any more testing, but there will be only more to run on Friday mornings, and who manages to best interpret the regulations without being discovered will be the ones to benefit.
"For now anyway, I think both Webber and Alonso are right in the sense that strategies will change and be determined by the [championship] ranking. Anyone in difficulty will run with the goal of bringing home the best possible result."