LONG-TERM ANALYSIS Part 1

Brawn GP's stunning start to testing has left observers and rival teams in no doubt that the outfit will be contenders for victory when the new Formula One season kicks off in Australia next week.

But although its headline-grabbing pace has made it fairly straightforward to judge its potential, behind Brawn GP the picture has not been so clear with teams delivering varying performances at different stages of their pre-season preparations.

Last week's test at Barcelona in Spain, however, offered the best chance so far to judge where the teams stand.

The end of day times released can be very misleading with regards to car pace, as teams run vastly different programmes, vary the parts on the car and, of course, change drivers between days.

However, a more accurate estimation of relative pace can be achieved by taking long-run data and correcting it for various factors such as tyre degradation and how fast the track is due to weather conditions and grip levels.

An analysis of the entire week's data from Barcelona has delivered the first detailed hint of where teams stand.

In terms of demonstrated pace, the field is separated by around 1.8 seconds - with Brawn GP leading the way and McLaren bringing up the rear.

Such an outcome tallied in with the general feeling from the test, but as the graph below shows, it is interesting to see that Toyota and BMW appear to be Brawn GP's closest challengers - enjoying a couple of tenths advantage over Ferrari who is in fourth place.


Of course it is impossible to be 100 percent sure that the results of the test tally with an ultimate car's performance, because there is a chance that some teams could be 'sandbagging' or running super light for added speed.

This particular set of results is also slightly marred by the fact that several teams, most notably McLaren, only brought new developments partway through the week and the testing times with older revisions were slower.

Comparing only the fastest times that each team demonstrated sees Brawn GP still leading the field, with an eight tenths advantage over their nearest challenger Williams, with Toyota in third.