- 2013 testing
All eyes on Jerez
After one of the shortest Formula One off-seasons in history, there's still a great deal of anticipation as the paddock descends on Jerez for the first test of 2013. New cars will always get lots of interest, but this year we have the significance of Lewis Hamilton's switch to Mercedes as well.
And it's Mercedes which kicks off the week of track action at the Circuito de Jerez today. The new W04 will be launched officially at 1335 local time, with Nico Rosberg having already given it its first run this morning as part of a filming day. As a result of Mercedes' filming, Toro Rosso has to wait until the track time has ended before it can launch its new car - the STR8 - at 1730 CET.
On Tuesday morning, it's the turn of the only two remaining 'new' teams to launch their respective cars as Caterham reveals the CT03 and Marussia unveils the MR02 before the opening day of the test gets underway at 0900.
All eleven teams will be present this week - with Williams running its 2012 car before launching the FW35 in time for the second test - but only one (confirmed) race driver won't be taking to the track. Fernando Alonso has decided to miss the first test, with Felipe Massa running on the opening three days for Ferrari before Pedro de la Rosa takes over on the final day to help him collaborate the car with the simulator; where the majority of his work will take place.
Is it a mistake by Alonso to miss out on valuable track time when there's only 12 days of testing in total? The reigning world champion admitted at the RB9 launch on Sunday that he wouldn't make the same choice, but it's hardly a season-defining move.
"I'm looking forward to driving," Vettel said. "Testing is limited and I would be happy if Mark [Webber] would decide to wait a bit longer and equally the other way round. I think for us it has been pretty much the same in the last couple of years; we try to share the days as much as we can and equally try to get as much as we can out of it. But I don't necessarily think it's a big advantage or disadvantage if you have a day more or a day less, so we'll see.
"Jerez is probably different to the other two tests because it's a circuit we're not going to race on, so I don't think you miss a lot given that maybe you don't run, but for us we're clearly interested to drive there to get to know the car."
The teams could not ask for a better weather forecast, and most can now boast a complete driver line-up. Only Force India and Marussia have seats still to be confirmed, with the former running Paul di Resta for the majority of the test and relying on simulator driver James Rossiter to take on some of the workload later in the week.
Reading too much in to the times - especially during the opening few days - is a dangerous game as each team focuses on gathering data and evaluating the results compared to the simulations they have been running all winter. As a result, working out the pecking order based on this first test is going to be close to impossible. But that won't stop us trying...
ESPN will have full coverage of the opening test from Jerez on ESPNF1.com and via Twitter