Today was the first glimpse of the on-track battle of 2012...sort of. At times like this, with the opening race in Melbourne still almost a month away, you have to take what you are given and Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton both treated us to race simulation runs this afternoon that made for fascinating viewing trackside.
Barcelona has a well-deserved reputation as a great test track, but that also means that it's an excellent place to get a picture of how the 2012 crop is performing using the naked eye rather than the stopwatch. So myself and AUTOSPORT columnist Dieter Rencken completed a full lap of viewing, taking the opportunity to watch the cars in every type of corner, be it the heavy brake into the medium-speed Turn 1, the long, demanding right-hander at Turn 3, the super-fast, uphill Campsa or the painfully slow chicane near the end of the lap.
But back to the race. This jaunt around the track coincided with the Red Bull versus McLaren battle. Given that both were running what appeared to be comparable (if not identical) fuel loads at similar times, it was a rare opportunity to compare the two cars. Right now, Red Bull and McLaren appear to be in the best shape overall, although to that must be added the usual caveat that this is based on limited information and there is still plenty of time to go until the first race.