Grapevine: Straw Poll: Reporting from Jerez

Autosport's Formula One editor reports on the penultimate test of the year, straight from the Jerez media centre

Grapevine: Straw Poll: Reporting from Jerez

Appropriately enough against a backdrop of detente between the teams who until recently bestrode Formula One playing self-destructive games of brinkmanship, the sport's cold war moved to Jerez this week for the second major test of the winter.

It was certainly chilly - although it was apparently at least a little warmer than the Barcelona test in the middle of last month - and the hostilities were suitably cloak and dagger.

Not one team was running a directly comparable specification to another, with Scuderia Toro Rosso continuing to occupy the top of the timing screens and BMW Sauber closer to the unfashionable end of the timesheets with the ungainly B-spec machine circulating in search of greater understanding of the challenges all of the teams will face in 2009.

Unsurprisingly, the BMW Sauber F1.08B takes by far the most time to get used to seeing on track. Even a fleeting glimpse of the car flashing around a distant corner leaves you in no doubt as to which one it is and it's safe to say that getting used to them is going to take a long time.

The blend of snowplough-style front wing and narrow rear wing shatters any illusions that the tidied-up bodywork demanded by the aero regulations might return us to an era of clear, smooth lines on an F1 car. There's something of the lawnmower about F1's new look.

But that's not a problem if it succeeds in improving overtaking and making the cars a little more spectacular, but watching Robert Kubica, Nick Heidfeld and Christian Klien on track it looks to the naked eye like those who were anticipating only a modest net reduction in grip were right on the money.

As for performance, comparing times may be something of a fruitless exercise, but there was at least a genuine battle at the top of the timesheets.

With Toro Rosso continuing their three-into-two evaluation with Sebastiens Bourdais and Buemi and Super Aguri refugee Takuma Sato all on track in pursuit of race seats, this was the final chance to see the trio do battle. But despite the inevitably rivalry, Buemi found the relationship across the threesome pleasant enough.

"It's a good feeling," he said. "Obviously tension can come but in the end we just do our job and try to stay focused and that's it."

Of course, it eases the tension when you are favourite for the seat. Although team owner Dietrich Mateschitz has made it clear that at least one of the drivers needs to bring some money to the team, meaning that on-track performance is far from the sole consideration, he has also said that Buemi is "very likely" to get a drive.

That means its a battle between Sato and Bourdais. And when it comes to a battle of the sponsor dollar, Bourdais isn't exactly confident.

"I'm not a bank," quipped Bourdais on Wednesday evening before adding. "And even if I was I'd be bankrupt!"

After the bad luck he has endured this year - particularly in the second half of the year, you wouldn't begrudge Bourdais a bailout.

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