Sebastian Vettel during the first pre-season test of the 2012 F1 season at Jerez.
Forget who set the fastest times for now. The true pace of the current Formula One cars won't be revealed until they are let loose on the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona. Until then, here are some things one can look at to somewhat assess the form of the F1 teams but more importantly, get an insight on the amount of work that goes on during a four-day test..
1) Lap count: A total of 23 drivers covered 3,380 laps of the 4.428 kilometre Circuito de Jerez between them to reach an overall tally of 14,949 kilometres.
2) Tyres used: Pirelli's new medium compound tyre was tested the most with the teams using 91 sets to rack up 1,776 laps. Next up was the soft compound tyre of which teams used 57 sets to complete 1,010 laps followed by the hard compound tyre of which 33 sets were used to complete 594 laps.
Testing tyres became all the more crucial this year since Pirelli has changed the characteristics of its four dry weather compounds by making them softer, increasing the rate of degradation, and reducing the time taken for the tyres to reach their optimum operating temperature.
Pirelli even changed the profile of the tyres by making them 'squarer' from the side, which has led to an increase in the amount of rubber that comes in contact with the track. This could have a crucial effect on the form of a lot of drivers as was evidenced by Mark Webber's struggles last year when he compared switching from Bridgestone tyres to Pirellis to a golfer changing his clubs.
In order to understand the tyres better, Mercedes opted to test with their 2011 car (complete with an exhaust blown diffuser) so that they could compare the data they collected on the 2011 Pirellis with the current generation of tyres without any other variables to skew the data collected.
3) Best times: While they were mainly for grabbing headlines, it is still worth noting who went fastest on the four days of testing at Jerez. If for no other reason then to compare the pacesetters to the ones who will grab the headlines at Barcelona.
Day 1: Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus E20): 1m19.670s - set on the medium compound tyre.
Day 2: Michael Schumacher (Mercedes W02): 1m18.561s - set on the hard compound tyre.
Day 3: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes W02): 1m17.631s - set on the soft compound tyre.
Day 4: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari F2012): 1m18.877 - set on the soft compound tyre.
4) Reliability: An important parameter to gauge a team's form. Even this was skewed a bit at Jerez. So while Toro Rosso ran toruble free on all four days and racked up more miles than Red Bull, especially when Sebastian Vettel lost an entire day due to an electrical fault, it would be premature to say that Red Bull will suffer from bad reliability come the start of the season in Melbourne.
Ferrari fans, however, had genuine reason to be concerned if they were following the first pre-season test. Both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were consistently setting low lap counts and high lap times on all four days. The fastest time set on the final day of the test could have been a low-fuel run to re-assure the 'tifosi' that all was not lost just yet.