Michael Schumacher and Mercedes GP have shown what could be a complete turnaround in form, with the seven-time World Champion finishing quickest overall at the end of the second day of pre-season testing at Jerez.
This was an important message for the 42-year-old to send to his rivals in the lead-up to the start of the 2011 season, with the German and his team having been the subject of much speculation, with many figures questioning the potential of the team’s W02 challenger that had – until now – not really shown a great turn of pace.
By the end of the day’s proceedings, Schumacher had notched up over 100 laps of the Spanish circuit, finishing fractionally quicker than yesterday’s fastest man, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
Testing times, however, may never give a true indication of any particular team’s overall pace, with some outfits running underweight to try and post sponsor-grabbing times, while others will sandbag to mask their pace.
Conditions were again bright and sunny for the eleven teams and drivers participating in the second day of the four-day outing at Jerez, with the air temperatures hitting 10°C (50°F) during the day.
The driver line-up for this day’s running differed little from yesterday, with Lewis Hamilton handing over the reins of his McLaren to Jenson Button, while Nico Rosberg did likewise for Michael Schumacher at Mercedes GP.
As soon as the eight-hour test session got underway, Jaime Alguersuari quickly set about beating the benchmark time he had managed the day before, with the Spaniard enjoying a full day’s running in the Toro Rosso STR6 after sharing driving duties with the team’s reserve driver, Daniel Ricciardo, yesterday.
After moving to the top of the timesheets following his opening sequence of laps, Alguersuari then caused the first red flag of the day when he went off in sector two of the lap.
When the session got underway again, Schumacher moved to the top of the order, posting the day’s fastest time of 1:20.352, which would remain unchallenged for the rest of proceedings.
Despite Schumacher registering the quickest lap overall, his lap times varied quite a bit early on, and once they had stabilised, were typically a second a lap slower than those posted by Mark Webber, whose Red Bull RB7 is widely tipped as the ‘barometer car’ in the pre-season.
Second-fastest Massa was the only other driver to lap in the 1m20s range, but his pace generally sat at 1m21s mark at the start of his eight-lap stints. The Brazilian seemingly opted for heavy-fuel runs at certain sections of the day, with longer stints showing lap times varying between 1m26s and 1m28s range.
|Felipe Massa finished second fastest by just 0.06 seconds, while third-quickest Jenson Button enjoyed his first outing in McLaren’s new MP4-26.|
Finishing third-fastest was Jenson Button, whose McLaren team made a slow start as they set about performing more installation laps and system checks with their new MP4-26, that is rumoured to be running a forward-facing exhaust configuration pioneered by Renault.
Once he attempted some serious running in the afternoon – never for stints longer than six laps at a time – his times were in the 1m23s range and gradually improved.
Fourth-fastest – despite his off-track adventure – was Alguersuari, with his fastest time occurring at the start of a ten-lap stint
Webber finished the day fifth-fastest and with a handsome lap tally to underline the early reliability of his Red Bull, but the Australian concentrated on getting consistent times in longer runs rather than posting an earth-shattering low-fuel lap time. That he was able to consistently lap in the 1m24s range on his longer runs is certainly ominous to rival outfits, who were not able to post similar times.
The day was punctuated by three further red flags, all caused by rookie drivers.
Vitaly Petrov brought about the day’s second red flag with another spin, although this time the Russian managed to make it to Turn 2 before beaching his Renault R31 in the kitty litter.
|Sergio Pérez put his Sauber C30 through an unexpected crash test at Turn 7.|
The third stoppage was caused by Sauber rookie Sergio Pérez, who walloped the front of his C31 against the crash barriers after having an oversteer moment at Turn 7. He wound up sixth-fastest overall behind Webber.
Having managed to have his Williams sorted after a series of technical gremlins limited his running yesterday, Pastor Maldonado is another driver who be buying his mechanics a round of beers after he damaged his new FW33 with an off-track excursion, burying his car in the tyre wall at Turn 4. However, the Venezuelan enjoyed a more productive day, despite his running still being limited to just 38 laps when the team had to strip and reassemble its KER unit in the morning when a warning light appeared.
Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock finished eighth-fastest by dint of a quicker, low-fuel lap later in the day, with the German having spent much of his running on longer stints.
Last of all was Jarno Trulli in the Team Lotus T128, with the Italian lapping consistently in the 1m23s and 1m24s range on the softer Pirelli tyres. But the veteran’s running came to an end when he had to pit with an unspecified mechanical problem that curtailed his running when the team didn’t have the necessary parts available to cure it.
Jerez Pre-Season Test (Day 2) Lap Times:
|1.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP W02||1:20.352||112|
|2.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F150th Italia||+ 0.061||116|
|3.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 0.657||69|
|4.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 0.862||72|
|5.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 1.261||113|
|6.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 1.428||73|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 1.505||56|
|8.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 1.856||57|
|9.||Vitaly Petrov||Renault R31||+ 2.141||65|
|10.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 2.239||38|
|11.||Jarno Trulli||Lotus Renault T128||+ 2.864||40|