Kimi Räikkönen has kicked off his return to Formula 1 action in positive fashion, topping the timesheets at the end of the first day of pre-season testing at Spain’s Jerez circuit. The Finn lapped quicker than the best Jerez pre-season test time from last year, finishing one-tenth faster than Force India’s Paul di Resta.
Bright and sunny – albeit very cold – conditions greeted the teams in the morning, and it was no surprise to see the Caterham F1 team continue their tradition of being first out the blocks when Heikki Kovalainen was the first driver to head out on an exploratory lap in his CT01 challenger.
While it took some time before Kovalainen posted a lap-time, his compatriot Räikkönen quickly leapt out of the blocks, setting the benchmark time fairly early in the day, which would not be beaten before the track closed for business at 5pm local time.
As temperatures gradually climbed to a higher-than-expected ambient peak of 20°C (68°F), so the lap times came down as teams got to grips with countless systems checks and set-up adjustments.
It’s almost impossible top read anything into the test times during the pre-season, as early on teams will run completely different programs. Some outfits will aim for a stellar lap-time as a way of getting some good publicity, while others will keep their cards close to their chest and stay away from headline-grabbing times.
One can certainly say this was the case at McLaren and Ferrari, whose respective drivers Jenson Button and Felipe Massa finished the day eight- and ninth-fastest out of the day’s twelve runners. Massa’s F2012 started the day covered in bright yellow flow-vis paint so the team could assess the car’s aero efficiency and corroborate this with the wind tunnel data they would have gathered during the car’s design.
Further up the field, Paul di Resta racked up just over 100 laps in his Force India VJM05, finishing just one-tenth behind Räikkönen and being the only other driver to break the 1m20s barrier.
Third-quickest was Nico Rosberg in the older-spec Mercedes – the team electing to run its 2012 challenger at the second pre-season test in late February – who shared driving duties with Michael Schumacher, who finished sixth-fastest after taking over in the afternoon.
Rosberg narrowly edged out Mark Webber on the timesheets, with the Australian’s initial running delayed while his Red Bull team waited on rear wing components to be freighted in from their UK headquarters. Once out on the track, he was on the pace almost immediately, and topped list as the quickest driver through the speed trap.
Fifth-quickest was his compatriot Daniel Ricciardo, who had his first outing in Toro Rosso’s new STR7. He caused one of the day’s two red flags when his Ferrari-powered car ground to a halt with a loss of oil pressure. He didn’t take part in any further running before the end of the day.
The other stoppage was caused by seventh-quickest Kamui Kobayashi, who simulated an assenza di benzina (or ‘absence of fuel’) with twenty minutes to go, parking his Sauber on the circuit’s back straight.
After finally racking up some lap-times, Kovalainen’s seemingly promising start in the new Caterham was brought to a halt when his CT01 broke its starter shaft and ended his day’s proceedings.
With Pedro de la Rosa bringing up the rear in his older-spec HRT (sporting a completely white livery), the penultimate place on the timesheets was occupied by Pastor Maldonado’s Williams FW34, which was beset by a series of gremlins that prevented him from completing any more than 25 laps for the day.
The final session times were as follows:
|1.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus Renault E20||1:19.670||73|
|2.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||+ 0.102||101|
|3.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 Team W02*||+ 0.549||56|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||+ 0.826||53|
|5.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||+ 1.024||57|
|6.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 Team W02*||+ 1.124||41|
|7.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||+ 1.683||106|
|8.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||+ 1.860||60|
|9.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||+ 3.145||69|
|10.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||+ 3.508||28|
|11.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||+ 3.701||25|
|12.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT Cosworth F111*||+ 4.006||44|
* Denotes 2011 car