Fernando Alonso has finally dragged the Ferrari team to the sharp end of the testing timesheets, posting the quickest time of the day as the first pre-season test session was brought to a close at the former Jerez circuit in Spain.
After the initial three days’ running had failed to deliver solid reliability or pace from Ferrari’s radical new F2012 challenger, the Spaniard was able to extract some rapid times from the new car, although he was sidelined with more reliability issues.
After the chilly start to the penultimate day’s running on Thursday, the teams were greeted to even colder conditions when the track opened for business on Friday morning at 9am local time.
The field had been whittled down to nine cars overnight, with Mercedes AMG packing up and heading back to Brackley to finalise its assembly of its 2012 car, the W03, which will make its maiden appearance at the next test session in Barcelona.
Back in the paddock, two faces were having their first outings in the new cars. After the team’s test driver Jules Bianchi had curtailed any hopes of running on Thursday when he crashed early in the session, Nico Hülkenberg finally got behind the wheel of Force India’s new VJM05, while Jarno Trulli familiarised himself with Caterham’s new CT01.
While there were no major incidents, the day was interrupted by four red flags. The first, just minutes into the session, was for the track marshals to remove some debris, while Williams’ Bruno Senna caused two of the others with separate on-track stoppages in the afternoon. The other on-track stoppage beset Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber, whose car developed an hydraulics leak in the late afternoon.
While Alonso had more reliability issues and only managed 39 laps in the day, defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel was another driver who spent most of his day confined to the garage, with his Red Bull RB7 being his with an electrical problem that took almost six hours to resolve. When he did eventually get going, he ended the day third-fastest behind Jean-Éric Vergne in the new Toro Rosso.
Lewis Hamilton had his second day of running in the new McLaren, finishing the day four-hundredths of a second slower than Vettel, and just under one-tenth faster than Romain Grosjean in the Lotus, who rounded out the top-five on the timesheets.
With the colder conditions playing its part, most drivers failed to improve on their Day 3 lap times. It is always a black art trying to read too much into the inherent pace of each of the 2012 challengers that have been unveiled to-date, but the teams will no doubt have tons of data to pore through as they prepare themselves for the next four-day test session at Barcelona in ten days time.
The final session times were as follows:
|1.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:18.877||39|
|2.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||+ 0.720||80|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||+ 0.729||50|
|4.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||+ 0.763||86|
|5.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus Renault E20||+ 0.852||95|
|6.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||+ 0.957||76|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||+ 1.100||90|
|8.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||+ 1.255||125|
|9.||Jarno Trulli||Caterham Renault CT01||+ 3.321||117|
* Denotes 2011 car