Sebastian Vettel has taken Red Bull Racing to the top of the testing timesheets as pre-season testing resumed at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, but several rival outfits experienced major dramas…
With parts of Europe still gripped by one of the continent’s worst-ever winters, conditions were at least dry and sunny in the Barcelona suburb of Montmeló when the circuit opened for business at 9:00am local time. Jackets were out early on, with ambient temperatures of just 4°C (39°F), although the mercury steadily climbed to 12°C (54°F) by the afternoon.
As ever, first out of the pit lane was Heikki Kovalainen in the Caterham. But this little superstition did little for the team’s fortunes when the Finnish driver brought out the day’s first of two red flags when he parked his Renault-powered CT01 with a rear suspension problem at the final corner. He took no further part in proceedings, have compiled 31 laps’ running.
The story was worse for the Lotus team, with Romain Grosjean completing just seven tours in the first two hours, complaining bitterly of an ill-handling chassis. This was the second E20 chassis produced by the team, and the team’s worst fears were confirmed when they packed up early, having identified a major high-speed design flaw in the car.
The team has completed almost 1,800km in the first four-day test session at Jerez with few problems, but the higher-speed Circuit de Catalunya showed that the new E20 had a major deficiency. Back at the factory, the team ran similar simulation work at the factory using its other chassis (hoping it could swap chassis to use for the remainder of the test), but found a similar fault. The outfit had no choice but to pack up and head back to Enstone.
Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo also lost valuable running time when his STR7 stopped with just over an hour to go with an unknown technical problem, bringing out the final red flag. Until that point, he had been sitting near the top of the timesheets in the first hours of running, trading fastest times with Sergio Pérez and Nico Hülkenberg.
Ultimately, it was Sebastian Vettel who slipped through to take top spot with ten minutes to go before the lunch break, and then cemented his position with his fastest time in the final hour of running.
Hülkenberg took his Force India second-quickest, just under two-tenths slower than his countryman, while Lewis Hamilton brought the McLaren third-quickest, mere fractions faster than Ricciardo.
Local hero Fernando Alonso finished the day fifth-fastest, but over eight-tenths slower than Vettel’s best effort, as he again admitted that the team had a lot of work to do with the F2012 challenger to get it more competitive.
Mercedes’ new W03 challenger had its first public outing, with Michael Schumacher taking the brand-new car sixth-fastest, five-hundredths of a second slower than Alonso.
With Pérez ending up seventh-quickest in the Sauber, there was a bit of a gap on the timesheets to eighth-fastest Bruno Senna in the Williams. The Brazilian completed almost 100 laps in the FW34, confirming that the car is losing ground in the slow-speed corners.
Slowest of all the runners was Marussia rookie Charles Pic, who gave the newly-renamed team its first public running of the year, admittedly in the older-spec car. He clocked up the most laps of any other driver.
The final session times were as follows:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:23.265||79|
|2.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||+ 0.175||97|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||+ 0.325||114|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||+ 0.353||76|
|5.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||+ 0.835||75|
|6.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||+ 0.885||51|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||+ 0.954||66|
|8.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||+ 2.446||97|
|9.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||+ 2.770||31|
|10.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus Renault E20||+ 3.544||7|
|11.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing MVR02*||+ 4.761||121|
* Denotes 2011 car