Felipe Massa has taken over as the Formula 1 pre-season pace setter on the penultimate day of the opening test session at Jerez, with the Ferrari driver posting a blistering 1:17.879 on the soft Pirelli tyre compound.
The Brazilian finished the day almost nine-tenths of a second faster than Nico Rosberg, who clocked a mammoth 148 laps in the Mercedes F1W04 as the team sought to make up lost ground after two previous days of very limited running.
Conditions were very cold when the circuit opened for business at 9:00AM local time, as the weak winter sunshine did its best to slowly bring temperatures to a chilly 10°C by the middle of the day.
Massa quickly set about posting a benchmark lap – which only Rosberg was able to beat – before ultimately going on to clock is ultra-quick effort in the F138 later in the day.
Following overnight repairs to the car’s front end in the wake of Lewis Hamilton’s accident the day before, the F1W04 held together for the German to clock up over two Grands Prix worth of running – a supreme test of car and driver fitness.
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel made his return to the F1 stage, taking over from Red Bull Racing team-mate in the RB9 challenger. After getting himself up to speed, the German performed two long-distance runs later in the day to register 102 laps in total and the third-fastest time overall.
Vettel finished up just ahead of fellow champion Kimi Räikkönen, who also had his first outing in the Lotus E21. Unfortunately the Finn’s day didn’t go to plan, with his programme getting cut short when the car’s clutch packed it in.
Another driver having his first outing of the season was Toro Rosso’s Jean-Éric Vergne, who completed 89 tours of the twisty Spanish track despite causing a brief red flag when he ground to a halt at the exit of pit lane. He was fifth-fastest overall.
The biggest incident of the day came for Force India test driver James Rossiter, who embarrassingly clattered into the front-jack mechanic on his return to the pits. Fortunately the crew member escaped without serious injury after he was helped to the circuit’s medical centre. Team-mate Paul di Resta took over the reins in the afternoon, but his day was curtailed after just seven laps when the VJM06 suffered an exhaust failure.
Fellow Brit Jenson Button was back in the McLaren cockpit and finished seventh-fastest after taking over from team-mate Sergio Pérez, who had piloted the MP4-28 the day before. It was a quiet day for Button after his session-topping efforts on the opening day of testing, but he still managed 85 laps by the end of the day before bring the test to a close when he stopped on the circuit in the closing minutes.
Sauber rookie Esteban Gutiérrez also had his first outing of the season, piloting the Swiss team’s C32 challenger to a fastest time just over two seconds slower than Massa’s best of the day. The team spent much of the day evaluating different braking and cooling packages.
Fellow rookie Max Chilton managed to get Marussia off the bottom of the timesheets in his second day of running in the Cosworth-powered MR02. The Englishman managed 78 laps behind the wheel, finishing just over three seconds off the leading pace.
Another F1 rookie getting his first F1 mileage of the year was Williams’ new signing Valtteri Bottas. The Finn managed 86 laps in the older-spec FW34 as the team continued its evaluation of new components and the 2013 Pirelli tyres before unveiling its FW35 design at the next test session at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Slowest of the runners to complete any meaningful lap tally was Charles Pic, whose day was brought to a premature end when his Caterham CT03 suffered an undisclosed mechanical issue just before the lunch break.
The final day of testing at Jerez kicks off at 9:00AM local time (GMT +1) on Friday.
2013 Jerez Pre-Season Test – Day 3 Session Times:
|1.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:17.879||85|
|2.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1W04||1:18.766||+ 0.887||148|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:19.052||+ 1.173||102|
|4.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:19.200||+ 1.321||40|
|5.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:19.247||+ 1.368||85|
|6.||James Rossiter||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:19.303||+ 1.424||42|
|7.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:19.603||+ 1.724||83|
|8.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:19.934||+ 2.055||110|
|9.||Max Chilton||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02||1:21.269||+ 3.390||78|
|10.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW34||1:21.575||+ 3.696||86|
|11.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT01||1:22.352||+ 4.473||57|
|12.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:23.729||+ 5.850||7|