Berthold Bouman, F1 correspondent
- Second time Grosjean takes first place
- Red flag fiesta at Circuit de Catalunya
- Technical issues for Vergne, Hulkenberg
Romain Grosjean once again was the fastest man on the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain today, and became the only driver to top the timesheets twice during the third and last of the 2012 pre-season tests. In a last-minute flying lap the Frenchman lapped the circuit in a time of 1m22.614s, and took over first place from his compatriot Jean-Eric Vergne who was second for Toro Rosso. While current Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel took third spot after completing 85 laps in his by Adrian Newey designed Red Bull.
"I’m very happy with the car, and it was great that we could still run strongly at the end of the session, even after a long stint. Today was the first race distance I’ve completed in a long time and I’m feeling pretty good. No doubt my neck will be a little sore tomorrow, but the rest of me is fine! At the start of the day we suffered slightly with tyre degradation, but we changed a few things and this improved as the day went on," said Grosjean.
The pit lane stayed closed and the red flag was out during the first half hour of the morning session, as a thick fog had descended upon the circuit, which meant there was not enough visibility for the medical helicopter to either take off or land, but after the sun came out, the lights turned to green and all was set for another day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.
All drivers went on track for a quick installation lap but just 30 minutes later Pastor Maldonado stopped his Williams between Turn 6 and 7 and the red flag was waved again. After his car was removed Heikki Kovalainen was the first to go out for his first run in the Caterham.
Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari and Grosjean in the Lotus were the first to clock a few fast laps, both were challenging each other to score the fastest time, Alonso on the hard tyres set a time of 1m23.990s but was quickly beaten by the Lotus as Grosjean on the soft rubber compound went faster with a lap of 1m23.782s.
Michael Schumacher was also quick with a lap of 1m25.520s, but also parked his Mercedes on the circuit, also at Turn 7, a very popular place on the Barcelona circuit to park a Formula One car. The red flag was waved once again, all cars returned to the pit lane and most teams used the opportunity to practice a pit stop.
The Mercedes was quickly removed again and testing resumed with Grosjean trying to beat Alonso’s fastest lap, he didn’t succeed but nevertheless he came close with a time of 1m23.528s, which was just 0.081s shy of Alonso’s time.
Lewis Hamilton and Vergne were on their flying laps when the red flag was waved again, this time marshals had to pick up pieces of a polystyrene board at Turn 2. Two hours into the morning session the order was: Alonso, Grosjean, Vergne, Nico Hulkenberg, Schumacher, Hamilton, Kamui Kobayashi and Kovalainen, while Vettel and Maldonado had not been able to set a time yet.
Schumacher was out again to improve his quickest lap and set a time of 1m24.663s but immediately after that caused the red flag to come out for the fifth time, as he lost control at Turn 5 and ended up in the gravel trap. His car was once more lifted on a truck and brought back to the Mercedes garage.
When the session resumed Vettel, still without a time, quickly went out in his Red Bull RB08 to take fourth place at the time with a lap of 1m23.536s. Also a man on a mission was Vergne, who went out on the softs and claimed first place with a lap of 1m23.126s. Vergne pitted and went out on the super softs and was on his way to improve his own fastest time, when he also had to park his Toro Rosso at Turn 7 and caused the sixth red flag of the morning.
It took about ten minutes to remove the Toro Rosso and the green flag was waved with only 10 minutes to go. All drivers rushed out of the pit lane for yet another short run, but only a few minutes later marshals waved the red flag for the seventh time, it was now current Formula One Champion Vettel who had stranded, not much later it was decided to end the morning session and the chequered flag was waved.
The order after the morning session was: Vergne, Alonso, Grosjean, Vettel, Kovalainen, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Schumacher, Maldonado and Kobayashi.
The afternoon started with another red flag, the eighth of the day, including the one for the fog, this time Hulkenberg had parked his Force India at Turn 10 after just seven minutes. Not really ideal all these red flags, drivers have to stop their long runs and return to the pits, the tyres cool down and have to be warmed up again during the next attempt. The afternoon session was as a result of the early morning fog extended until 17:30hrs local time.
Bruno Senna took over the wheel from Maldonado and although he was immediately faster than his team mate, his first attempt didn’t get him further than 10th place, with Maldonado now 11th, Senna was 0.690s faster than the Venezuelan, but still 1.985s slower than Vergne.
Sauber’s Kobayashi was 10th before the lunch break, but he Japanese driver soon went out to deliver a better time, and landed sixth position at the time, just behind Kovalainen and ahead of Hulkenberg with a time of 1m23.836s.
Vettel also slightly improved his time and took over third position from Grosjean. He was probably not satisfied with the result, as he gave it another try and scored his fastest time of the day with a lap of 1m23.361s, which was good for second spot at the time.
Both Grosjean and Alonso were doing race simulations in the afternoon, complete with pit stops and tyre changes. All but the super soft Pirelli rubber compounds have been renewed, and teams were especially interested in the drop-off point of the new soft, medium and hard tyres, the point the performance of the tyre drops significantly, and can be as much as two seconds per lap.
Both Vergne and Hulkenberg who had to park their car and caused a red flag were not participating in the proceedings in the afternoon, Vergne had engine problems with his Toro Rosso, but he was back on track with just half an hour to go. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, another Frenchman took over his leading position with a flying lap on the softs, Grosjean took half a second of Vergne’s time and lapped the circuit in 1m22.614s which was 0.512s faster than Vergne’s time. The rest of the order remained the same until the chequered flag was waved to end this second day of testing.
Vergne was of course disappointed to lose first place and also lamented the time he spent in the garage. “Of course it is a shame my winter testing ended with a less than satisfactory day, with not so many laps completed. However, yesterday we did a lot of running and the team still has two more days here with Daniel and I believe we can therefore make up for lost time,” the Formula One rookie said.
A very good performance today by Kovalainen and his Caterham team, the Finn took fifth position ahead of the big guns like Schumacher and Hamilton. It was therefore no surprise he was very satisfied with today’s result. “We keep going in the right direction and seem to have put the little issues that were holding us up behind us and the number of laps we've now run means I'm starting to be able to fine tune the setup and find a balance I'm really happy with,” he said. It was a good day for the team he added, “There's still more to come in outright pace and we'll work more on that tomorrow, but I think we can say this has been another good day for the whole team."
Barcelona test II - Day 2 results
|2||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1m23.126||+ 0.512||31|
|3||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1m23.361||+ 0.747||85|
|4||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||1m23.447||+ 0.833||124|
|5||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham||1m23.828||+ 1.214||104|
|6||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber||1m23.836||+ 1.222||76|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1m23.893||+ 1.279||33|
|8||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||1m23.978||+ 1.364||78|
|9||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren||1m24.111||+ 1.497||65|
|10||Bruno Senna||Williams||1m24.925||+ 2.311||48|
|11||Pastor Maldonado||Williams||1m25.801||+ 3.187||20|
All times unofficial