Berthold Bouman, F1 correspondent
- Lotus and Grosjean on top of day one
- Tyre testing and race simulations today
- No sign of HRT and Marussia on the first day
Frenchman Romain Grosjean topped the time sheets today for Lotus during the first day of the final pre-season testing days in Barcelona on the Circuit de Catalunya. Second fastest time was recorded by McLaren’s Jenson Button who had topped the timesheets all day -- until just ten minutes before the chequered flag was waved Lotus and Grosjean decided to go just a bit quicker. Third was Sergio Perez who after completing a total of 117 laps was 0.568s behind Grosjean.
“The feeling in the team is fantastic and it’s like last week’s issues never happened,” Grosjean said. And he added, “My crew told me that the problems would make us stronger, and this is true. The chassis is stronger, and all the team is stronger. We gathered good data today and we have a few interesting things that we would like to confirm tomorrow which should help us make a good step forwards.”
Not present in Barcelona was Marussia, their 2012 contender failed to pass the FIA crash tests and they are not allowed to test in Spain, instead Marussia is now concentrating on getting their new car through the mandatory crash tests. A big setback for the team, they will now travel to Melbourne totally unprepared and will have to give their new car its first shake-down during Friday’s first free practice session at the Australian Albert Park circuit.
Although it was reported the brand new HRT motor home is already present in the Barcelona paddock, there was no sign of their new car and they did not participate in the proceedings today. The F112 initially had failed to pass the FIA crash tests, but last week it was reported the F112 finally had passed the tests. HRT did say in a statement earlier this week that they are currently putting the car together, and are aiming to run the F112 on Sunday, the last day of testing, with veteran Pedro de la Rosa behind the wheel.
After the usual installation laps it was time to set some decent times on the clock, first to produce a fast lap was Button on the soft tyres with a time of 1m24.132s. He was soon followed by Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne who set a lap of 1m24.216s on the hard tyre compound. Mark Webber was the first to score a time under the 1m24s, he lapped the circuit in 1m23.993s in the RB08.
Two hours into the morning Webber was still leading, followed by Button, Vergne, and Felipe Massa in the Ferrari. Others had been driving longer stints, Perez was fourth in the Sauber, Vitaly Petrov in the Caterham fifth, and Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado sixth and seventh.
Pirelli predicted teams would test tyre strategies during this last pre-season test, and they brought 114 sets of medium tyres, 94 sets of soft tyres, 69 sets of the hard tyres and 38 sets of the super soft tyres. Pirelli is also ready for rain, they also brought 31 sets of intermediates and 14 sets of full wet tyres to Barcelona.
Soon there were more flying laps, Button tried the hard tyre compound and scored a time of 1m23.510s, a time that would not been beaten before the lunch break. There was also plenty of pit stop practice in the morning, not just for the drivers but more importantly to train the pit stop crews.
Lotus was back testing their new E20 after they fixed the problems they encountered with their chassis last week. As a result, Lotus decided to pull out of last week’s testing altogether which also cost them three valuable days of testing. The team has redesigned and reinforced the front suspension mounting points as they had caused the problems last week.
In the morning they mainly conducted aerodynamic tests as they were not able to do that last week. Grosjean confirmed Lotus’ chassis problems were fixed and took third fastest time just before lunch with a lap of 1m23.959s.
Also just before the lunch break Nico Rosberg took fourth fastest time in his Mercedes MGP W03 with a lap of 1m24.057s on the soft tyres. Others like Petrov, Massa and Webber were still doing longer stints to simulate race conditions.
Just before 13:00hrs local time the red flag came out as the Sauber of Perez had stopped in Turn 7, not as a result of a technical problem, but the C31 stopped with an empty fuel tank. Button led the pecking order before lunch time for McLaren, he was followed by Perez, Grosjean, Rosberg, Webber, Vergne, Paul di Resta, Massa, Petrov and Maldonado was slowest with a time of 1m25.587s.
After the lunch break cars soon got on their way again to continue today’s test programme. Although the track temperature was rising, track times did not go down, not even on the soft tyres, and it seems all fastest times during testing are being set during the morning session. Teams spent the afternoon doing longer stints simulating race conditions and practicing pit stops and standing starts.
Almost two hours into the afternoon and with still one hour to go, the number of laps confirmed most teams were doing race simulations, Petrov was on top with 105 laps, second was Rosberg with 99 laps, and Perez third with 95 laps. They were followed by Vergne with 84 laps, Webber with 8 laps and di Resta was next with 74 laps, Massa did 67 laps and Grosjean and Maldonado both with 52 laps, while the fastest man of the day, Button, remained in the garage after having completed a total of 50 laps during the morning.
Di Resta about his day behind the wheel of the Force India, “The final test is all about adding new parts to the car, seeing how they perform, and getting our set-up sorted for Melbourne. I think we have a good idea of where we need to be based on the performance of the car today and Nico will continue with that work tomorrow.”
All were on different tyres so it was impossible to make an analysis of the lap times, but even with the track again warming up, the fastest times of the morning were still not beaten. But with just half an hour to go, Lotus decided to put Grosjean on P1, the Frenchman went out on the softs for a quick run and on his 62nd lap he recorded a time of 1m23.252s, 0.258s faster than Button in the McLaren MP4-27.
After four laps he cruised back to the garage to call it a day, he was probably almost out of fuel as well as it didn’t take much of an effort to grab first place from Button.
With just ten minutes to go the red flag was waved, this time for Petrov who stopped his Caterham in Turn 6, after the car had been retrieved the green flag was out again and all but Petrov and Maldonado went out for the last time. But times were not improved anymore and Grosjean remained the fastest driver of the day.
Lotus Technical Director James Allison was pleased with the result, “Our main target for today was to compress as much set-up work as we could into the first day as we are playing catch-up relative to our rivals at this track.” About last week’s problems he commented, “Obviously, we’re very pleased to complete the day without any major difficulties to the car after such a troubled start here last week.”
Team manager David Redding of second place man Button said, “We wanted to drill a little deeper into our understanding of the car, and that meant undertaking some bigger set-up changes that wouldn’t ordinarily be available to us during a grand prix weekend. “We made good progress and we’re satisfied with today’s results.”
Sauber driver Perez was happy with his third place and commented, “I think this was a very good day for me. The car was performing well under varying conditions. We are working in the right direction, and I’m very much looking forward to getting into the car again for my final day of testing on Saturday.”
Barcelona test II - Day 1 results
|2||Jenson Button||McLaren||1:23.510||+ 0.258||63|
|3||Sergio Perez||Sauber||1:23.820||+ 0.568||117|
|4||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:23.830||+ 0.578||102|
|5||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||1:23.992||+ 0.740||128|
|6||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:24.216||+ 0.964||113|
|7||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:24.305||+ 1.053||98|
|8||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||1:24.318||+ 1.066||105|
|9||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham||1:24.876||+ 1.624||123|
|10||Pastor Maldonado||Williams||1:25.587||+ 2.335||58|
All times unofficial