Nancy Knapp Schilke, F1 correspondent
Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi ended the four day test in Barcelona, Spain with the unofficial fastest lap today as the FIA Formula One teams will now gather all their data before the next round of the pre-season test days next week. The first race of the season is less than a month away and while some teams appear to be nearly ready; others are still struggling. Of course this is only testing and some of them may be holding back their true speed.
Kobayashi turned his best timed lap of 1m22.312s in the Sauber C31-Ferrari on the Pirelli soft tyres shortly before the lunch break. He ended the day with 144 laps of the 4.655 km Circuit de Catalunya. “I’m quite happy. We achieved a very good mileage today. The set up changes we did in the morning meant an improvement in lap times, which, of course, is very positive. There is still a lot of work to do in terms of understanding the car and the different tyre compounds at different fuel levels, but we are working in the right direction. I think it was a good test for us.”
Second fastest today was taken by Pastor Maldonado with a time of 1m22.561s. The Williams driver had the unofficial best lap time yesterday. He toured the track for 134 laps in the FW34 with the power of the Renault engine.
...our long run pace is improving step by step.
“It has been a positive test for the team. We’ve had no problems with the car, getting in some good mileage across all four days. We now have a great deal of data to analyse so we will keep pushing to improve our car for the next test. I am looking forward to coming back next week for the final test, and getting back to racing very soon,” said Maldonado.
Force India’s Paul di Resta clocked off the third best time today with a 1m23.119s lap, and he ended the day with 101 laps on the new VJM05. “It was another successful day and a good way to end the week. I had a small trip through the gravel in the morning, but nothing that caused too much of an issue, although we lost half an hour of running. The important thing is that we still managed to do our long runs in the afternoon and I could feel the changes we made compared to yesterday. It’s given me a good impression of the car’s balance and consistency, and we’ve seen that our long run pace is improving step by step,” di Resta said.
Jenson Button was fourth today with his best time of 1m23.200sin the morning session. The Briton ended up with 115 laps on a day that saw McLaren finalize their programme for the second round of pre-season testing of their 2012 challenger. “Today was spent completing some of the fundamental tests that we don’t normally get the opportunity to do at race weekends,” he said.
Button added, “We also used the time to continue tyre testing and complete a number of reliability prove-outs. It was a good day: we did 115 laps and felt the car went well. This week we’ve completed more than 2100km of running, which is impressive. It’s been a pleasing end to a very constructive week.”
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa clocked off a lap of 1m23.563s with 103 tours of the track. The Brazilian programme did have a slight delay while the team “carried out an important set-up change at the front of the car”. Mainly Ferrari spent the day evaluating setups with the four Pirelli compound tyres. “Yes, I am happy: not only because we finally did so much mileage without problems but above all because we managed to improve the car in a significant way,” Massa said.
“The situation has changed above all compared to the morning, especially from the point of view of consistency of the lap times. The important thing is that, after having evaluated so many solutions, both on the exhausts and at the front, we are now taking a direction in which we can work to get the best set-up. There’s still a lot to do, for example on the exits of corners, but I’m satisfied and from the next Barcelona test we will be able to really start true and meaningful testing,” added the Brazilian.
Massa was followed on the timesheets by Mark Webber whose best lap in his Red Bull Renault was 1m23.774s. The Australian put the RB8 through a variety of development testing and he said, “Today we got through a lot of stuff! We tested a lot of elements and everything worked well, especially since we had such a big programme. That can mean not a lot of laps and a lot of garage time, but we gathered a lot of good information today and that’s a pleasing way to finish the week.”
Seventh on the day was Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne with a 1m23.792s lap time in the STR7. Vergne commented, “I am much more confident in the car now than I was by the end of the Jerez test. We worked on many different aspects of the job and for example, today I had a much better understanding of the pit stops than I did after trying them yesterday for the first time. We did some good work today, acquiring plenty of data and I expect this will help us to improve still further next week.”
Nico Rosberg had the control of the Mercedes GP new car and his best lap was a 1m23.843s. The German put the WO3 through a race simulation using the hard compound tyres. "After our first full test with the F1 W03, I can see that we are making good steps forward. Our test programme went well this week and we have made evident progress each day,” said Rosberg.
“In terms of reliability, the car is performing pretty much as we expected which is really important as we can concentrate on improving the performance. Of course it's difficult at this stage to predict how we will fare in race conditions against our competitors but overall I'm pleased with the start that we have made. I'm looking forward to the final test next week before the season begins, and continuing our learning with our F1 W03,” he added.
Still using their 2011 car, Marussia’s Timo Glock had a lap time of 1m26.173s. Heikki Kovalainen turned a 1m26.968s for Caterham.