Berthold Bouman, F1 correspondent
- Raikkonen takes first place for Lotus again
- A lot of race simulations in the afternoon
- Disastrous day for Red Bull and Vettel
Today, on the final day of pre-season testing for the FIA Formula One World Championship, Lotus was again fastest as Kimi Raikkonen topped the timesheets with a lap of 1m22.030s, and also set the fastest time overall recorded during the last two Barcelona tests this week and last week. In total Lotus led the way on four test days, Raikkonen was also fastest during the first day in Jerez, while Romain Grosjean dominated the first two days of this week’s testing at Barcelona.
“I was happy with today’s running. We didn’t have any major issues so it was certainly better than yesterday. Everything worked, we tried a lot of set-ups on the car and it all came together well. I spent a long time in the car but I feel fine,” said Raikkonen.
With these impressive fastest laps, does this mean Lotus has a very fast car? Raikkonen answered, “The fastest time at the end of the day looks good but no-one will know how fast any of the cars are until we get to qualifying at Albert Park. All the changes we have made over testing have been improving the car, so we’ll have to see what happens in Melbourne in a couple of weeks’ time. I’m feeling positive.”
Second today was Fernando Alonso who ended just 0.220s behind the Finn, after completing 115 laps. Bruno Senna was third, but he had already set his time in the morning session, and had to hand over the Williams to Pastor Maldonado in the afternoon.
Senna was positive after the last test day of the year, “We had a productive morning completing a number of tyre tests and aero runs. It has been interesting to see the car developing. Overall we've had a good few days of running here in Barcelona. We are still improving, but I feel we are in a solid position to go to Australia.”
Business as usual this morning at the Circuit the Catalunya, no fog or rain today, a clear blue sky and a warm dry track was awaiting the drivers for the final pre-season test day of the year. Early pace-setters were Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenberg, Kobayashi recorded a time of 1m24.922s on the medium Pirellis. Hulkenberg took second place in the Force India with a lap of 1m26.701s, but he moved to third place as Daniel Ricciardo took possession of first place after putting a lap of 1m24.727s on the clock just 30 minutes into the morning session.
Also out early was Senna, who shared duties with Maldonado today, the Williams was again on unmarked tyres which made it difficult to make a correct assessment of the lap times. Hamilton was keen to go faster in the McLaren and took over first position, but not for long as others soon joined the hunt for first spot.
Raikkonen lost a lot of track time yesterday when he encountered a problem with the power steering of the Lotus E20, but today the Iceman was happy with his car and quickly moved to second position at the time on the medium Pirellis. Soon lap times went down into the 1m22s, the time to beat was Perez’ lap of 1m22.094s, which he recorded yesterday on the medium rubber compound. Just before the lunch break Raikkonen put his Lotus on top of the time sheets with a lap of 1m22.030s on the softs, also finally beating Perez’ record.
Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov had complained about his seat and the position of the pedals earlier this week, but with a new custom made seat the Russian finally felt comfortable in the car. After some 43 laps in the morning he ended up on seventh place, just behind Lewis Hamilton, but ahead of Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes.
Caterham’s Mike Gascoyne commented, “Both drivers have made the sort of progress we targeted, particularly Vitaly who had his proper race seat today and is starting to find a balance he can really use. We still have some work to do to help him optimise the braking system, but that is about fine tuning his setup and I am sure we can have that ready for him in Melbourne.”
Also a busy morning for Alonso and Ferrari, the Spanish driver completed many laps again with multiple stints on the soft and medium tyres, as well as practicing pit stops and standing starts, much to the delight of his fans who were watching him from the grandstands.
McLaren was another team to play catch-up today, they also lost a lot of valuable track time yesterday, hydraulic problems had hampered Jenson Button’s progress and it was now up to Hamilton to gather the much needed data, the 2008 Champion finished 60 laps on the Barcelona circuit before the chequered flag signaled the end of the morning test session.
The morning action ended with Raikkonen on top of the time table, he was followed by Alonso, Senna, Hulkenberg, Kobayashi, Hamilton, Petrov, Schumacher, Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, who was last for Red Bull, he had only completed 15 laps before the lunch break.
Again testing new parts was the priority today, and like yesterday, Red Bull tried to hide the rear of the car, especially the exhausts area, with tailor-made covers and umbrellas every time it entered or left the garage. Red Bull designer Adrian Newey was apparently impressed with the exhaust configuration of the Sauber, and had quickly designed a similar one for the Red Bull RB08.
When the green flags were waved to mark the start of the afternoon session, Schumacher was quickly out for a five-lap run on the softs to test the degradation and to record the accompanying drop of lap times.
Most teams were out on the circuit to test simulation race conditions with long runs and pit stops for new tyres, changing from soft to medium, and back to the softs again. Raikkonen and Alonso were also lapping the circuit, Alonso was recording consistent times on the softs.
Big question before the first race in Melbourne is the position of Ferrari, the team from Maranello has been very hush-hush about their progress, if they made any, and have consistently kept their drivers out of the spotlight, no interviews with the media, and a lot of meaningless information on the Ferrari website.
“It’s going to be difficult,” is what Alonso recently said, “We have a lot of work ahead us”, is what Technical Director Pat Fry said yesterday, and Felipe Massa has been busy denying the rumors he had already been ditched by his team, but nothing at all about the current status of the Reds. Not unusual, but this time Ferrari has kept a total radio silence when it comes to giving an evaluation of their test programme, and not one word on where the team expects to be when the season kicks off in two weeks time.
It was also very silent in the Red Bull garage, with only 90 minutes to go the "by Newey" designed machine was still stationary in the garage, and no sign of Vettel who was supposed to put in a lot more laps than Webber did yesterday. Soon the news emerged, Vettel’s car had a faulty gearbox which had to be replaced, on top of that he had already earlier in the morning destroyed a new front wing which really didn’t help him either.
At the same time red flags were waved for the first time, as Kobayashi’s Sauber was spotted at the exit of Turn 4, there was no damage to the car and after marshals had removed it 15 minutes later, the green flag was shown again.
Looking at the number of laps, the order with just 75 minutes to go was: Hamilton, who had completed 108 laps, followed by Raikkonen (101), Alonso (96), Hulkenberg (86), Petrov (80), Ricciardo (78), Schumacher (77), Kobayashi (72), Senna (53) and Maldonado (20), the latter two did not drive all day. But still on 11th and last place was Vettel, who was still waiting in the garage to start his 16th lap.
With just one hour to go the morning lap times had not been improved, and there was still no sign of the Red Bull or its driver, this time the team didn’t need any covers or umbrellas to hide the tail end of the car, as it was still well-hidden in the garage.
Schumacher, Alonso, Raikkonen and Maldonado were able to put in the test laps they needed, and continued making long stints during the rest of the afternoon. With just 20 minutes left on the clock the red flag came out again, Petrov had left the track at Turn 4 and his Caterham CT01 had stopped just before the barrier.
There was not much time left for a long stint, perhaps there was enough time left for a quick dash for first place on today’s rankings, but the temperature of the track had already dropped and there were no fresh soft tyres available, nevertheless Alonso could give it a try as he was just 0.220s behind leader Raikkonen.
But Vettel was the first to go out with just seven minutes to go but the 2010 and 2011 Champion couldn’t really do much and couldn’t even improve his fastest time of the morning session. Soon the others joined him, Raikkonen tried the super softs but these were, according to Pirelli, even slower than the softs here in Barcelona, so the order remained the same as in the morning, Raikkonen was first, Alonso second and Senna in the Williams was third.
As said, a complete disaster for Red Bull, only 23 laps were completed today, and not even all the umbrellas and covers could hide the frustrations of the Austrian team. "I'd love to be able to say more about today, but this morning I had an issue, I went off track and broke the front wing and had to come in," said Vettel.
And he added, “"Summing up, I think that with testing you always have something you'd run differently but you have to accept what you get. There aren't many years you can give yourself a 10 out of 10, because it's likely that things break or you stop for precautionary reasons. Overall, though, I think we can be quite happy with how we've done this time.”
Barcelona test II - Day 2 results
|2||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||1:22.250||+ 0.220||115|
|3||Bruno Senna||Williams||1:22.296||+ 0.266||53|
|4||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:22.312||+ 0.282||101|
|5||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber||1:22.386||+ 0.356||72|
|6||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren||1:22.430||+ 0.400||115|
|7||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham||1:22.795||+ 0.765||101|
|8||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||1:22.939||+ 0.909||100|
|9||Pastor Maldonado||Williams||1:23.347||+ 1.317||48|
|10||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||1:23.393||+ 1.363||100|
|11||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:23.608||+ 1.578||23|
All times unofficial