By Max Davies, F1 correspondent
- Vettel tops second test day
- Red Bull continues domination in testing
- Toro Rosso continues to impress
Sebastian Vettel set the fastest lap on day two of the final Formula One preseason test at Barcelona today.
For the second consecutive day - following Mark Weber's impressive fastest lap yesterday - a Red Bull topped the time sheets as the defending champions continued development of the RB7.
Working on a combination of long and short runs, the German's best of 1m21.865s was set at the start of a five-lap run as the team continued to give further indication that their 2011 car was a potential title-winning contender.
Spending the morning session mainly on short runs, the defending world champion dipped into the low-1m21s repeatedly and completed a total of 112 laps as the team continued their impressive mileage accumulation.
"The lap times are still pretty much all over the place," Vettel said. "Sometimes you go up to eight or nine seconds slower with the fastest configuration, so it's difficult to read what the others are doing.
The lap times are still pretty much all over the place.
"But I think that we have done a lot of laps again, and generally this year we haven't had any big problems with the car in terms of reliability, and the speed looks quite good so far as we can judge. But we will find out in Melbourne where we really are."
Sebastien Buemi continued to impress in the Toro Rosso, claiming second place with a best effort of 1m22.396s. Managing to complete 120 laps for the day, the Swiss driver's programme included a race-simulation and despite causing a red flag mid-afternoon after stopping ton track, the team also managed to work through several consecutive pitstops at the close of the day's running.
"We can be pleased with what we achieved today, because with 120 laps, it meant we completed all the programme we had planned. Apart from the race simulation, I was also able to do a qualifying simulation. We showed a reasonable performance level and the team did a very good job in preparing the car so well. Overall, it has been a productive test. Now, we must wait and see if we can make even more progress over the next two days with Jaime driving and then we can see where we really are when we get to Melbourne," said Buemi.
Third, with a 1m22.670s, Renault's Vitaly Petrov set his time at the beginning of a four-lap stint before focusing on longer runs for the rest of the day.
"I'm pleased with what we achieved today and I was able to learn a lot about the car and the tyres," Petrov declared. "We spent the morning doing shorter runs and working on the set-up, and I was pretty happy with the car by the end of the morning. But the most important thing was to complete the race distance, which we managed this afternoon. It's the first time I've been able to do consistent long runs and really start understanding the tyres."
McLaren endured yet another frustrating day with the MP4-26. Lewis Hamilton suffered a hydraulic leak, two exhaust problems, and an abandoned race simulation. A single-lap, qualifying spec, run in the afternoon was enough to give the 2008 world champion fourth place with a 1m22.888s lap. "Do I believe I have a car to win the world championship at the moment? I don't. No," he replied when asked by reporters for his thoughts on the car.
"But that doesn't mean it won't become a world championship-winning car. From today, the improvements we've had, it's something that can grow to be better, so as long as we keep pushing in the right direction with the development, and the new things we have coming several races down the line, hopefully they will enable us to close the gap and compete for wins.
Things are not going well at the moment so today's announcement that former test and reserve driver Pedro De La Rosa has returned to the team, should help to overcome the various issues the drivers clearly have with the car.
Opting to miss yesterday's running, Ferrari were back with Filipe Massa and a new exhaust system and aerodynamic additions were subject to analysis. As a result, the Brazilian's 1m23.324s lap was only good enough for fifth but was not representative of the car's potential - a point clarified via the Ferrari's ability to match Vettel's pace on a fourteen-lap run later in the day.
Covering 118 laps and ending the day in sixth place, Force India's Paul di Resta managed to recover from an early fuel pressure issue which caused a momentary stoppage.
"A reasonable day of running for us today and good reliability and clear weather meant we could get through all of our programme," the Scot confirmed. "In the morning I worked through the qualifying sims and in the afternoon it was onto the race runs."
Seventh for Sauber, Kamui Kobayashi completed 107 laps and spent the day working to a similar programme to Tuesday with a best time of 1m24.436s.
In terms of lap time, the new Mercedes failed to impress as the team ran with new bodywork upgrades and a new exhaust system and confirmed there will be more additions throughout the remaining days.
Eighth place for Nico Rosberg was set with a best of 1m25.807s as the team worked through various analysis and development programmes.
Team Lotus were represented by Jarno Trulli who took ninth place with a best lap of 1m26.090s while tenth-placed Pastor Malonado endured a frustrating day for Williams with a KERS problem. The issue forced the team to miss most of the morning running and resulted in the Venezuelan driver managing a best effort of 1m26.989s. He could only manage a total of 29 laps and that was only possible once energy recovery device had been disconnected.
Maintaining Marussia Virgin Racing's usual position throughout winter testing, Jerome D'Ambrosio ended the day in last place, over seven seconds off the pace with a best lap of 1m28.982s.