Author: Max Davies
Vettel fastest again for Red Bull
For the second consecutive day of running at the Circuit de Catalunya, Sebastian Vettel set the fastest lap for Red Bull as Formula One continues pre-season testing in Barcelona, Spain.
Going just over a second quicker than his best effort yesterday, the German's time of 1m 23.0315s gave another firm hint of the potential sleeping beast that is the RB7. The world champion spent most of the morning concentrating on low-fuel, short stints of two to three laps instead of the medium to longer running employed during the first two winter tests at Valencia and last week at Jerez.
Red Bull additionally worked through a large number of pit stop simulations yet their attempt at a full race distance later in the afternoon was hindered by a red flag, then an unscheduled visit to the garage for Vettel after a problem with the car.
Red Bull's Head of Race Engineering, Ian Morgan, explained: "Generally it was good today and we got through almost everything we wanted to. We had a few small problems, such as an issue with a heat shield. But that's why we do these tests, to iron out any little problems, and generally the simulations went well."
Jamie Alguersuari impressed once again for Toro Rosso after claiming second place. The Spaniard's best time of 1m23.519s was set on the first of a three-lap run in the afternoon following earlier times that varied between the 1m24s-1m25s bracket.
Ferrari experienced their first real reliability issues of the winter after an electrical issue stranded Fernando Alonso on an out lap early on.
Despite the initial problem being rectified, the Spaniard did experience further mechanical niggles which conspired to keep him in the team garage for a while during the middle part of the day.
Improving his lap times over longer runs, the Ferrari driver eventually recorded a 1m23.978s best within the final hour, to end the day third overall. "So far testing has been a surprise for us, with no big problems in the car," he said. "Today is the first day we've had some mechanical issues, but it's not too worrying. We are putting a lot of mileage on the car. Everything is working well.
"We know that to see how competitive we are, we need to wait for the first two or three races. Then it will be time to say if the car is good enough or not. At the moment, everything feels okay for us," added Alonso.
Rubens Barrichello was fourth for Williams after completing 118 laps and a best time of 1m24.008s. of more significance for driver and team however was that there was no repeat of the reliability problems that have plagued their winter testing programmes.
"We had a very productive day completing 118 laps which has helped make up for the time we lost yesterday," the Brazilian confirmed. "Today was the first time I was able to use KERS, running with it activated for about 75% of the day so I am feeling happy. We also did some longer runs and I feel we are getting better prepared with everything ready for the start of the season."
After loosing a lot of time yesterday with KERS problems, Vitaly Petrov was given extra running in the morning while Nick Heidfeld took over for the afternoon running. With both drivers amassing 102 laps, Heidfeld's best - a 1m24.242s was only fifth quickest after 41 laps while Petrov's quickest lap was only good enough for eleventh on a 1m26.884s.
Sixth place went to Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi who commenced the day with long runs before a five-lap stint in the afternoon ended with a best time off 1m24.243s.
A 1m24.730s was Nico Rosberg's best effort of the day for seventh and despite the Mercedes MGP-02 chassis displaying more consistent lap times through out longer runs, it would still appear to be lacking comparable pace to it's immediate rivals. The team's official Twitter feed declared: 'Nico said: "We completed a great deal of mileage and that was important for me to understand more about the tyre behavior."
Another problematic day for McLaren saw Jenson Button sidelined for most of the morning due to hydraulic issues and resulted in the 2009 world champion only completing a total of 54 laps. His 1m24.923s lap was only good enough for eighth place but he remained optimistic.
"We're not doing as many laps as we'd like, so we're a little behind some of the other teams, which is a bit of a disadvantage, but that's something we're addressing," Button said. "Over the next two days, hopefully our reliability will be better, and we'll be fully equipped with spare parts. "Mileage not only helps reliability, but it's also useful for set-up work. It's difficult to balance the car with the front wing when you're trying a variety of tyre compounds and fuel loads. And it's taken a bit of a time, especially at a circuit like this, where getting the aero balance right is important.
"There's a lot more performance still to come from this car - now we just need some proper mileage to see what it can do. Hopefully, Lewis will be able to achieve that over the next two days."
Despite going off at Turn 1 in the afternoon, Paul di Resta proved competitive in the Force India setting a best of 1m25.194s on his way to ninth fastest.
Heikki Kovalainen claimed tenth for Team Lotus after a frustrating day for the Finn that saw him post a best time of 1m26.421s.
"I think the positive feeling with this car is growing even though we have had a couple more reliability issues today," Kovalainen explained. "They're all teething problems and we are patient while we fix them one by one. We'll get through this and put the reliability issues behind us as we have experienced people in the right positions who know how to deal with them. We still managed to complete a lot of work today and I can't wait to get back in the car."
Team Lotus also gave Formula 2 driver Ricardo Teixeira 26 laps as the Angolan pushes for a test driving role but this wasn't judged probable owing to him being 8.3s off the pace and slowest of the day.
Continuing the trend of new helmets in familiar cars, Vitantonio Liuzzi completed 70 laps in the Hispania though the Italian's best effort was some 3.7s shy of the leading runners. Timo Glock completed another frustrating day for Virgin who only amassed 66 laps and a best time of 1m27.242s after spending the morning completing systems and aero checks