Fresh off four days of productive private testing in Valencia, Red Bull's debut boy racer Sebastian Vettel was sound-effects fast during Formula One testing Sunday at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing. Photo...
Fresh off four days of productive private testing in Valencia, Red Bull's debut boy racer Sebastian Vettel was sound-effects fast during Formula One testing Sunday at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
All times are unofficial, but everyone agreed on Vettel's 1 minute, 19.055 seconds around the 2.75-mile circuit in Adrian Newey's enchanting RB5. After that, second-quickest Felipe Massa was either 1.6 or 1.275 seconds behind in the Ferrari F60. The Ferrari team reported slower times for all runners.
Vettel's time was a blisterer, considering the close grouping of all runners in previous testing, a situation cited by Massa after three-team testing in Bahrain last month. Competitive, he called it. A portent, we hope.
Following Massa was tester Kamui Kobayashi in the Toyota TF109, 1:20.699; racer Nico Rosberg in the Williams FW31, 1:21.171; Robert Kubica in the BMW Sauber F1.09, 1:21.292; veteran racer Giancarlo Fisichella in the freshly unveiled Force India VJM02, 1:21.584; test driver Pedro de la Rosa in the McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 in 1:21.831, and Nelson Piquet in the Renault R29, 1:22.011.
Teams faced coolish and cloudy conditions -- air and track temperatures kept below 65F (18C) -- and a noontime sprinkling of rain changed some teams' programs.
A number of red flags interrupted proceedings. Massa slid off Corner 3 on his 42nd lap, citing sand, but the F60 needed only a degraveling by mechanics. Kubica stopped with sensor warnings that prompted an engine change. Piquet encountered scattered technical issues. Fisichella's fuel system balked. De la Rosa minded an oil pressure sensor warning that stopped his day 10 minutes before close of business.
As all team members keep heads down with March 29's Australian Grand Prix looming, programs varied. Massa worked on a familiar routine of morning setup work followed by six- to eight-lap runs and rounded out with longer afternoon runs. The F60 showed changes to the exhaust system. Massa completed 63 laps.
BMW Sauber and McLaren Mercedes concentrated on testing Bridgestone's 2010 tires. Rules changes will affect tires when heating blankets are disallowed, making proper operating temperatures harder to reach, and when fuel stops are eliminated, meaning tires must carry heavier loads. Drizzle cut short Kubica's tire time and put him onto race-start simulations. Poland's only Formula One driver, tournament-level bowler, poker aficionado, and best-paid athlete completed 47 laps.
"Unfortunately, I couldn't drive as many laps as planned," Kubica said. "In the afternoon the session was interrupted by five red flags and the changing weather. Because of this, I expect a very busy day tomorrow."
De la Rosa managed 94 laps in compiling data about compounds and casings.
"Running without tire blankets makes it harder to get heat into the tire," the Spaniard said. "But that's the objective for next year, and that's why Bridgestone will supply the teams with different compounds. We managed a lot of laps today and the work with the tires was very positive."
Bridgestone has announced it will send super-soft and medium compounds to Australia for a race scheduled to start later than usual, in cooling twilight.
As might be expected for his month's introductory turn, Fisichella put in the fewest laps, 31, but he must be encouraged by a competitive -- even if unofficial -- time. The Italian worked on systems checks and data compilation. The VJM02's fuel system fussed, costing Fisichella laps.
"It is a bit frustrating as we could only do 31 laps today, especially as it is very important to try and get as many as possible as we are already late compared to the other teams," Fisichella said. "I am, however, quite surprised and happy about what I felt with the behavior of the car today. It's very promising, and I felt much more consistency, even under braking, and more stability in the high-speed corners. We need to improve the traction a bit and also the oversteering after a few laps, but this is a problem others have had as well. The lap time is good, and I am quite pleased as we did it with one set of new tires and I know I can do much better than this. We are not that far away from the other people so I am looking forward to tomorrow and another day with more laps where we can try to improve the car a little bit and concentrate on reliability."
Force India, after a shakedown last week in England, arrived with new McLaren gearbox and Mercedes engine per late-fall deal doings that have the independent team eyed up as the season's potential surprise package. Founder and team principal Vijay Mallya has pronounced points and performance as absolute requisites this season.
"Thanks to McLaren, Mercedes and all the guys back at the factory for all their hard work in getting the car ready for this test," technical director James Key said. "Given the time frame we've had, to get laps in here is a major achievement. It was certainly good to be running today for the first time at a test following our shakedown last week. The rain didn't come today as much as expected so we got more time than we thought, although it was difficult to get a clear run with the numerous red flags. We also had one simple issue that halted our running, a fuel system problem. We don't feel it is fundamental, we just need to get to the bottom of fixing it. Other than this, the car ran very well and behaved as expected. We got a lot of good feedback from Giancarlo and his feel for what the car is doing within its parameters. We will do more running tomorrow, as we need to run through some more baseline setup as we could only do one setup change here today."
After Renault's proven champion Fernando Alonso had the R29 placing higher in time charts in previous tests, teammate Piquet took a return to the bottom of timesheets as the only runner over the 1:22 mark. The Brazilian continued development work on the R29, completing 52 laps..
"We had a few issues with the car today which limited our mileage, but we still managed to evaluate some of the new parts we brought to this test," Piquet said. "The track was improving throughout the day as we had a lot of cars running and so it should get better and better throughout the week. Looking ahead to tomorrow, the priority is to get more miles under our belt -- the weather should be similar so, hopefully, we will get another dry day."
Said chief test engineer Christian Silk, "It was quite a difficult day with limited mileage due to some small problems that we had on the car. As a result, we didn't get as much setup work done as we would have liked, but the engineers still have some interesting data that they will go through this evening. The priority for the rest of the week is to continue adding mileage to the car and continuing with our setup work."
Vettel's old team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, is not in Jerez. The Red Bull sister team has yet to introduce a new model for the newly signed and Vettel-like Sebastien Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais. The field also awaits some version of a Honda entry, said to be completing legalities of a Ross Brawn-led takeover and expecting to test in Jerez after a Silverstone shakedown in anticipation of reaching the grid in Australia. Jenson Button's career rides on the outcome.
Not to be left out, newly announced USF1 team, hoping to reach the grid in 2010, has been at work crash testing its website.