It was Pastor Maldonado’s day to lay down the fastest unofficial time on the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, on the penultimate day of this week’s FIA Formula One pre-season test. Maldonado’s best lap in his Williams FW34-01 was a 1m22.391s with the Renault RS27-5281/1 engine. The plan today was to put in long runs which they accomplished.
“It was a good day today, as we completed all of our planned programme with no issues. We have put more mileage on the car which is great for everyone here and back at the factory as we now have a lot more data to analyse. The car is progressing well and I feel everything is going in the right direction,” said Maldonado.
Second fastest was taken by the seven times world champion Michael Schumacher. Maldonado was nearly one second faster than the Mercedes GP driver who ended with a lap time of 1m23.384s in the new W03. The team did not launch the 2012 car until earlier this week so they are making up ground compared to the Formula One teams that had their new challengers during the Jerez test. The Mercedes factory team did test the new Pirelli tyres with their spec-2011 car at Jerez and today they elected to use both the soft and hard compound tyres with Schumacher doing a full race setup with pit stops during the afternoon.
I am happy with our first full testing session.
The German will relinquish the cockpit to his teammate Nico Rosberg tomorrow and he commented, "I'm very happy with the race simulation that we ran this afternoon. It confirmed what we have seen from the first tests with our new car, and that we don't seem to have any big issues with reliability. The small things from the last two days I would rate as typical testing issues. So from my side, I am happy with our first full testing session, and we have definitely improved our game which is what we wanted to achieve. To what extent, we can only see later, but I am finishing with a positive feeling."
Kamui Kobayashi placed the Sauber C31-Ferrari third with his best time of 1m23.582s during the morning on the soft Pirelli tyres. The team reported that they were pleased with the programme as they were able to gather data which included testing two separate rear wing setups.
The Japanese driver said, “It was my first day of driving the new car here in Barcelona, and it was a good one. We had no noteworthy problems all day and went through a lot of test items. I can feel we have made some progress compared to the test in Jerez. But, of course, we have a lot more work to do and there is room for improvement.”
Fourth on the 4.655km Spanish circuit was Jenson Button with his best lap of 1m23.918 in the MP4-27. The Briton put down the second most laps with 114 compared to the 128 that Schumacher put on his Mercedes engine. The team spent today by following the same programme used by Lewis Hamilton yesterday. This was Button’s first day on the Barcelona circuit so the morning was spent testing set-ups with the afternoon in full race test.
Button said, “We’ve done a lot of reliability work over the past three days – more than 100 laps on each day. Most of that has been longer runs, getting used to the feeling of the car over a long-run and set-up work for the longer runs. We’ve also been really working hard to understand this year’s Pirelli tyres and getting the car to work efficiently around them. That’s a key part of the programme this winter.”
While the teams concentrate on their planned programme, they do check out their competitors as Button admitted, “There are a lot of cars out there that look competitive: so we’ll keep pushing. We should hopefully bring our upgrade package to the next test and that will see us through to the first race in Melbourne.”
On track for Toro Rosso was Jean-Eric Vergne who ended up fifth for the day. Like the other fast teams, he also had a trouble-free day with a best lap of 1m24.433s in the STR7. The team used the warmer temperatures to garner data on the tyre management for when they will actually race in the hot summer days. The young racer was again pleased with his winter test days before the season kicks off in Australia. “It’s good to be back in the car after Jerez. We got through a lot of work today, including some aero evaluation and different set-ups.
“We ran all day long on the Medium tyres, which gives us a good baseline to analyse the data. We are learning more about our new car with every lap and it has performed well on this Barcelona track which is always a true test of how a car is performing. Towards the end of the day, I had my first experience of proper Formula 1 pit stops. It was a scary feeling at the beginning, coming in at 100 km/h and seeing so many people. At first, I was worried about hitting someone, but by the end I had got used to it. It’s an exciting experience!” added Vergne.
Mark Webber turned a 1m24.771s lap to end sixth in the unofficial times set today for the champion Red Bull team. The Australian toured the track for 97 laps in the RB8 despite a problem during the morning. They were able to still put in a full race simulation in the afternoon. “All in all, it wasn’t a bad day at all. Not the smoothest of morning’s and we didn’t get too many laps done there, but in the afternoon the race simulation went OK. We’re still learning plenty,” he said.
Head of Race Engineering Ian Morgan explained the problem, “Mark only got a handful of laps in before we had a problem with the gearbox. But whereas it didn’t set us back too much yesterday, today needed more time.”
Webber added, “It would have been nice to have done a few more laps, but I think everyone always wants to get 20 or 30 more and, even with the problem this morning, there were loads of positives to look at. We’re a very ambitious team, so we’ll keep working on that.”
Felipe Massa was in the Scuderia Ferrari F2012 today and he posted a 1m24.771s best lap time. The Brazilian continued the work started by Fernando Alonso; which included key elements that the team decided on over the four test days this week. Today, Massa mainly used the hard tyres and before the afternoon session ended, he did run a fuel scavenge test, stopping at the end of the pit lane as the team stated: “we are acquiring data on the behaviour of the new car”.
“The car is definitely better compared to Jerez and we are beginning to define how we must move forward to continue to improve,” said the Brazilian. “I ran all the time on the hardest tyres and I am reasonably pleased with the work we did. Tomorrow, I will try the other compounds and we will work on fine tuning the car. It will be important to do a lot of kilometres over these final five days to be as well prepared as possible for the first race of the season,” Massa said.
Eighth fastest was Force India’s Paul di Resta with a 1m25.646s lap in the team’s VJM05. “Quite an intense day and a very busy afternoon, but the main thing is that we achieved the objectives for the day. There will be a lot of analysing tonight to see what we can learn, especially trying to understand the data from the long runs this afternoon. Once we’ve been through the numbers, it should give us a direction for tomorrow. As I said in Jerez, it’s nice to have a car with such a good baseline because it makes it easier to experiment with the set-up and that’s what we’re trying to do at the moment,”di Resta said.
Timo Glock in the former 2011 Marussia (Virgin) car had a fast lap of 1m26.173s and toured the circuit for 108 laps. The 2012 car has not yet launched and are using the MVR-02 in Barcelona as they do development work on the 2012 Pirelli tires. Glock took over the reins of the programme from Charles Pic. Glock said, “It’s good to be back on track again after the long winter break and to start our preparations for the new season. Although we are still using the old car it has been really useful to work through the tyre evaluation programme and have the team working together again trackside. I’m looking forward to driving the new car now.”
Recently named to the Caterham team, Vitaly Petrov turned the slowest lap of the day with a 1m26.448s.