Nancy Knapp Schilke, F1 correspondent
Rosberg keeps Mercedes on top of speed chart in Jerez
Mercedes GP driver Nico Rosberg took the fastest lap time in today’s FIA Formula One pre-season test in Jerez, Spain. The German team continues in their goal to find the needed information prior to finalizing their 2012 car by putting down laps utilizing their 2011 racing machine with a few minor changes on the new Pirelli tires before they show off their new challenger in Barcelona.
"I'm happy with the testing that we have achieved here in Jerez, and we learned a lot about the Pirelli tyres and a few other things for the new car," said Rosberg. "It seems that the tyres are closer performance-wise this year, with the rear tyres also looking a bit stronger. Pirelli have done a good job so far. You can't really compare the lap times with other teams, but it was interesting to learn a lot with our 2011 car. Now I'm really looking forward to the two Barcelona tests with our new Silver Arrow."
...we had a couple of issues, but it’s normal when the car is new.
Most of the Formula One teams are preparing for the first race in Australia as they put their 2012 cars though a variety of setups and check to ensure that all is okay. The times are unofficial for the winter test days and most teams will not show their “speed” until right before the first grand prix. Development continues during the days of testing with one day remaining on the Jerez de la Frontera circuit.
The fastest of the new cars ended up in the lap of Romain Grosjean for the Lotus team. His team mate, Kimi Raikkonen was fastest on the opening test day. Again, the fastest times appeared in the morning and Rosberg and his team mate Michael Schumacher have two 2011 cars so both have been out every day.
Today also marked driver changes; especially for the teams with the 2012 cars, they had driver changes. Grosjean was happy to finally climb into the cockpit and his best lap placed him second for the day with a 1m18.419s over the 117 laps he put on the Lotus Renault E20. He said, “I am one of the happiest guys in the world right now. It’s been a really good day for me.
“We were fastest in the morning then we completed some longer runs in the afternoon. It’s great to finally drive the car which I have seen coming together and being built at Enstone. Working so well with all the mechanics and the engineers made it such a memorable first day in the E20. The car feels good on different fuel loads and tyre compounds we used. For sure there’s margin for improvement in the tests ahead, but it’s a great start to the year,” added the Frenchman.
The current World Champion, Sebastian Vettel was out on the track for the first time and he toured the circuit for 96 laps in his Red Bull 2012 car. The German ended up the day third fastest with a 1m19.297s in his Renault powered RB8. The day greeted the two-time champion with extreme cold in the morning but as the cars warmed-up so did the temperatures.
Vettel commented, “It’s been two months since we were in the car, so it does take a couple of laps to get back in the rhythm, but the car feels fine and as we expected. There’s quite a loss of grip due to the regulation changes, but you get used to it quickly and then start to explore how the new car feels. So far we can be happy, we had a couple of issues, but it’s normal when the car is new."
With a time of 1m19.464s, Lewis Hamilton was fourth in his McLaren MP4-27 after he also had to get use to the new car. Like the other drivers taking over the wheel of their 2012 machines, the Briton spent time in and out of the garages especially when a few glitches had to be sorted out.
“Today felt pretty good considering it was my first time in the new car. My initial feelings are pretty positive, despite going through a long, tough programme of initial tests – there were no nasty surprises, which is pleasing,” said Hamilton.
Still the 2008 champion laid down 80 laps and added, “This car’s baseline is something we can really work with. I know the men and women back at the factory will take a lot from this test and translate it into something new and even better for the next test. The car feels reasonably quick – and that’s a nice feeling.”
Taking over the cockpit in the Toro Rosso SRT7 was Jean-Eric Vergne whose first race as a Formula One driver is just a month away. The Frenchman put 79 laps of the Spanish circuit under his belt and even though this was his initial test, he ended up fifth fastest at the end of the day with a 1m19.734s. He was in and out of the garage during most of the day during the team’s “aero test programme”.
“My first feeling when I got in the cockpit was a positive one. The car seems to have a good base from which we can progress over the winter tests. In general, it was a positive day for me and the team and I am happy with the work we got through. I still need to work on my seating position in the car to make it perfect and I’m looking forward to making more progress tomorrow. Was it a special feeling knowing this is “my” Formula 1 car for the season? I preferred to concentrate on the work side of things and put the extraordinary aspects of the job to the back of my mind,” said Vergne.
Placing sixth on the day was Mexico racer Sergio Perez. He ended up with 48 laps for a time of 1m19.770s in the Sauber C31.02 with the Ferrari 056 engine. “It was a difficult day for us but the important thing is that we are improving. Every step we took went in the right direction. Kamui has another day of testing here tomorrow. Obviously he will have an intense programme and I hope we can finish the Jerez test with a productive day,” he said.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was seventh with a 1m20.412s in the F2012 followed by Bruno Senna for Williams with a 1m21.293s. Caterham’s Giedo Van der Garde had a best lap time of 1m23.324s.
Tomorrow will be the final day of Jerez test before the teams return to their home base.
|9.||Van der Garde||Caterham||1m23.324s||+5.711||74|
Times are unofficial