Grosjean in the Lotus/Renault - Courtesy Lotus F1 TeamEnlarge Photo
After hearing all the doom and gloom from the Scuderia Ferrari garages about their lack of space through three days of testing at the Circuito de la Frontera at Jerez, Spain, countryman Fernando Alonso provided a turnaround for the team by snagging the top spot in the final, fourth day of the open test. There were a total of nine cars on the track today, all of them 2012-spec machines.
Alonso's time of 1:8.877 over 39 laps was a full seven-tenths quicker than the second-placed Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, whose 80 laps yielded a best of 1:19.597. The Spaniard continued to gather data in the Ferrari F2012 and compared different configurations. He set his quick time early on but had only two timed laps after 11 in the morning as the team had to deal with a hydraulic issue that kept them off the track in the afternoon.
Vergne admitted it was "a good second day for me as we worked though everything on our work plan and completed a lot of kilometers. After making some adjustments, I feel more comfortable in the car and I can also get an understanding of the effect of the setup changes we tried; they seem to have moved us forward." Over the four days, the Toro Rosso team completed 317 laps in the new STR7 for just over 1400 kilometers.
Reigning two-time champion Sebastian Vettel was third in the Red Bull RB8, completing 50 laps for a best of 1:19.606 over the 2.75-mile Jerez circuit. After a morning engine electrical issue that limited him to just two install laps, Vettel got running shortly after lunch and left the track encouraged: "I'm happy with the progress we've made; I think we managed to get a lot done," he said.
Lewis Hamilton was fourth with McLaren's new MP4-27 with a best of 1:19.640. Team director David Redding remarked, "Today was a good day of testing; the first hour or so was spent aero data gathering, then Lewis embarked on two or three hours intensive setup work exploring suspension geometries and general car setup. The car ran reliably and without any issues," he said.
Romain Grosjean enjoyed 95 laps in the Lotus F1 Team's E20-01 chassis, performing systems checks, temperature monitoring, data correlations and evaluation of the performance with its initial aero package. "Everything is feeling good," Grosjean acknowledged. After running different setup options, he enjoyed his first experience with Pirelli's softer tire. While acknowledging this testing is "really hard work, so far my fitness has been good, my neck's not too bad but we'll see how it feels tomorrow!"
Sixth place belonged to Kamui Kobayashi, back in the Sauber C31 and completing 76 laps for a best of 1:19.834. The Japanese driver performed setup, aero comparisons and tire evaluation in the morning, but a hydraulic leak in the afternoon had him stopped on-track with two hours to go. The Sauber mechanics' speedy work had Kobayashi back on the track for another 18 laps in the final hour of the test day.
Kobayashi in the C31 Sauber - courtesy Sauber F1 TeamEnlarge Photo
"If I look at the whole picture I am happy with the first test. For sure," he said, "we have found the right direction to go. The car didn't surprise us with any bi issues, which allowed us to work on improvements straight away."
Nico Hulkenberg took the Sahara Force India VJM-05 to seventh at 1:19.977 from his 90 laps, while Bruno Senna's Williams was eighth in 125 laps (1:20.132) and Jarno Trulli completed his first laps in the Caterham CT01 - his first time using KERS - which held the Italian back to ninth place after 117 laps.
The aggregate test times saw Nico Rosberg quickest in the year-old Mercedes, followed by Grosjean, Michael Schumacher, Alonso, Mark Webber, Vettel, Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo, Vergne and Kimi Raikkonen completing the top 10. There were a total of 23 drivers on-hand for the test, all but three completing the test with their 2012 specification race cars.