Photo courtesy Sahara Force India Formula 1Enlarge Photo
Preparations for the 2012 Formula One season are continuing with two additional days of testing in the books at Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona. With Lotus F1 Team returning to Enstone to effect chassis repairs, there were only 10 cars on the track on Wednesday and Thursday and, as before, only the Marussia team is using a 2011-spec race car.
On Wednesday Nico Hulkenberg was quickest for Sahara Force India F1 team, using 112 laps to secure a top time of 1:22.608 in the VJM05-02. As was customary, he started the day performing aero work, trying "some constant speed runs and collecting more data. Then the rest of the day was spent working on the balance of the car and trying out all four tire compounds. I did some short runs, long runs and just got a feel for the tire characteristics. The car has been very drivable and our baseline setup has proved to be a good starting point."
Photo courtesy Sauber F1 TeamEnlarge Photo
On another sunny and mild day, Sergio Perez brought the C31.02/Ferrari 056 to second place with his 85-lap, posting 1:22.648 before lunch on super soft tires. "This was a far more positive day," Perez said. "Despite an exhaust problem in the late afternoon, we went through a good program. Of course it is not possible to really judge the car's performance as we don't know the other teams' programs, but today was productive and now we can work out the program for tomorrow when Kamui takes over."
Sebastien Vettel was third for Red Bull Racing in the RB8, posting the final lap in the 22's at 1:22.891 over his 104 laps of testing. The team went through a full-race simulation on Wednesday and Vettel was "happy that we got a lot of laps done. Unfortunately we had a little bit of a problem - it was small, but with testing you stop whenever there's an issue, take a look and see what - and that always takes a bit of time. Nevertheless," the two-time reigning champion said, "I was quite happy."
Fenando Alonso was fourth for Ferrari at 1:23.190 in 87 laps while Daniel Ricciardo took 49 tours to earn fifth at 1:23.5639. Lewis Hamilton had his second day of testing the MP4-27 and was sixth at 1:23.806. "To have completed more than 1000km in the past two days is incredibly encouraging," Hamilton said. "The car behaves really well in the high-speed corners and I think the baseline of our car is higher than it was last year - and it's better overall at high speed."
Nico Rosberg for Mercedes AMG was seventh, completing 82 laps for a best of 1:24.555, Valteri Bottas took eighth for Williams at 1:25.738 over 116 laps; Vitaly Petrov had his first run for Caterham F1, placing ninth in 69 laps at 1:26.605 and Charles Pic again brought up the rear in the Marussia at 1:27.343, completing 109 laps.
On Thursday the sunshine and warmth continued, but the array at the top of the field changed. Most teams changed drivers for the second two days of testing and Pastor Maldonado of Williams jumped to the top of the unofficial test times at 1:22.391, completing 106 laps. Michael Schumacher was second in the Mercedes AMG, completing 127 laps for a best of 1:23.384. It was apparent the warmer temperatures - and varying test programs - were taking a bit of speed away from the 2012-spec cars.
Photo courtesy Sauber F1 TeamEnlarge Photo
Kamui Kobayashi took third place for Sauber, using 99 laps in the same C31.02 used by Perez to lap at 1:23.582 before the lunch break and on soft tires. "It was my first day driving the new car here in Barcelona and it was a good one," Kobayashi said. "We had no noteworthy problems all day and went through a lot of test items."
Jenson Button took over the McLaren MP4-27 and was fourth over 114 laps, turning 1:23.918. "We've done a lot of reliability work over the past three days," Button said. The team did more than 100 laps each day and "most of that has been longer runs, getting used to the feeling of the car over a long run and setup work for the longer runs."
Jean-Eric Vergne was fifth for Scuderia Toro Rosso, using 78 laps to take the STR7-01 to a best of 1:24.433. "We ran all ay long on the medium tires, which gives us a good baseline to analyze 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." He did his first pit stops, too and allowed, "It was a scary feeling at the beginning, coming in at 100km/hr and seeing so many people."
Mark Webber took over the RB8 and was sixth after his 97 laps at 1:24.771. Webber was hampered by a problem with the gearbox in the morning yet went into a full-race simulation in the afternoon without further difficulty. "Not the smoothest of mornings and we didn't get too many laps done there, but in the afternoon the race simulation went okay. We're still learning plenty." Felipe Massa inherited the Ferrari seat for the final two days and was seventh after his 84 laps at 1:24.771.
Paul di Resta was eighth in the VJM05-02 Sahara Force India F1 car, turning 83 laps for a best of 1:25.646. He called it "an intense day and a very busy afternoon." The team concentrated on its aero program and lost some time with a bodywork issue late in the morning.
Timo Glock took the 2011-spec Marussia to ninth while Vitaly Petrov was tenth in the Caterham, more than four seconds slower than Maldonado.
There is one more day of testing for the F1 troops at Barcelona on Friday