The final four-day pre-season test for Formula One began at Barcelona's Circuito de Catalunya on Thursday under sunny and dry conditions. There were 10 teams at the test, all of them using their 2012-spec cars.
After the drama of suspension problems at last week's test, Lotus F1 Team returned to set quickest (unofficial) time with Romain Grosjean completing 73 laps in the E20 Renault with a top of 1:23.252. "The car was feeling very good and it's great to bounce back from our dramas to set the fastest time of the day. It's clear we have solved the problem and now we have to complete a very full test program this week," Grosjean said.
"My crew told me that the problems would make us stronger and this is true," he continued. "The chassis is stronger and all the team is stronger. We gathered good data today and we have a few interesting things that we would like to confirm tomorrow, which should help us make a good step forwards."
Jenson Button was second in the MP4-27 for Mercedes McLaren, running 64 laps with a best in the heat of 1:23.510. As the team introduces new components for the season, the first two days were dedicated to pit stop practice with a full race crew on-hand - as well as further prove-outs of the chassis and engine.
"Having completed more than 2000km at Barcelona last week," said team manager David Redding, "today was always going to be more about quality than quantity. We wanted to drill a little deeper into our understanding of the car and that meant undertaking some bigger setup changes that wouldn't ordinarily be available to us" during a race weekend. "We made good progress and we're satisfied with today's results."
Sergio Perez of Mexico took the C31.02 Sauber/Ferrari to third on the time charts, completing 118 laps with a top of 1:23.510. The team considered it another productive day and Perez turned his best on medium tires before the lunch break. "I think this was a very good day for me; the car was performing well under varying conditions. We are working in the right direction," he said, "and I'm very much looking forward to getting into the car again for my final day of testing on Saturday."
Mark Webber was fourth for Red Bull Renault at 1:23.830, turning 102 laps on the near-three-mile circuit. Still, Webber thinks there's much to be done: "We're here at the last test and it's starting to build up for the first race. We're pretty excited for that; however, we still have plenty to go through this week. We have some crucial data to gather and the next three days will be really important. We're learning every run and we are making progress," he said.
German NIco Rosberg took fifth place for Mercedes AMG, concentrating on setup programs in the morning before undertaking longer runs in the afternoon; his best was 1:23.993 after completing 128 laps. After this five-day break from testing, Jean-Eric Vergne was back in the STR7-03 Scuderia Toro Rosso racer, completing 113 laps with a best of 1:24.216. "It was a good day and I completed more laps than on any of my other times in the car so far. I am feeling confident and comfortable," he said.
Paul Di Resta - Photo courtesy Sahara Force India Formula 1 TeamEnlarge Photo
Paul di Resta was back in the VJM05-03 Sahara Force India F1 Team race car today, completing 98 laps for a best of 1:24.305. "We managed to tick off all the objectives once again," he said. "This final test is all about adding new parts to the car, seeing how they perform and getting our setup sorted for Melbourne.
Felipe Massa focused on improving the Ferrari F2012's setup, running 105 laps before handing over to teammate Fernando Alonso on Friday. His best was 1:24.318.
The Caterham team had to change drivers for today's test after Heikki Kovalainen suffered food poisoning overnight. Vitaly Petrov took over, completing 123 laps for ninth at 1:24.876. "Despite the very late change of driver, that was an excellent day for us," said Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer. Pastor Maldonado was the last driver to tsp in the Williams FW34 and was tenth for the day.