Photo courtesy Lotus F1 Team
Still working with their 2011 car, Mercedes retained the top spot in the third day of open Formula One testing at Jerez de la Frontera circuit in southern Spain. This time it was Nico Rosberg setting the quick time at 1:17.613 from his 118 laps. He focused on tire testing as the team worked on several development items.
"It seems that the tires are closer performance-wise this year, with the rear tires also looking a bit stronger," Rosberg said. "Pirelli have done a good job so far. You really can't 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," he stated.
Romain Grosjean was quickest of the 2012 cars, pacing the Lotus E20-01 chassis under sunny, less windy and mild skies. The Frenchman completed 117 laps with a best of 1:18.419 and 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," he said. "The car feels good on different fuel loads and tire compounds we used. For sure there's margin for improvement in the tests ahead, but it's a great start to the year."
Two-time reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel took the Red Bull Racing RB8 to third on the time sheets at 1:19.297, achieved in 96 laps on the day. Taking over from Mark Webber he admitted it was a pleasure to get behind the wheel of an F1 car again after the winter break:
"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's normal when the car is new," he shrugged.
Fourth went to Lewis Hamilton, taking over the McLaren MP4-27 from Jenson Button and completing 80 laps with a best of 1:19.464. Hamilton acclimated himself to the new car, finding a workable setup direction and then declaring himself pleased with the new car. "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 program of initial tests. There were no nasty surprises, which is pleasing," he noted.
Jean-Eric Vergne placed fifth for Scuderia Toro Rosso, taking his first laps in the new STR7-01 chassis, completing 79 laps with a best of 1:19.734. He did a lot of short runs, collecting data for different aero configurations, while also getting up to speed with the car. Vergne completed a relatively long run in the afternoon with plans to do an even longer one on the final day tomorrow.
"My first feeling when I got in the cockpit was a positive one," Vergne said. "The car seems to have a good base from which we can progress over the winter tests. I still need to work on my seating position and I'm looking forward to making more progress tomorrow."
Photo courtesy Sauber F1 Team
There were 10 cars on the track today, with Segio Perez in sixth place with the C31 Sauber-Ferrari, completing 48 laps with a best of 1:19.770. He started the day doing some setup work in the morning, testing different ride heights and dampers. Perez said 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 and obviously he will have an intense program."
Once again it wasn't a great day for Ferrari, still mired in the mid-to-rear of the testing pylon. Fernando Alonso took over the Felipe Massa today and took 67 laps in the F2012 with a best of 1:20.412. "There is a lot of room for us to improve from where we are," sad Pat Fry, technical director for the Scuderia. He thought reliability was acceptable and performance was "okay, but I would not say I am happy yet until we get the whole thing working."
Bruno Senna had his first run in the Williams today for eighth place, Giedo van deer Garde was ninth for Caterham and a disconsolate Jules Bianchi failed to set a time for Sahara Force India after he had a small off and incurred damage to the right rear corner of the car. Ultimately, the team was missing one small brake component which parked them for the balance of the day. Nico Hulkenberg gets his first run in the VJM05-02 on the final test day tomorrow.