Nico Hulkenberg - Photo courtesy Sahara Force India Formula 1 Team
Formula One preparation for the 2012 season resumed at Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on Tuesday with 11 cars taking to the 2.89-mile track on a cool and crisp day, the first of four days of testing. Only the Marussia team used a 2011-spec car for Charles Pic, who completed 121 laps and was the slowest of the drivers on-circuit.
The quickest driver was reigning and two-time consecutive champion Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull Racing, using 79 laps to turn 1:23.265 in the RB8. "It's clear that the cars have less grip than last year," Vettel said, "but we try to come back from that slowly. It's difficult to judge where we are compared with the others right now; it's all based on feeling and the feeling I have inside the car at the moment is fine."
The team made changes during the lunch break but Ian Morgan, head of race engineering said it was no problem to have lost some running time. "We got through most of what we wanted today; we had a longer than usual break for lunch, in order to change some things, but that had always been planned," he said. "It wasn't at the expense of getting the tasks completed."
Nico Hulkenberg placed second in the Sahara Force India VJM05-02 chassis, also producing 97 laps with his quickest at 1:23.440. "Once again it's good to do so many laps and I'm pleased with how things went today. It was only my second day in the car," he reminded, "and I'm still bedding in and getting used to things, but after each run I felt a bit more comfortable." The team began with aero runs and the customary data acquisition in the morning, "and then we moved to longer runs in the afternoon. The car feels consistent and the drivability is good, so I feel positive heading into tomorrow."
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes were third with Lewis Hamilton up. The Brit ran 114 laps with a best of 1:23.590 in almost 330 miles. Working on tire and setup evaluations for the morning session, the focus in the afternoon turned to longer runs in the MP4-27, particularly looking at high-speed corners. "With more than 500-km under our belt, this was an extremely productive day," said David Redding, team manager. "The car ran reliably and without problem all day and Lewis was happy with the car. Given the cooler temperatures we experienced today, we're optimistic that we're headed in the right direction."
Scuderia Toro Rosso claimed fourth place as Daniel Ricciardo completed 76 laps in the STR7-01 chassis with a best of 1:23.618. Their day was cut short with a technical problem that stopped the car out on the Catalunya track with about an hour left; there wasn't enough time to get it back to the pits and on the circuit once more, but Ricciardo has tomorrow to look forward to. "It wa a good day with 76 laps under my belt," said the Australian. "We were getting ready for Melbourne, running through various procedures, working to a set time scale, as if it was a race weekend."
Fernando Alonso covered 75 laps for Scuderia Ferrari in the F2012 and was fifth on this unofficial time sheet, continuing development work; he's expected to continue testing on Wednesday after setting a best of 1:24.100. Michael Schumacher gave the new Mercedes F1 W03 its shakedown today, completing 51 laps for sixth place (1:24.150) before a hydraulic problem forced him back to the garage. "My initial feelings with our new car are certainly good," said the 7-time F1 champion. "I'm happy with the different evaluations that we have done over the week but obviously, with the rules changes we won't know more until later."