Romain Grosjean Image courtesy Lotus F1 TeamEnlarge Photo
Fog hampered morning running at Circuito de Catalunya outside Barcelona today, but it sure didn't stop Lotus F1 Team's Romain Grosjean from becoming the first driver to top the times twice during this year's preseason testing for the 2012 Formula One season.
Grosjean's late-session lap of 1:22.614 in the E20/Renault near the close of his 124 laps that included a race distance simulation was more than half a second better than any of the other 10 drivers on-hand. "At the start of the day," Grosjean said, "we suffered slightly with tire degradation, but we changed a few things and this improved as the day went on. Today was the first race distance I've completed in a long time and I'm feeling pretty good. No doubt my neck will be a little sore tomorrow," he advised, "but the rest of me is fine!"
Second on the unofficial time sheets was Scuderia Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne at 1:23.126 with the STR7, completing only 45 laps on the day due to an engine failure towards the end of the morning session. The Ferrari engine had completed its planned running circle. "Of course it is a shame my winter testing ended with a less than satisfactory day, with not so many laps completed. The day wasn't a complete wash-out," Vergne noted, "as we got some useful data in the morning and did more pit stop practices this afternoon."
Reigning F1 champion Sebastian Vettel returned to the Red Bull R8 Renault today, completing 85 laps and recording a best of 1:23.361. With a number of red flags that punctuated the morning's run - along with the fog - Vettel remarked, "It was quite a messy day so it was hard to get into a good rhythm. We had our own stoppage on the circuit, but it was no problem. It's never nice to stop but we brought the car back. We didn't fulfill the program entirely but I think we are heeding in a good way."
Fernando Alonso moved into the Ferrari F2012 and worked on setup and aerodynamics in the morning before completing a trouble-free race sim in the afternoon. Heikki Kovalainen moved up the grid substantially in the new Caterham to place fifth behind Alonso on the time sheets, performing 104 laps and logging 1:23.828.
Kamui Kobayashi - Sauber F1 Team photoEnlarge Photo
Kamui Kobayashi took over the Sauber C31.02 Ferrari today and was sixth at 1:23.836 following his 77 laps. He, too, focused on a race simulation and comparing aero components, primarily in the afternoon. There was a hydraulic leak that hampered the Japanese driver's performance, but he still considered it a positive day: "I'm pretty happy with the car's handling under race conditions. We wanted to improve compared to the last test and we clearly did that. Of course it is too early to know where we are compared to the others, but the feeling is good."
Nico Hulkenberg - Photo courtesy Sahara Force India Formula 1 TeamEnlarge Photo
Nico Hulkenberg took over the Sahara Force India VJM05 today, placing seventh after only 36 laps. After some setup work and new tire runs in the morning, the team had some driveline issues this afternoon, nixing the opportunity to do a full race sim. "It's a bit frustrating, but we've had a pretty good winter so far and it's nothing to worry about," Hulkenberg shrugged.
Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher took over the Mercedes AMG and clocked 79 laps with a best of 1:23.978, while 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton was ninth in the McLaren Mercedes, doing 65 tours of the Catalunya circuit and producing 1:24.111 as his best. "We didn't get a lot of mileage, as we had a lot of downtime in between changes" made to the car. "Our car feels better set-up wise, but we still haven't added the new aero package. I definitely feel we have a competitive car," Hamilton said.
The two Williams FW34 racers of Bruno Senna (48 laps with a best of 1:24.925) and Pastor Maldonado (1:25.801 in only 20 laps).
This final test session concludes on Sunday.