After smooth running on day one, day two in the final F1 pre-season test at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya was a disjointed affair with a mix of long runs, short runs, mechanical difficulties, red flags and uncooperative elements aerodynamic and meteorologic. Interesting stuff indeed…
Testing started late on day two as fog shrouded Montmelo. From the pitlane, it was impossible to see the first or last corner, which meant the medical helicopter was grounded – and F1 doesn’t move under those circumstances. It did give the teams time to practice pitstops, however, and so several got on with that.
The usual order at Jerez and the first Barcelona test was to have the drivers do two consecutive days. At this test, most teams have decided to do alternate days. It reduces the risk of one driver's running being wiped out by bad weather but it also allows the teams, having worked out a baseline setup already, to get down to studying individual tweaks, with more chance to compare their two drivers’ individual preferences.
And so Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso came in for Mark Webber, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa respectively. Kamui Kobayashi replaced Sergio Pérez at Sauber and Nico Hulkenberg stepped into the seat vacated by Paul di Resta at Force India. The recovered Heikki Kovalainen replaced Vitaly Petrov at Caterham. Williams decided to split the day with Pastor Maldonado continuing in the morning and Bruno Senna taking over after lunch. Michael Schumacher replaced Nico Rosberg at Mercedes – though that’s been Merc’s policy throughout the test. Only Lotus and Tosso retained their day one line-ups, with Romain Grosjean and Jean-Eric Vergne continuing respectively.
Once things did get underway, it was slow-going with six red flags in the morning. Pastor Maldonado had an engine problem and stopped out on track for the first one, Michael Schumacher simply stopped causing the second. The third was for debris on the circuit after someone hit a marker board, Schumacher again caused number four, this time sliding into the gravel. Five was Jean-Eric Vergne with a smoking Toro Rosso and the final stop before lunch was down to Sebastian Vettel in what looked suspiciously like a planned stoppage in the minutes before lunch was called. Fortunately most people were attempting only short-runs anyway in the morning as most tried out new parts and setup options.
Oddly it was the retained pair of Grosjean and Vergne who contested top spot, albeit having had contrasting days. Grosjean became the first man to be quickest twice, on this the ninth day of testing. He wrested top spot from Vergne as the day drew to a close, having managed a full race sim in the afternoon. “It was great that we could still run strongly at the end of the session, even after a long stint,” said the Genevan. “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, but the rest of me is fine!”
Vergne’s day by contrast was limited to 31 laps as his problems in the morning necessitated an engine change which kept the car in the garage for much of the afternoon. “Of course it is a shame my winter testing ended with a less than satisfactory day, with not so many laps completed – however, yesterday we did a lot of running and the team still has two more days here with Daniel [Ricciardo] and I believe we can therefore make up for lost time. The day was not a complete wash-out, as we got some useful data in the morning and did yet more pit stop practices this afternoon.”
Red Bull Racing
Vettel managed 85 laps in the RB8 during the disrupted day that frustrated the Red Bull Racing team. “Even when the session did get going, it was a fairly choppy start as there were a lot of red flags,” explained Vettel’s race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin. “But Seb got through most of the programme, which today was just background testing stuff, we weren’t focusing on performance at all. There are a lot of boxes we need to tick to go racing and we got quite a few done today.”
Fourth, and the reason why there was a big crowd in the grandstand, was Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari driver managed 124 laps, including a full race simulation, though the F2012 was still doing constant-speed testing and sporting a lot of hi-vis paint suggesting some fairly basic aero work was also going on in the background. Interestingly, Ferrari seemed to be doing their race sim at a similar time to Lotus and, while both cars started runs doing similar times, Ferrari’s pace seemed to fall away quicker, suggesting it chews its tyres more than Maranello might like.
Heikki Kovalainen managed 104 laps for Caterham, taking fifth fastest, which was their best showing of the testing season so far. The Finn cheerfully explained that his engineers were delighted that he lost 3kg yesterday while indisposed. ““I’m pleased with how today has gone. I’m still not quite 100% after a bit of food poisoning kept me away from the track yesterday, but I’m pretty much over it and the way today has gone is good news. We keep going in the right direction and seem to have put the little issues that were holding us up behind us and the number of laps we’ve now run means I’m starting to be able to fine tune the setup and find a balance I’m really happy with. There’s still more to come in outright pace and we’ll work more on that tomorrow, but I think we can say this has been another good day for the whole team.”
Nobody else broke the hundred-lap barrier. Kamui Kobayashi (sixth) managed 77 before a hydraulic leak ended his participation, while Nico Hulkenberg (seventh) only got to 33 before a drive shaft problem just after lunch brought out the seventh and final red flag of the day. Michael Schumacher (eight) completed 79 laps despite the two red flags he caused, while Lewis Hamilton had a very anonymous day with 65 laps and ninth in the running order after McLaren had a day of lengthy setup changes. Behind him were the two Williams drivers. Maldonado’s day was compromised by his early engine problem but Bruno Senna managed to recover in the afternoon.
Tomorrow sees more changes to the line-up, including the anticipated return of Kimi Räikkönen. After an explosive reentry to F1 on the first two days of the Jerez test, it’s been a long time since we saw the 2007 World Champion in the cockpit.
1. Grosjean Lotus 1m22.614s 123 laps
2. Vergne Toro Rosso 1m23.126s +0.512 31 laps
3. Vettel Red Bull 1m23.361s +0.747 85 laps
4. Alonso Ferrari 1m23.447s +0.833 124 laps
5. Kovalainen Caterham 1m23.828s +1.214 104 laps
6. Kobayashi Sauber 1m23.836s +1.222 77 laps
7. Hulkenberg Force India 1m23.893s +1.279 33 laps
8. Schumacher Mercedes 1m23.978s +1.364 79 laps
9. Hamilton McLaren 1m24.111s +1.497 65 laps
10. Senna Williams 1m24.925s +2.311 48 laps
11. Maldonado Williams 1m25.801s +3.187 20 laps
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