Category Archives: Testing Reports

Mugello Test Day 2 – Grosjean is the testing king again

Once again, Romain Grosjean led the way in a testing session (Ausmotive)

FRENCHMAN Romain Grosjean continued his solid return to Grand Prix racing yesterday, by nicking the quickest time in the second day of the Mugello Test.

In much better and consistent conditions than were seen on Tuesday, the Lotus Renault driver lapped around the Italian circuit in 1.21.603 to join the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi at the top of the timesheets.  The two Red Bulls of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were third and fourth fastest as Red Bull look to understand their new car more after Vettel’s recent success in Bahrain.

The test is seen as a major opportunity for many teams to test significant upgrades in packages before next week’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.  BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson explained on their website a little bit more about the advanced changes to Ferrari’s package.  “Ferrari have tried two different positions of exhaust exit here – the one they have been racing with and the one they had to abandon during pre-season testing because it was overheating the rear tyres.  They believe the pre-season testing one is the best, and they have been doing more work on that here.”

Grosjean’s fastest lap came early on in the day and on a harder tyre than the one used by Kobayashi to set his quickest effort.  This, along with previous testing form does suggest that some of Lotus’s race performances so far have flattered to deceive in 2012.  Michael Schumacher did the most duration, completing 144 laps yesterday for Mercedes GP before departing for a break before Barcelona.  Nico Rosberg is expected to be back at the wheel today.

It was a quiet and calmer day after the storms of Tuesday but hydraulic problems for most of the day left Force India in the pits and Paul di Resta largely on the sidelines.  Day three has already begun and it will be interesting to see if Lotus can continue their good form today.

DAY 2 TESTING TIMES FROM MUGELLO – TOP TEN

1. Romain Grosjean (Lotus Renault) 1.21.603 – 97 laps

2. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber Ferrari) 1.21.603 – 87 laps

3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.21.825 – 64 laps

4. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.21.997 – 54 laps

5. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1.22.257 – 106 laps

6. Jean-Eric Vergne (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.22.424 – 65 laps

7. Daniel Ricciardo (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.22.759 – 22 laps

8. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes GP) 1.23.404 – 144 laps

9. Charles Pic (Marussia Cosworth) 1.23.982 – 46 laps

10. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham Renault) 1.24.312 – 112 laps

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Mugello Test Day One: Rain disrupts opening day

It was a day where most teams had to sit in the pits due to the weather (F1network.net)

FORMULA ONE’s first in-season test since 2008 turned into a damp squib, as rain ruined the first day in Italy.  There was something for the patrotric tifosi to cheer however as some consistent times from Fernando Alonso this morning saw the Spaniard end up fastest today.  Alonso was a full 1.2secs quicker than the Red Bull of Mark Webber, although that isn’t a fair representation of times due to the weather.  In fact the afternoon session was a washout and the track had to be closed for a while as the medical helicopter couldn’t take off.  The Mugello circuit, where this test is based turned into the lake, akin to the weather most of the UK has seen in April.

Alonso’s quickest time today was a 1.22.444 on slick tyres as drivers did at least have the morning to set competitive times and gain useful data for the European leg of the 2012 championship, starting in Barcelona on May 11-13.  Ferrari will be hoping that the new aerodynamic package it has brought to this test can revive the flaling fortunes of the F2012.  Despite Alonso’s shock win in Malaysia, the team has struggled to set the standard and were often in the midfield in the flyaway events.

Webber was second fastest and will hand over the duties at Red Bull to Bahrain race winner and world champion Sebastian Vettel tomorrow.  The Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne finished third fastest just infront of Lotus Renault tester Jerome D’Ambrosio and Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.  It was a tough day for the drivers and the afternoon deluge prevented Michael Schumacher from doing any serious running.  Nevertheless, he told Planet F1 of his joy of being back at a circuit where he spent thousands of kilometres pounding around in his Ferrari days.  “This afternoon, I was literally able just go out to check if it made sense to run – which it did not – and at least I could show the spectators who were waiting in the rain a running car for some short moments.  Still, it was nice being back in Mugello after so many years, and I must say it was also nice being welcomed back by the tifosi so warmly.”

11 of the 12 teams are testing here, including Marussia.  HRT will be absent this week as they concentrate on moving factory location to Madrid.  Also away are McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.  Button was doing a demo run on the streets of Budapest today with young British duo Olivier Turvey and winner of the DTM opener at the weekend, Gary Paffett in action this week.

Better weather is forecast in the region for the next two days which will be hoped for by all the teams.  On the 18th anniversary of Ayrton Senna’s tragic death at Imola, May 1 saw the return to testing and not enough of the anticipated track action forecasted.

DAY 1 TESTING TIMES FROM MUGELLO – TOP TEN

1. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1.22.444

2. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.23.648

3. Jean-Eric Vergne (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.23.891

4. Jerome D’Ambrosio (Lotus Renault) 1.24.048

5. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 1.24.100

6. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber Ferrari) 1.24.736

7. Olivier Turvey (McLaren Mercedes) 1.25.303

8. Jules Bianchi (Force India Mercedes) 1.25.475

9. Rodolfo Gonzalez (Caterham Renault) 1.27.197

10. Charles Pic (Marussia Cosworth) 1.27.359

 

Lotus and Kimi end on a high

Raikkonen and Lotus set the benchmark again in Spain (BBC Sport)

THE countdown to the Australian Grand Prix is now well and truly on as pre-season testing concluded this afternoon in Barcelona.  Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus ended on a high, finishing fastest and confirming the Enstone team’s threatening pace.  In this test, the team have ended up top of the timesheets at the end of three of the four days of running at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Whilst Raikkonen was overcoming his problems that affected his running yesterday, it was the turn of world champion Sebastian Vettel to have a nightmare.  Vettel could only do 23 laps and made little running on the final leaderboard, actually ending slowest.  This morning, a trip into the gravel broke the new front wing that Red Bull brought to Spain yesterday.  This afternoon, gearbox malfunctions left the German cutting a forlorn figure in the garage.  Maybe the double world champions have a bit of fallibility?  However, anyone who thinks Vettel will be slowest driver in Albert Park will need their brain to be severely tested!

RBR will be hoping it was just one bad day, but Ferrari have had frankly, a disastrous winter testing season.  Fernando Alonso may have ended up second fastest today, but technical director Pat Fry has admitted the team have “little chance of finishing on the podium in Melbourne.”  Bad vibes have been coming out of Maranello throughout the winter.  Others were in trouble today too, with Sauber packing up early due to an engine failure for Kamui Kobayashi, whilst Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov brought out the red flags after more reliability problems in the final hour of the day.

Testing always is a difficult guide to read, with different set-ups, simulations and tyre compounds to contend with.  However, it looks like McLaren and Mercedes GP have excellent race simulation and good reliability, Force India look consistent, Lotus have superb one-lap speed and durable simulation and Red Bull look as formidable as ever, but might have some questions over reliability.  Ferrari definitely have work to do, as do Caterham and certainly Marussia and HRT, the latter two not showing up to any test with their 2012 cars.

The countdown is on….

DAY 4 MELBOURNE TESTING TIMES

1. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus Renault) 1.22.030 – 121 laps

2. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1.22.250 – 115 laps

3. Bruno Senna (Williams Renault) 1.22.296 – 53 laps

4. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India Mercedes) 1.22.312 – 101 laps

5. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber Ferrari) 1.22.386 – 72 laps

6. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) 1.22.430 – 115 laps

7. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham Renault) 1.22.795 – 101 laps

8. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes GP) 1.22.939 – 100 laps

9. Daniel Ricciardo (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.23.393 – 100 laps

10. Pastor Maldonado (Williams Renault) 1.23.430 – 48 laps

11. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.23.608 – 23 laps

 

Perez powers to the top

A LATE qualifying simulation from Sauber was enough to see their Mexican charger, Sergio Perez power to the top of the timesheets on the penultimate day of testing in Barcelona.  It was another day where the times sometimes misled the story of the day, but does provide more rough guides heading into the first race.

Perez’s time of 1.22.094 just before lunchtime was a mere 0.009 secs quicker than Jenson Button’s McLaren.  Interestingly, the Sauber driver set his time on the soft Pirelli tyre, while most of his competitors did their quickest laps on the super soft rubber. Button made up for lost time after a hydraulics problem grounded his car in the garage for the majority of this morning’s time.  Daniel Riccardo was third fastest for Toro Rosso, ahead of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and the Force India of Paul di Resta.  Most of the quick times were set around the lunch period, as rain showers limited running this afternoon.

Red Bull rolled a significant update out of the pits in Barcelona today (F1network.net)

Interestingly, it was Red Bull who raised eyebrows by revealing a new front wing and rear end for their chassis.  Mark Webber drove the car today, whilst for once, Sebastian Vettel took a backseat.  Many photographers were interested by the world champions latest move, although team principal Christian Horner told BBC Sport pitlane reporter Lee McKenzie that the new parts were through a planned evolution process.  “What we are running here will go to Melbourne with and the process is just an evolution, as we will continue to evolve for the rest of the season.”  

Ferrari also continue to raise speculation about their true pace, by surprisingly cancelling all their news conferences with the media for the remainder of the weekend.  Massa was due to speak to the press after running today, as was Fernando Alonso tomorrow.  Meantime, Kimi Raikkonen had a miserable return to the cockpit today after nearly a month away.  The Finn was plagued by power steering problems all day and was consequently, the slowest driver on the charts.  Hispania also confirmed today that they will not be at the test tomorrow, hoping a day of filming on Monday will be enough data to take to the Australian Grand Prix in just a fortnight’s time.

DAY 3 BARCELONA TESTING TIMES

1. Sergio Perez (Sauber Ferrari) 1.22.094 – 113 laps

2. Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes) 1.22.103 – 44 laps

3. Daniel Riccardo (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.22.155 – 131 laps

4. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1.22.413 – 122 laps

5. Paul di Resta (Force India Mercedes) 1.22.446 – 108 laps

6. Bruno Senna (Williams Renault) 1.22.480 – 111 laps

7. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham Renault) 1.22.630 – 64 laps

8. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.22.662 – 70 laps

9. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 1.22.932 – 129 laps

10. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus Renault) 1.25.379 – 43 laps

Two in a row for Romain

Grosjean steps into his Lotus to begin another productive day (Yalla F1)

ROMAIN Grosjean continued where he left off yesterday, by setting the quickest time today in the final pre-season test.  Grosjean’s Lotus set a time of 1.22.614 in the dying stages, to pip Jean-Eric Vergne to top spot.  Sebastian Vettel was third fastest as Red Bull continue to keep a quiet profile, but still seem to be the bookmakers favourites for the season opener in Australia.  What’s more, the team will be flying more parts out from their factory in Milton Keynes to the test at the Circuit de Catalunya tomorrow.

Although Grosjean did the fastest time on the soft tyre like yesterday, his consistency on both short and long runs suggests that Lotus have fully overcome the chassis problems that led to their testing programme being drastically cut last week.  Vergne, a fellow Frenchman and 2012 F1 rookie, had to sit out the majority of the afternoon session after a Ferrari engine failure on his Toro Rosso late this morning.

The pace of the French stars left Vettel back in third, whilst Fernando Alonso had a better day for Ferrari today, ending up fourth and completing a trouble free race simulation run of over 60 laps.  A late burst on the super soft tyres pushed Heikki Kovalainen into a surprising fifth place.  The Finn seemed to have recovered after the stomach upset that meant he had to sit out yesterday.  Lewis Hamilton spent a lot of the day in the garage, as McLaren worked on his car.  Like Red Bull, they continue to fly out new development parts as testing nears its conclusion.  Nevertheless, he still managed over 60 laps and was ninth fastest.

There were six stoppages in an interrupted day, which saw fog delay the start of testing in Barcelona by half an hour.  Nico Hulkenberg lost the entire afternoon after stopping on track with a suspected gearbox problem on his Force India Mercedes, whilst Michael Schumacher brought the red flag out twice, with driver error and technical faults to blame.

DAY 2 BARCELONA TESTING RESULTS

1. Romain Grosjean (Lotus Renault) 1.22.614 – 124 laps

2. Jean-Eric Vergne (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.23.126 – 46 laps

3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.23.361 – 85 laps

4. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1.23.447 – 125 laps

5. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham Renault) 1.23.828 – 104 laps

6. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber Ferrari) 1.23.836 – 76 laps

7. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India Mercedes) 1.23.893 – 33 laps

8. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes GP) 1.23.978 – 79 laps

9. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) 1.24.111 – 65 laps

10. Bruno Senna (Williams Renault) 1.24.925 – 48 laps

11. Pastor Maldonado (Williams Renault) 1.25.801 – 20 laps

Grosjean sets the pace at beginning of final test

Grosjean and Lotus returned to testing in top form (Supersport)

AFTER chassis problems forced them to abandon their testing programme last week, Lotus returned with a bang on the first day of the final Formula One pre-season test.  Back in Barcelona, Romain Grosjean became the first driver to end up being the fastest for the second day of testing this winter.  Grosjean’s late lap of 1.23.252 was good enough to pip Jenson Button, who showed strong pace in the McLaren, setting the fastest time for the majority of the day on the slower, harder Pirelli tyre.

Button ended the day a satisfied second, less than 0.3secs behind Grosjean; the defending GP2 champion setting his fastest time on the super soft tyre.  Sergio Perez was a solid third fastest for Sauber, ahead of Mark Webber’s Red Bull.  Once again, Mercedes GP put in the most mileage of the day, Nico Rosberg went fifth quickest and posted a useful 128 laps.  As for Ferrari, they continued to struggle with Felipe Massa down in eighth position.  F1 commentator Martin Brundle admitted on Sky Sports News his uncertainty on where the Scuderia are in the pecking order; “Three days to go of testing and the car looks a bit of a handful, especially out of a corner when its putting the throttle down.  They’ve got some issues, there’s no doubt about that.”

There was a late driver change at Caterham, as Heikki Kovalainen went down ill overnight, leaving Vitaly Petrov to do the driving duties instead.  Nevertheless, a trouble-free day of 123 laps will help both the Russian and his team, who have been plagued by reliability issues in testing so far.  HRT and Marussia were both missing from the test, with Marussia not running due to the failure of a routine FIA crash test at the weekend.  Hispania are hoping to make it to the test for a brief shakedown of their new car at the weekend.

BARCELONA TESTING TIMES – DAY 1

1. Romain Grosjean (Lotus Renault) 1.23.252 – 73 laps

2. Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes) 1.23.510 – 64 laps

3. Sergio Perez (Sauber Ferrari) 1.23.820 – 118 laps

4. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.23.830 – 102 laps

5. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 1.23.992 – 128 laps

6. Jean-Eric Vergne (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.24.216 – 116 laps

7. Paul di Resta (Force India Mercedes) 1.24.305 – 98 laps

8. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1.24.318 – 105 laps

9. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham Renault) 1.24.876 – 123 laps

10. Pastor Maldonado (Williams Renault) 1.25.587 – 58 laps

Kobayashi upsets the formbook

Kobayashi ended the Barcelona test in style (Autoweek.com)

SAUBER continued the trend of confusing the formbook, as Kamui Kobayashi ended up fastest on the final day of testing this week in Barcelona.  Although the Swiss team admitted afterwards that his fastest run was as a qualifying demo, it leaves many fans and experts still confused about a potential running order going into the Australia season opener.

Gary Anderson, the new Technical Analyst for BBC F1 said on their website; “This was one of the most confusing pre-season tests I can remember in terms of trying to work out what was going on.  The big teams have been keeping their powder dry.  They look like they’re confident enough to not need to go out there and see what the car can do on a big one-off lap.”

Anderson went on to predict that he still thinks the Red Bull is going to be the car to beat.  Kobayashi set a 1.22.312 today, not only ending quickest, but setting the fastest lap time of the week.  It was slightly better than Pastor Maldonado’s metoric effort yesterday, but the Venezuelan continued his purple patch by going second fastest.  Paul di Resta completed a very surprising top three in the consistent Force India, as Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Felipe Massa spent another day gaining more mileage and not end up being too concerned about setting a fast time.

Six drivers did over 100 laps today, but Marussia never left the garage.  Charles Pic was sidelined for the day after an early discovery of a damaged suspension component.  The team will launch their 2012 model next week.  Meantime, it seems to have emerged that HRT have some issues with their 2012 car.  Their non-appearance this week indicates that the new car has failed the mandatory FIA crash test.

The final pre-season test will be held again at the Circuit de Catalunya, beginning next Thursday.

BARCELONA DAY 4 TESTING TIMES

1. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber Ferrari) 1.22.312 – 144 laps

2. Pastor Maldonado (Williams Renault) 1.22.561 – 134 laps

3. Paul di Resta (Force India Mercedes) 1.23.119 – 101 laps

4. Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes) 1.23.200 – 115 laps

5. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1.23.563 – 103 laps

6. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.23.774 – 85 laps

7. Jean-Eric Vergne (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.23.792 – 92 laps

8. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 1.23.843 – 139 laps

9. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham Renault) 1.26.968 – 70 laps

Seven up created by Maldonado

SEVEN days of official pre-season testing have taken place and now, seven different drivers have ended days topping the timesheets.  The trend was continued in Barcelona today by a surprise package, in the form of Pastor Maldonado.

Maldonado, who only scored one point in a trying rookie season last year, set a searing pace of 1.22.391, the fastest time of the week.  To prove how quick it was, second fastest Michael Schumacher was nearly a full second behind the Venezuelan in his Williams Renault.  He joins Nico Hulkenberg, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Schumacher amongst others to end a day as the fastest driver.

Pastor Maldonado surprised many with his pace today (Sky Sports)

Although some will say that Maldonado did his time on fresh rubber and low fuel, he was very quick all day and dominanted the afternoon session, with a string of fastest laps.  Upto this point, the Williams chassis had shown excellent reliability, but Bruno Senna, Maldonado and Juan Bottas had failed to trouble the pacesetters in any test so far.  Many of the other teams still seem to be experimenting with car setups and race simulations, but Schumacher will be delighted to not only end second quickest, but to do 127 laps, without any reliability glitches.  The new Mercedes GP looks like a dangerous contender from early reflections.

Both Red Bull Racing and Ferrari suffered late mechanical breakdowns.  Mark Webber’s day was curtailed when he stopped out on track with half an hour of the day to go exiting turn eight.  Felipe Massa’s running was restricted by mechancial issues all day.  There is no doubt that concerns are being raised in the press about the performance of the new Ferrari.  The car is looking slow, inconsistent and unreliable.  Yesterday, Alonso admitted that the team were “not where they wanted to be.”

Caterham encoutered more suspension problems this morning, but Vitaly Petrov bounced back to get some useful track data and 70 more laps.  However, it did give Marussia a bonus, as Timo Glock was able to end up with a quicker overall lap time in a 2011 car.  Marussia won’t reveal their 2012 challenger until next week.  Meanwhile, Lotus have applied for an extra day of private testing after the problems on Tuesday that curtailed their action this weekend.  It is believed that all the teams have provisonally agreed to this, although it is still awaiting final confirmation from the FIA.

This week’s activities conclude tomorrow, with one more week test in Barcelona before the teams fly to Melbourne for the season opener in a little over three weeks time.

TESTING TIMES FROM BARCELONA – DAY 3

1. Pastor Maldonado (Williams Renault) 1.22.391 – 106 laps

2. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes GP) 1.23.384 – 127 laps

3. Kamur Koabyashi (Sauber Ferrari) 1.23.582 – 99 laps

4. Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes) 1.23.918 – 114 laps

5. Jean-Eric Vergne (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.24.433 – 78 laps

6. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.24.771 – 97 laps

7. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1.24.771 -84 laps

8. Paul di Resta (Force India Mercedes) 1.25.646 – 83 laps

9. Timo Glock (Marussia Cosworth) 1.26.173 – 108 laps

10. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham Renault) 1.26.448 – 70 laps

The Hulk is back in Barcelona

FORCE India’s fantastic winter continued today on the second day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.  Nico Hulkenberg, who is returning to the sport after being a frustrated spectactor in 2011, set the pace in Spain.  Hulkenberg gave his team some crucial data, pounding around Barcelona for 112 laps, setting a quickest time of 1.22.608.  Although his time was on super-soft tyres, the new Force India looks consistent and fast, which bodes well for the early season events.

Hulkenberg continued Force India's impressive start to winter testing (Yahoo.com)

Hulkenberg edged out Sergio Perez today, who showed some pace from Sauber that has been seriously missing in early tests.  Like Hulkenberg, Perez recorded his best time on super-softs, but still was an impressive second quickest, just 0.040secs shy of the German’s quickest time.  Having set a benchmark yesterday, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull looked at race simulation today, but the champion was the man to beat again until the late efforts from the top two.  Vettel was third fastest, his best today was a 1.23.056.  Fernando Alonso was next up, but a super-soft tyre run slower than Vettel’s on the prime tyre suggests Ferrari have a mountain of work to do before the first race in Australia on March 18.

Like Vettel, Lewis Hamilton focused on race simulation work today, doing 120 laps and coming sixth on the timesheets.  However, the Brit later told BBC Sport that he is encouraged by the hidden pace McLaren have at the moment.  Jenson Button, flying in from presenting an award at the BRITS last night, will take over driving duties tomorrow.  Likewise, Mark Webber and Felipe Massa will be putting in the miles over the next two days, after Vettel and Alonso’s efforts at the start of this test.

However, Lotus have had to withdraw from the rest of this week’s testing.  They went home yesterday, after Romain Grosjean felt uncomfortable with an unspecificed chassis problem.  However, team principal Eric Bouiller is convinced they’ve fixed the problem.  He said to BBC Sport; “On the positive side, we have quickly identified the issue with the chassis and our design office has already devised a solution.  We will be present at next week’s test in Barcelona.”  However, it leaves Lotus just four more days of running before Melbourne, so they are now seriously on the backfoot.

TESTING TIMES IN BARCELONA – DAY 2

1. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India Mercedes) 1.22.608 – 112 laps

2. Sergio Perez (Sauber Ferrari) 1.22.648 – 85 laps

3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.22.891 – 104 laps

4. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1.23.180 – 87 laps

5. Daniel Riccardo (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.23.659 – 50 laps

6. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) 1.23.806 – 120 laps

7. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 1.24.555 – 82 laps

8. Juan Bottas (Williams Renault) 1.25.738 – 117 laps

9. Vitaly Petrov (Caterham Renault) 1.26.605 – 69 laps

10. Charles Pic (Marussia Cosworth) 1.27.343 – 108 laps

Vettel sends out decisive warning

THE second Formula One pre-season test started today in Barcelona and Sebastian Vettel means business.  The double world champion, aiming to become only the third driver to win three titles in a row dominated the opening day in Spain, outperforming his other main rivals.

Vettel looked sharp in the first day of Barcelona testing (BBC Sport)

Vettel took the fastest time this afternoon, after countryman Nico Hulkenberg made the early running this morning.  Hulkenberg, who lost time in the Jerez test through no fault of his own, looked comfortably at ease in a Force India that continues to set some consistent lap times.  His quickest today was a 1.23.440, only 0.2secs behind the formidable Red Bull/Vettel combination.  His total of 97 laps was useful mileage too.

Lewis Hamilton was third fastest, continuing McLaren’s quiet start to the winter programme, although their new car looks far better than the predecessor did at this stage last year.  We also got a view of the new Mercedes GP W03 today and it is likely that the team will use this test to establish reliability and durability on long runs, rather than outright pace.  This makes Michael Schumacher’s effort, sixth fastest and less than a second shy of Vettel’s benchmark of 1.23.265 all the more encouraging.

However, it was a difficult day for both Caterham F1 and Lotus Renault.  Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen stopped out on track with a suspected track rod failure.  Kovalainen was only in his ninth lap of the day, but further checks seemed to hint that it wasn’t a day-ending problem and the Finn managed another half an hour of running at the end of the day.  Vitaly Petrov will make his debut in the car tomorrow.  Meanwhile, Lotus packed up at lunchtime after Romain Grosjean did just seven laps, and complained of chassis problems.  The team are flying back the car to factory headquarters as a precuationary measure tonight and also aim to run with Grosjean again tomorrow.  However, this major headache could have a knockback on their entire week programme at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Traditionally, the first F1 pre-season test is used for basic running, with the second one showing some form tips for the early season flyaways.  Although there is still three days of running left in Barcelona, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull have sent out a decisive warning to the rest; “Catch us if you can!”

BARCELONA DAY 1 TESTING TIMES – THE TOP EIGHT

1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.23.265 – 79 laps

2. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India Mercedes) 1.23.440 – 97 laps

3. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) 1.23.590 – 114 laps

4. Daniel Ricciardo (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.23.618 – 76 laps

5. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1.24.100 – 75 laps

6. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes GP) 1.24.150 – 51 laps

7. Sergio Perez (Sauber Ferrari) 1.24.216 – 66 laps

8. Bruno Senna (Williams Renault) 1.25.711 – 97 laps

2011 Mercedes ends on a high

THE dynamic of the 2012 Mercedes GP and how quick it goes will be interesting when it is launched next week.  That is because for the second day running, the 2011 machine ended up top of the timesheets, this time in the hands of Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg made it two in a row for Mercedes (Motorsport.com)

Rosberg completed 118 laps, setting the fastest time of the week so far in Jerez, with a time of 1.17.613.  It dislodged GP2 champion Romain Grosjean from the top.  Grosjean, taking over from Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus Renault team was quickest this morning and certainly looked comfortable all day, as Lotus solid start to winter testing continued.

This was the day when some of the major players took to the track for the first time.  Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso all returned to action following the winter break and both Vettel and Hamilton stayed out of trouble, setting consistent times and getting good mileage under their belts.  The world champion was third fastest, only 0.2secs quicker than the Brit in his McLaren.  Alonso was down in seventh on another very quiet day for Ferrari.  His cause wasn’t helped by a hydraulic problem, which left the Spaniard in the garage for the first two hours this morning.  With vibes coming from within the media of Felipe Massa saying that a lot of work is required, the Scuderia already look on the backfoot.

It wasn’t quite as bad as Jules Bianchi, who spun his Force India into the barriers early this morning, seriously disrupting what had been an excellent week for the team so far.  Bianchi, who is reserve driver for the Silverstone based team told Sky Sports; “I made a small mistake on my second run.  The tyres were a bit cold and I spun into the gravel and touched the wall with the right rear wheel.  It was not a very big impact, but it caused some damage.  I’m very sorry because my mistake has cost the team a lot of time and effort.”  He would have to apologise to Nico Hulkenberg, who had been due to make his 2012 bow this afternoon, but was left to twiddle his thumbs, whilst the team flew out replacement parts from their UK base.  Hulkenberg has to wait until tomorrow now to make his first impact of the season.

One more day of this test remains and if the 2011 Mercedes, which let’s be honest, was a poor car has ended on a high, expectations will rise of a potential assault on the championship if these times are anything to go by.

TESTING TIMES – DAY 3 FROM JEREZ

1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 1.17.613 – 118 laps

2. Romain Grosjean (Lotus Renault) 1.18.419 – 117 laps

3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.19.297 – 96 laps

4. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) 1.19.464 – 80 laps

5. Jean-Eric Vergne (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.19.734 – 79 laps

6. Sergio Perez (Sauber Ferrari) 1.19.770 – 48 laps

7. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 1.20.412 – 67 laps

8. Bruno Senna (Williams Renault) 1.21.293 – 125 laps

9. Gio Van der Garde (Caterham Renault) 1.23.324 – 74 laps

10. Jules Bianchi (Force India Mercedes) – NO TIME

Michael is quickest, as Red Bull look ominous

Schumacher and Mercedes set the pace on day two (Sky Sports)

MICHAEL Schumacher rolled back the years as he was the man to beat in the second day of F1’s first winter test in Jerez.  The German, running a revised 2011-spec Mercedes GP was quickest, setting a time of 1.18.651 this morning, which no-one could match in the afternoon segment of running.

However, Red Bull’s new challenger looks ominous as Mark Webber bounced back from limited running yesterday to set a competitive 1.19.184.  Webber was the fastest driving a 2012 car and over 0.4 secs quicker than the next 2012 runner, Daniel Ricciardo, in a Toro Rosso.  Testing times are always difficult to judge, due to various set-ups, fuel loads and the need to attract sponsors in a gloomy economic era.  However, the new Red Bull is looking like an early pacesetter, as we await Sebastian Vettel’s first run in the car.

Lewis Hamilton has not been seen in his new McLaren yet and once again, his name is being mentioned in other areas of the press.  American journalists are speculating that the 2008 world champion has got back together with pop singer Nicole Scherzinger.  This is after a video was uploaded of the pair holding hands and walking down the street, both looking reluctant to talk to the paparazzi.  On a legal side, Hamilton might be asked to testify in Germany, as Adrian Sutil has launched an appeal against his 18-month suspended sentence he received last week for GBH.

Whilst Hamilton makes headlines off-track, the new McLaren continues to make little impact on the testing timesheets in the hands of Jenson Button.  Ferrari have also made a quiet start, working more on set-up components with Felipe Massa rather than set blistering lap times.  Despite an off-track excursion this morning, Kimi Raikkonen did another 117 laps today and ended up in the top five on his comeback to the sport.  Lastly, Heikki Kovalainen produced a consistent day for Team Caterham, as technical director Mike Gascoyne said on Twitter; “Really good day of testing today, 139 laps and lots of long runs on the tyres. Also very succesful first day with KERS on the car.”  11th fastest might not suggest much, but the Caterham sounds like it has a good baseline for the upcoming campaign.  Testing continues tomorrow.

TESTING TIMES FROM DAY 2 IN JEREZ

1. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes GP) 1.18.561 – 132 laps

2. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.19.184 – 97 laps

3. Daniel Ricciardo (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.19.587 – 100 laps

4. Jules Bianchi (Force India Mercedes) 1.20.221 – 46 laps

5. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus Renault) 1.20.239 – 117 laps

6. Paul di Resta (Force India Mercedes) 1.20.272 – 69 laps

7. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1.20.454 – 95 laps

8. Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes) 1.20.688 – 85 laps

9. Sergio Perez (Sauber Ferrari) 1.20.711 – 68 laps

10. Pastor Maldonado (Williams Renault) 1.21.197 – 97 laps

11. Heikki Kovalainen (Caterham Renault) 1.21.518 – 139 laps

12. Pedro de la Rosa (HRT Cosworth) 1.22.128 – 64 laps

Raikkonen the early pacesetter as F1 returns from winter hibernation

IT MIGHT have been a chilly start to proceedings, but Formula One 2012 breathed into life, as the cars took to the Jerez circuit this morning.  This is the first winter test of three before the Australian Grand Prix on March 18 and gives the drivers their first opportunity to drive the new cars, new Pirelli tyres and adapt to new technical regulations, such as the banning of blown diffusers.

Kimi Raikkonen was quickest in the early testing times (Planet F1)

This morning, it was the Lotus Renault of Kimi Raikkonen that set the pace.  The 2007 world champion, returning to the sport after two years away in rallying looked like he had lost none of his speed, with a time of 1 min 19.6 secs around the southern Spain circuit.  Lotus technical director James Allison told Planet F1 that the initial pace should be downplayed.  “The teams are doing a whole mixture of different programmes at the moment and we obviously don’t have any clear idea of what the others might be working on currently.  We will start to know where we stand as things unfold over the coming days and weeks, but it’s still very early doors and the real picture will only come together when we get to Melbourne for the first race.”

There has been some criticism about the new noses, especially the step, ‘boxer nose’ which has been developed by the likes of Ferrari and Force India to meet the regulations criteria.  McLaren are one of the only teams to go down the slope, more prettier route.  Sky Sports pit analyst Ted Kravitz admitted this morning on the channel that the beauty element has gone; “Unfortunately, they won’t look any prettier, apart from the McLaren, who seemed to have gone down a different concept.  The one that will be interesting is Red Bull, which was a strange online launch, so we only got a few pictures.  It will be interesting to see how good that looks on the track.”

Due to new components arriving from the factory in Milton Keynes, Mark Webber could only manage eight laps before lunch, but still set the fifth fastest time.  Paul di Resta was second fastest in the new Force India, 0.1 secs behind Raikkonen.  Nico Rosberg was an impressive third fastest in a modified version of last year’s Mercedes GP.  Mercedes won’t reveal their 2012 challenger until next week.  The German has handed the driving duties over to Michael Schumacher this afternoon.  McLaren and Ferrari had quiet mornings, with Jenson Button and Felipe Massa failing to trouble serious times.

All teams, excluding Mercedes are only running one driver per day.  Marussia Virgin are the only team not present at this test, with Mercedes GP and Hispania running modified models of last year’s cars.

It is very early to predict how the season or even the week will unfold, but there was certainly no sign of rustiness from the Iceman, Raikkonen this morning.

UNOFFICIAL TESTING TIMES FROM JEREZ THIS MORNING – THE TOP 7

1. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus Renault) 1.19.670 (50 LAPS)

2. Paul di Resta (Force India Mercedes) 1.19.772 (52 LAPS)

3. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes GP) 1.20.219 (56 LAPS)

4. Daniel Ricciardo (Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari) 1.20.694 (40 LAPS)

5. Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault) 1.21.472 (8 LAPS)

6. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber Ferrari) 1.22.112 (29 LAPS)

7. Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes) 1.22.316 (22 LAPS)