Manufacturer Power Reaches Summit Of Times At End Of Test 1

Day three of 2012’s first pre-season test finished with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg as the quickest man. The German set a time of 1:17:613, over half a second quicker than 2nd-placed Romain Grosjean of Lotus. While it is encouraging for Mercedes to set good times, Rosberg ran in the previous season’s challenger, whilst everyone else at the test drove their new cars. Nevertheless, BBC’s technical analyst Gary Anderson believes the team and driver can  be pleased with themselves:

“Sure, he did it early on and it’s obviously low-ish fuel, but it shows a confidence in the car as he didn’t mess about, he just got in and did it.”

Vettel started, and ended,the day strongly

Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel got to drive his new Red Bull car for the first time, after team-mate Mark Webber did the donkey work over the first two days. He showed strong pace as the team concentrated on long runs. It appears from this early stage that the Bulls will again be the team to beat, displaying no less of the speed which has won them the previous two world championships. Despite his promising display, the 24 year-old was keen to downplay the performance when asked if he could again fight for the title:

“It’s too early for that. There’s a long way to go. It’s the first day. There’s a lot more to come and we need to understand how the car works and then we can address the problems properly and hopefully take the development in the right direction.

“But for now it’s just about understanding what is the main point for this year and what are the weaknesses and where we can improve.”

Hamilton in encouraged mood

Rival to the German, Lewis Hamilton was pleased to be back on his first day of testing, and sees a lot pf potential in the new McLaren:

“My initial thoughts were pretty good. It was quite a tough day where you had to go through a lot of test items, but it went pretty smoothly. The baseline we have is something we can really work with. I know the guys back in the factory will take a lot from these four test days and translate that into something new for the next test.”

The most crucial change for the cars for this coming season is the banning of 2011’s must-have – the exhaust-blown diffuser. This was at the rear of the car, and helped to generate more downforce. If all was right, it would be a big assist in terms of laptime, as Red Bull discovered. Some teams, like Lotus-Renault, never quite got it right and lost ground as they tried to make it work. With it banned for 2012, drivers have been saying that they can feel the different, but do adapt. Vettel was no exception:

“The car feels fine, it’s more or less what we expected, quite a big loss in grip because of the change of regulations but you get used to it fairly quickly and then you start to explore how the new car feels.”

1 Rosberg Mercedes 1m17.613s 118 Laps
2 Grosjean Lotus 1m18.419s +0.806 117 Laps
3 Vettel Red Bull 1m19.297s +1.684 96 Laps
4 Hamilton McLaren 1m19.464s +1.851 80 Laps
5 Vergne Toro Rosso 1m19.734s +2.121 79 Laps
6 Perez Sauber 1m19.770s +2.157 48 Laps
7 Alonso Ferrari 1m20.412s +2.799 67 Laps
8 Senna Williams 1m21.293s +3.680 125 Laps
9 Van der Garde Caterham 1m23.324s +5.711 74 Laps

 

With the final day of the first pre-season test, the question was would Ferrari top the times at all in a week which had seen less-than-glowing comments coming from the red squad. After spending the previous four winters trying to win back the championship which they last won with Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, technical director Pat Fry said work needed to be done on the Scuderia’s latest challenger:

“There is still room for improvement. I don’t think I could ever sit here and say it’s perfect. We have found some more issues since we have been here. The basic platform is okay.  We can play around with the three corner characteristics, so we can do different things at corner entry, mid-corner to exit, and it is really trying to find the right balance of those things.”

Ferrari with work to do

Leading man Fernando Alonso insisted that despite such negative talk, the situation has improved thanks to running acheived in the car during the test at Jerez:

“The progress in these four days has been quite big for us. Maybe not in performance or times or whatever, as I don’t know what the times were like in the first two days or what were the track conditions in the first two days compared to now, but definitely all the tests we did and all the understanding of the car has been positive for us. ”

He also stated the need to have a car-failure free time at the following test in Barcelona in a week, as the team suffered with both drivers having reliability issues:

“There are only two more tests unfortunately because we are one test less than last year. So at Barcelona, we need to maximise the time on the track as perhaps it is the only negative thing of today, that in eight hours available of track time we only did 39 laps. So in Barcelona, we need to do more than 100 laps because all that information in those laps will be valuable.”

Bianchi with reason to look disappointed

Another team losing valuable track time was Force India. On day three, the team’s new reserve driver Jules Bianchi had an incident as he slid off the track into the tyre wall. Though the car suffered minor damage, the team was unable to continue due to lack of spare parts. The Ferrari Academy driver was apologetic for his error:

“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.”

Di Resta's team-mate Hulkenberg ran on the final two days

Force India’s race driver Nico Hulkenberg got through a full day’s programme unscathed on day four and expressed sympathy for his team-mate’s incident whilst also expressing pleasure in the car’s progress:

“You know it happens. I did stuff like that as well. It was frustrating certainly, and you never fully recover the time back, but I can understand these things happen. Formula 1 is a tricky sport, you need experience. We made the most of today and now we just move on. I think we have a good baseline now, but on the other hand there is still room for improvement and work ahead of us. I haven’t compared data to other cars yet, not even Paul (Di Resta, team-mate), so now we have to analyse that.”

Senna's positive about his team's car

Williams’ recent signing Bruno Senna was happy to declare that in his belief, the team should improve on their dismal 2011 showing with a car that he says, is feeling better than it’s predecessor:

“I think the team is confident we can achieve more with this car,” said Senna. “The team has been putting good attention to the detail, and this car has been very reliable, which is always a great feature. But we need to learn more about it, to learn what the real potential of the car is and then work on the deficiencies of the car. We have identified some, we are working on them and already talking to people in the factory, the design team, to make it an all around strong car.”

Caterham could be in for an improved 2012

A man in his twilight years, Caterham’s Jarno Trulli was delighted with how his time on track went and hailed it as his best pre-season testing experience in his 15 seasons in F1:

“It was a very positive day. I think I cannot remember any better first day testing, honestly, or first week of testing. We ran into very, very few troubles despite the fact that the car is totally revolutionary, and with quite a few new interesting systems on it like KERS. I am happy despite the times, which are not representative at all, especially for us, as we know we have been extremely conservative on the fuel side and if we make some calculations we are probably in the ballpark.”

1. Alonso Ferrari 1m18.877s 39 Laps
2. Vergne Toro Rosso 1m19.597s 80 Laps
3. Vettel Red Bull 1m19.606s 50 Laps
4. Hamilton McLaren 1m19.640s 86 Laps
5. Grosjean Lotus 1m19.729s 95 Laps
6. Kobayashi Sauber 1m19.834s 76 Laps
7. Hulkenberg Force India 1m19.977s 90 Laps
8. Senna Williams 1m20.132s 125 Laps
9. Trulli Caterham 1m22.198s 117 Laps

With the first week’s test session completed, the teams and drivers know what they need to work on in order to be ready for race one of the upcoming season. By the time test two takes place next week, Mercedes will be the last of the major teams to have unveiled their 2012 car, in the hope that taking longer to finish in comparison to rival teams will bring benefits. The second test takes place next week at the Circuit De Catalunya, Barcelona.

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