Test Two: Vettel And Hulk Top Opening Two Days While Lotus Withdraw From Test

The first day of the second pre-season test finished with a familiar face as fastest man. Sebastian Vettel’s time of 1:23.265 was quickest of the day, and still a faster time than the one with which he had topped the times with a late burst of speed in the morning session. His quickest time of the day was set on tyre manufacturer Pirelli’s hard compound, which is more durable but slower than the medium compound tyre also brought to the test.

The 24 year-old was not to be drawn on how he thought the field was shaping up at the testing stage:

“The cars have less grip than last year, but we try to come back from that slowly,” he said. 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 track has hosted F1 races and test sessions for over 20 years

The circuit of Catalunya in Barcelona where this week’s test takes place is an all-round circuit. It has a mixture of straights, high-speed turns and slwo corners. The teams have tested here for many many years and it is the litmus test for a new car. Perform well around here and you have reason to be optimistic. Discover that the car isn’t doing what the factory says is a sign that a long, arduous slog could be ahead.

Hulkenberg showing well

Second-placed returnee Nico Hulkenberg feels that he is getting more and more used to being back in F1 after a year on the sidelines and is very pleased with how reliable his Force India car is proving to be:

“It was pretty good, surprisingly well,” he explained. “Maybe it suits a little bit better here (Catalunya) than Jerez. I am also getting better. It is my second day, as Jerez was my first day after a long time out of the car. Each day, each kilometre is better.”

Reliability wise, the whole picture just looks very good right now. We are bedding in right now. Today, after lunch, I got back in and felt comfortable again. It feels a bit more like home – I am going through the sensation of that feeling. So, so far so good.”

'Schumi' in good spirits

On the day that Mercedes showed off their new challenger to the world, Michael Schumacher declared with confidence that the car has potential, despite an issue with hydraulics which curtailed his running to 51 laps. Like many drivers, he did not reveal how he felt the car was lapping in comparison to the team’s rivals:

“It has good potential. I had a good feeling inside the car. It’s difficult to say what that feeling is worth because of the rule changes, but the potential is good. I don’t want to be too precise right now, because I have not been able to overlay our running with the other guys and that is the important matter that can give me a direction, or at least confirm the feeling that I have”

Lotus suffered a major setback

The real headline-grabbers of the day though were Lotus-Renault with the announcement that they were pulling out of this week’s test sessions due to a chassis fault. It is one thing to have a car issue which ends a day’s running and return the next day, but missing three days of track-time which is already limited does not bode well. Romain Gorsjean completed just seven laps before saying the car had felt “strange”. Team principal Eric Boullier said it had been a tough decision to make to leave the test at this stage, but that the team are still pleased with the car’s display at the previous test at Jerez:

“Not running this week has been a tough decision to take, but we feel that our choice is the right one. 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.”

Frenchman Boullier had explaining to do

“We draw faith from the fact that the E20 was quick out of the box in Jerez and showed its reliability there. We have a lot of work ahead of us over the next week but everyone at Enstone is ready for this challenge.”

“Before we were due to fly chassis E20-01 out to Barcelona in replacement of chassis E20-02 – damaged this morning – we ran a series of simulations at the factory based on the data provided by our brief running on track today,” said technical director James Allison.

Boullier added, “As a result, we were able to identify an area which requires some additional work. It will be more productive for us to carry out these modifications to both chassis at Enstone rather than send E20-01 out to this week’s test. We’ll put the right measures in place and we will be able to fix the problem before next week.”

We draw faith from the fact that the E20 was quick out of the box in Jerez and showed its reliability there. We have a lot of work ahead of us over the next week but everyone at Enstone is ready for this challenge.”

Barcelona, Day One Times

1. Vettel Red Bull 1m23.265s 79 laps
2. Hulkenberg Force India 1m23.440s 97 laps
3. Hamilton McLaren 1m23.590s 114 laps
4. Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m23.618s 76 laps
5. Alonso Ferrari 1m24.100s 75 laps
6. Schumacher Mercedes 1m24.150s 51 laps
7. Perez Sauber 1m24.219s 66 laps
8. Senna Williams 1m25.711s 97 laps
9. Kovalainen Caterham 1m26.035s 31 laps
10. Grosjean Lotus 1m26.809s 7 laps
11. Pic Marussia 1m28.026s 121 laps

Hulkenberg quickest on day two of testing at Barcelona

Formula One’s very own Hulk raged into top spot at the end of day two thanks to some Force India fury on a set of super-softs. Getting to the top of the times even at a pre-season event does get headlines and it was the young German who did so with a time of 1:22:608. It was set in the morning session.

Perez in better shape this time round

Mexican Sergio Perez of Sauber was second-placed in the times and radiated positivity but also urged the team to keep developing as what is a good car now may change at the first race of the season:

“It’s a good starting point for us, but we must develop our car from now to Melbourne – we have to find performance because most of the other teams will too. It is really important to push the maximum to try to get the performance before Melbourne which will make the difference now. I believe that we are now in a good position, but everything could change when we get to Melbourne.”

Perez also feels that he is mentally and physically in better shape than when he started his rookie year last season:

Physically I am a lot fitter than last year as a starting point, so I have done a very good training during the winter,” he said. “Mentally with my engineers the communication is a lot better too, so I am very well prepared for this season and I am looking forward.”

Hamilton was all smiles

Another man who was feeling the positive vibes was Lewis Hamilton. The McLaren driver needs a strong year after a 2011 in which he lost many potential points through on-track incidents, as well as having his head down due to matters off it. Finishing behind team-mate Jenson Button was not what Lewis had planned, and he must fight hard to be team leader in the team which he had previously made his own. Hamilton said after day two of testing at Barcelona that the car is already more reliable than the 2011 model had shown at the same stage:

Last year I think I struggled to do 30 laps. I think we struggled to do 10 laps without the exhaust failing,” Hamilton said at the end of the day.” So to do a whole day and to do 120 laps, I can’t remember last time I did that many laps. Definitely we feel in a much more comfortable place and confident that we can be at the front fighting with the guys at the top.”

All in all, it was all good news from the Briton who feels the team are doing much better in pre-season than last year’s testing efforts, with a car that is quick but Red Bull still have an edge:

“It’s actually been quite a surprise that the car has been behaving really well high-speed corners,” he said. “I think the baseline of our car is better than last year’s and the characteristics of the car is that it’s better in high speed. I was always on used tyres and I think he (Vettel) started with new tyres in the second couple of stints, but generally he looked very, very competitive, perhaps a little bit faster than us.”

Alonso's not confident of winning races straight away

Ferrari have not been full of happy statements iver their new car and their star man Fernando Alonso left the second day unsure as to where the squad lay in comparison to their rivals:

At the moment we don’t know exactly where we are. I think maybe we are not the fastest but definitely we are not the slowest – so we need to wait and see, especially in the final test. With hotter temperatures in Australia etc we will see how the cars work and in Q3 there is the time to see where you in Melbourne.

He emphasised the importance of discovering information in testing and that the attempt by the team to produce a car so drastically different to its predecessors makes the task more difficult:

“It is true that we keep getting information about the car, information that sometimes we should already have in our pocket, but the car seems quite complex to understand and we need to keep understanding better what is the behaviour,” said Alonso, who has now completed his two days of running for Ferrari at Barcelona.

The Spaniard echoed the prevailing thought that Red Bull remain the team to beat but also stated that progress can be made by their rivals throughout a long season:

“Red Bull seems competitive. That is not a surprise, as they have continuity in the last two or three years with that car, so it is difficult to get it wrong completely. They will be always there, so McLaren/Ferrari they need to invent something and be a bit more creative to beat Red Bull, and that is what both teams did. McLaren and Ferrari, they chose different solutions, different philosophies maybe and maybe more complex, but the result we will see in Melbourne and more importantly in November.”

Petrov in his first days with Caterham

As the new man to the Caterham team, Russian Vitaly Petrov was reluctant to set himself or the team any targets as he takes time to get used to his new crew:

At the moment I don’t want to talk about high levels, or what team we will pass – what is more important in this moment is to understand what we want,” he said. I want to improve with this team, go step-by-step in front – not to win but to close the gap in front of the team. And what we need is to work for 24 hours [each day].

Having only had his seat-fitting last Friday, his tall frame proved to be difficult in the car and he said that he does not yet feel fully comfortable when sat in the Caterham cockpit:

I am comfortable mostly, but my left hand side and legs are not comfortable – so today I continue to work with the seat and tomorrow I hope it will be easier to drive.”

Eager to return to the track for another day, he is confident that he will soon be comfortable seated in the car as the team get used to his needs:

“Tomorrow is another day and we will start to work with the set-up. The steering position was right, but there was only a short time to make the seat, and they did maximum they could do [in that time].”

Barcelona, Day Two Times

1. Hulkenberg Force India 1m22.608s 112 Laps
2. Perez Sauber 1m22.648s +0.040 85
3. Vettel Red Bull 1m22.891s +0.283 104
4. Alonso Ferrari 1m23.180s +0.572 87
5. Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m23.639s +1.031 48
6. Hamilton McLaren 1m23.806s +1.198 121
7. Rosberg Mercedes 1m24.555s +1.947 82
8. Bottas Williams 1m25.738s +3.130 117
9. Petrov Caterham 1m26.605s +3.997 69
10. Pic Marussia 1m27.343s +4.735 108

Testing resumes at 9am GMT tomorrow.

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