Maldonado And Kobayashi Unlikely Pacesetters At End Of Test Two

Criticised over the past 12 months for clashing with his fellow racers, Pastor Maldonado ensured that he would make a positive headline at the end of day three of the first pre-season test at Barcelona. His laptime of 1:22.391, set in the morning, was almost a second quicker than 2nd-best man Michael Schumacher.

Maldonado hopes to improve on Williams' dismal 2011 performance

It’s no secret that the Williams team are very unlikely to challenge the big four of the grid this year, but the Venezuelan was nevertheless very confident in his assertion that the new car is better than it’s older model:

“The car has improved a lot and it’s getting better and better every day,” said Maldonado. “Especially since we didn’t have any issues with the car so we have always done more than 100 laps every day – which is pretty positive for the factory to have many laps to analyse and see the data.

I’m pretty happy. The car looks competitive and much better than last year’s car for sure. Everything is working; the engine, the gearbox, the aero and even mechanically so… it is not a perfect car, it’s still early and we have a lot of things to improve, but the car is quick. We need to still do analysis and develop the car a little more, but this is a good point to start with.”

Mercedes in trouble-free form

Reliability is something Mercedes have not had major problems with so far and so it continued, with Michael Schumacher doing a remarkable 56 lap stint – a period in-between pitstops or the end of the session. His impression of the car was pleasing and that it is definite progress. He could not say where the German manufacturer was compared to its rivals:

“We had a trouble-free day today. We did a race simulation and the competitiveness of the car is better than it has been. There are some promising signs that I hope we can transform in good results,” said Schumacher. “It’s definitely clear that we have improved the car, but the question is how much we have improved the car compared to the others, something that I don’t know yet.”

Webber's Red Bull team are not so free of reliability issues

Red Bull’s Mark Webber had his track-time cut short as his car suffered a gearbox failure. He wasn’t downbeat and felt reliability would not hurt the side’s chances of a third successive world championship.

“We have a few plates spinning but that is how Adrian [Newey, tech chief] likes it at this time of year,” he said, after completing a race distance run in the afternoon. “I remember years ago we never had a reliable car, and we seem to have scored a few points in between. We are working away and doing our best.”

Despite completing over 90 laps during the day, he stated that he wanted to get more time on the circuit:

“We could have done a bit more, but everybody is in the same boat,” he explained. “You always want to do 20 or 30 laps more each day but, in the end, the guys have worked incredibly hard and done a good job. We need to focus on tomorrow now.”

McLaren hoping to come out from the shadow

Jenson Button was reluctant to say his McLaren team had taken a major stride forward, but instead said they were making smaller steps since the first test in Jerez on the way to winning in the new season.

“I say that is a good step forward from Jerez in terms of understanding the car more, and also the reliability is much better than we had in Jerez. We are making steps forward but there is no big step forward as we have not changed anything on car. But there will definitely be something new for Melbourne (first race of season). We have an update on the car for the first race. It is not a completely straightforward update as it is not about bolting downforce on the car – it is slightly more than that. ”

Vettel tipped to still be fighting at the front

Whilst under no illusions that Red Bull would remain as the team everyone wants to beat, the man from Somerset is confident that there will be no domination from Milton Keynes-based squad.

“Seb is obviously the favourite, as he should be as he has won the last two world championships,” explained Button. “There have been regulation changes, and I think still Red Bull will be strong this year from the word go, but I don’t think they will have the advantage they had at the start of last year.”

Barcelona, Day Four Times

1. Maldonado Williams 1m22.391s 106 Laps
2. Schumacher Mercedes 1m23.384s +0.993 127
3. Kobayashi Sauber 1m23.582s +1.191 99
4. Button McLaren 1m23.918s +1.527 114
5. Vergne Toro Rosso 1m24.433s +2.042 78
6. Webber Red Bull 1m24.771s +2.380 97
7. Massa Ferrari 1m24.771s +2.380 84
8. Di Resta Force India 1m25.646s +3.255 83
9. Glock Marussia 1m26.173s +3.782 108
10. Petrov Caterham 1m26.448s +4.057 70

Kobayashi was quickest on day four

The recent new sensation to Formula One finished the second pre-season test in the best possible way – in first place. Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi’s laptime of 1:22.312 was a quarter of a second faster than day three winner Pastor Maldonado.

Satisfied with the day’s work. he stated that his Sauber team must keep working on comparing times and only then can they begin to chase performance-improvements.

“We have done a pretty good programme already, and I think we can see the picture is not too bad. In the afternoon though we were surprised because lap times dropped a lot, which means we still have homework [for Friday].

“The priority is to check everything and get the data we missed [from yesterday]. Maybe if we have time after we can do a bit more performance wise, but the definite priority is to check and compare the data from yesterday, which was not stable, and improve the car.”

Rosberg is a happy German camper

All the talk coming from the Mercedes garage has been of progress made and Nico Rosberg kept the chatter on the same page, despite pouring cold water on the notion of winning from the start.

“We want to win, so we are definitely not there yet, but we are making progress and that is good to see,” he said after testing finished in Barcelona.

“The team is in the right direction, and the car build, the work they have done at the factory over the winter is so much better than previous years. It is clean, the car build is performing as expected and all these things [are good], so we are looking at big things as a team.”

“The progress is evident so that is really nice to see and everyone is motivated as a result. You see that progress and that is extra motivation, because you think okay, things are happening, now things are moving forward and we can get there.”

Ross Brawn (R) has been happier throughout testing than his Ferrari counter-parts

As Rosberg and Schumacher have said so far, Mercedes are unlikely to be in championship contention and this was something team boss Ross Brawn adhered to:

When he was asked if it could win on its own merit, Brawn said not, but that if such a chance arrived, its drivers were more than up to the task,

It doesn’t yet. There’s still an awful lot to do and it’s too early to make any judgements.”

He added: “Both drivers are capable of winning. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. We have got to produce the car. I don’t think we have the car yet but it has been a good step over where we were 12 months ago.”

Massa feels Ferrari have made progress

It seems that the popular feeling around the week’s testing has been one of positivity. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa kept the ball of happiness rolling, even despite team-mate Alonso’s earlier comments about being unsure on where they stand. He also repeated Alonso’s insistence that it is a complex car, but its complexity gives it many avenues of potential which they can go down:

“I have to say that now we are a little bit more positive because we found the direction to work and I’m sure now, having found the direction, we can see the development coming.

“In the afternoon we were able to do more than eight/nine timed laps consistently. The laps were very consistent and it was very positive. We still need to work a lot but at least we found the direction to get a much better car to drive, not just for laptime for also for consistency.”

He added: “In the past we didn’t have so many directions to follow. This year we have so many directions, so many possibilities and the most important thing was to find the right one, and I’m sure we found it.”

Barcelona, Day Four Times

1. Kobayashi Sauber 1:22.312 144 Laps
2. Maldonado Williams 1:22.561 134
3. Di Resta Force India 1:23.119 101
4. Button McLaren 1:23.200 115
5. Massa Ferrari 1:23.563 103
6. Webber Red Bull 1:23.774 85
7. Vergne Toro Rosso 1:23.792 92
8. Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.843 139
9. Kovalainen Caterham 1:26.968 70

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