Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Nico Rosberg ended the day fastest in the modified 2011 car, the team using the test to learn about the new Pirelli tyres. Nico completed 118 laps, giving the team a total of 1541 kms in the three day test. Rosberg’s best time was a 1m17.613s, the fastest time of the test by quite a margin. The team then packed up and headed for home. The next appearance will be in Barcelona on February 21 when the new W03 will be revealed. The team is expected to have a shakedown run before that test.
“You can’t really compare the lap times with other teams,” Rosberg said, “but it was interesting to learn a lot with our 2011 car. Now I’m really looking forward to the two Barcelona tests with our new Silver Arrow.”
Ross Brawn said that the test had been “productive and busy” and had “enhanced our understanding
of the new season’s Pirelli tyres which will prove very useful once the new car in is on track”.
The fastest of the 2012 cars was the Lotus, driven by Romain Grosjean, who clocked a best lap of 1m18.419s. The Frenchman completed 117 laps before ending the test running out of fuel intentionally, to test the fuel pickup system.
“I am one of the happiest guys in the world right now,” he said. “It’s been a really good day for me. We were fastest in the morning then we completed some longer runs in the afternoon. It’s great to finally drive the car which I have seen coming together and being built at Enstone. Working so well with all the mechanics and the engineers made it such a memorable first day in the E20. The car feels good on different fuel loads and tyre compounds we used. For sure there’s margin for improvement in the tests ahead, but it’s a great start to the year.”
There was a gap of eight-tenths of a second to Sebastian Vettel in the new Red Bull. He did 96 laps in the course of the day, with a best of 1m19.297s.
“The car feels fine and as we expected,” he said. “There’s quite a loss of grip due to the regulation changes, but you get used to it quickly and then start to explore how the new car feels.”
The team had a couple of niggles that lost time but managed to get through “almost everything we wanted, including two long runs” although progress was disrupted by a couple of red flags late in the day.
Lewis Hamilton was two-tenths behind Vettel in the new McLaren, completing 80 laps in the course of the day.
“My initial feelings are pretty positive, despite going through a long, tough programme of initial tests – there were no nasty surprises, which is pleasing. This year’s car feels a bit different from last year’s: in 2011, we had so much stability from the rear-end, particularly in the high-speed corners – but we’re now having to find that grip elsewhere, or, at least, take grip off the front and somehow offload it at the rear. This car’s baseline is something we can really work with. I know the men and women back at the factory will take a lot from this test and translate it into something new and even better for the next test. The car feels reasonably quick – and that’s a nice feeling.”
Next up was F1 new boy Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso, who set a best lap of 1m19.734s after 79 laps.
“The car seems to have a good base from which we can progress over the winter tests,” the Frenchman said. “In general, it was a positive day for me and the team and I am happy with the work we got through. I still need to work on my seating position in the car to make it perfect.”
Sauber was next with Mexican Sergio Perez just a fraction slower than Vergne, but he completed only 48 laps in the course of the day. Time was lost changing a gearbox oil filter.
“It was a difficult day for us but the important thing is that we are improving,” said Perez. “Every step we took went in the right direction.
Ferrari was only seventh fastest, with Fernando Alonso completing 67 laps and recording a best of 1m20.412s. Time was lost with an hydraulic failure.
Technical Director Pat Fry said that the team is struggling to get the car to handle consistently as the completely new car means that they have no baseline for set-ups and need to work through the options.
“The basic platform is okay,” Fry said. “We are not concentrating on taking the fuel out and trying to set a lap time. With only 12 days of testing before the first race, we have to make the most of all the time we have got.”
The team says that the new car is correlating pretty well with the windtunnel results, but that there is room for improvement.
Bruno Senna was eighth on his first day in the Williams, with a time that was nearly three seconds off the pace of the Lotus. However the Brazilian did 125 laps in the course of the day
“We managed to finish the whole test programme without any issues,” said Mark Gillan, the chief operations engineer. “Bruno’s feedback has been very precise and we now look forward to continuing to understand and optimise the car set-up during the final day of testing tomorrow.”
Senna was happy.
“It was a great day today,” he said. “Although there is a lot of work to do outside the car as well as in it, it was very satisfying to finally get behind the wheel. We have had a very productive day and managed to cover all of the things we needed to. We found some interesting things out about the tyres in particular. I feel that there is a lot of potential in the FW34 and also in myself driving the car.”
Caterham had a quieter day with new signing Giedo van der Garde doing 74 laps.
“I’m happy because I put in a lot of time in the car and that was the first time I’ve been on track since Monza last year,” he said. “I had to spend a bit of time this morning getting back into the groove, but that came pretty quickly and then we got down to work. I’m very pleased because by the end of the day I was starting to get used to all the new things about F1 – there’s a lot to learn but I know what I need to focus on so next time I’m in the car I’ll definitely be able to get on the pace more quickly.”
Things did not go as smoothly for Force India with Jules Bianchi going off after a couple of laps. The car was slightly damaged but as parts are few and far between at the moment that was the end of the day’s work.
“I made a small mistake on my second run,” said Bianchi. “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.”
The team’s technical director Andrew Green said that it was a bit frustrating.
“We will take it on the chin because we had two very productive days earlier in the week with plenty of mileage,” he said. “The damage to the car was not that significant, but a lack of spares at this time of year meant we could not go back out in the afternoon. The car will be ready for tomorrow morning when Nico [Hulkenberg] gets his test programme underway.”
Elsewhere it was a bad day for HRT which failed two of the 16 crash tests. The team says that this means that it will not get the new car to the first Barcelona test and so will get a maximum of four days of running before the season begins, assuming that the car passes the necessary test next time around.
It is interesting to note the mileage in the last three days with Lotus leading the way with more than 1,370km run. Red Bull, Williams and Caterham have all done around 1,100km apiece. McLaren, Ferrari, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Force India have all done around 1,000.