MARCH 2, 2012
Grosjean quickest again
Romain Grosjean (1:22.614) kept Lotus at the top of the Barcelona time sheets on the second day of the final pre-season F1 test.
The French/Swiss did 123 laps and said: "I'm very happy with the car, it was great that we could still run strongly at the end of the session, even after a long stint. At the start of the day we suffered slightly with tyre degradation but changed a few things and improved as the day went on."
Trackside operations director Alan Permane added: "Tyre performance looks good; in particular during the last stint we used a set of hard tyres and managed around 27 laps with very low levels of degradation, which is encouraging."
Second quickest time of the day came from Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso (1:23.126) but the Frenchman was hampered by the failure of a Ferrari V8 that had almost completed its planned cycle.
World champion Sebastian Vettel lapped the Red Bull RB8 in 1:23.361 without conducting performance testing at all and was just under a tenth up on Fernando Alonso's best in the Ferrari F2012 (1:23.447).
"It was quite a messy day because of the fog (which prevented the safety helicopter taking off early in the day) and quite a lot of red flags, so it was hard to get into a good rhythm," Vettel explained. "We had our own stoppage on the circuit, but it was no problem. We didn't fulfil the programme entirely but we are heading in a good way."
Heikki Kovalainen (1:23.828) went a second quicker than Vitaly Petrov managed with the Caterham yesterday despite still not feeling 100% after a bout of food poisoning.
The Finn ran a similar programme to Petrov, with tyre evaluation in the morning and long runs with high fuel in the afternoon.
Kamui Kobayashi was just a hundredth slower (1:23.836) with the Sauber, track chief Giampaolo Dall'Ara explaining: "With regard to our lap times, we are quite happy with today's achievements. In terms of running through our programme, we have been a bit unlucky. For us today the red flags always came out at the wrong time. Then we lost more than an hour due to a hydraulic leak."
Nico Hulkenberg (1:23.893) was six hundredths further adrift in the Force India, restricted to just 33 laps by a driveline issue. The plan had been to attempt a race distance, which has been rescheduled for tomorrow with Paul Di Resta back in the car.
Michael Schumacher was on duty for Mercedes and was responsible for two of five morning red flags, the first when the car stopped on the exit of Turn 7 and the second when it went straight on into a gravel trap.
Lewis Hamilton (1:24.111) replaced Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-27, with the majority of the day spent making lengthy adjustments to set-up in order to more fully understand the effects of change on the car. Development testing rather than headline-making lap times, in other words.
Williams ran both its drivers in the FW34, with Pastor Maldonado's (1:25.801) morning programme hampered by an engine-related problem that, although easy to rectify, took time to identify. Bruno Senna's afternoon was trouble free and netted a 1:24.925s best.