Jerez Test, Day 3

Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg 

 © Grandprix.com, Photo: Andrew Hone

In the third day of testing in Jerez, Mark Webber set the best time in a 2010-spec Formula One car on Friday, making the most of the fine weather the teams and drivers enjoyed at the end of the afternoon. Although heavy rain in the previous night flooed many parts of the city of Jerez and the access roads to the circuit, the track was in surprisingly good shape at 9am, although the surface was still wet. By 11am the teams were able to run with slick tyres, so the teams made the most out of it with Nico Hulkenberg completing no less than 138 laps.

For Webber the day got off to a bad start when a massive hydraulic failure stopped the car out on the track shortly after noon. Two hours later he was back in action and it was during a short run of four laps that he achieved his best time of the day, 1m19.299s, nearly 0.3s quicker than what Lewis Hamilton had achieved one week ago in the first test session in Jerez.

Webber said, "It wasn't too bad today, it was good to get some dry running in. It was a mixture of very high and other different fuel loads. It's got to be done because every dry lap is pretty important these days so this is a lot better than we expected today. It's a good baseline for us to work on next week as well in terms of consistent testing. This is the first time we have had a consistent track, so hopefully next week we can start to home in on a few more specific things."

Fernando Alonso's pace stood out to his rivals and the fans. His best lap time of 1m20.115s was achieved in the first flying lap of a 17 laps run, meaning the car is capable of going comfortably into the 1m18s. But more than his speed on fresh tyres it was the fact he managed the entire run - with the exception of one single lap - inside the 1m20s bracket that impressed everyone, showing the Ferrari F10 is not only competitive but also kind on Bridgestone tyres, as there was not much drop off. On his last lap of that run Alonso lapped in 1m20.246s, barely one tenth away from his previous best.

Jenson Button, who had his best day of testing since joining McLaren-Mercedes, and followed Alonso for a few laps on the track, "The Ferrari seems very well balanced and quick, so they seem to have an edge over everyone else at the moment. We certainly had a good day, in which we made a lot of progress with the set-up of the car, did a good number of long runs and saw the car was reliable, and generally got the results we were expecting to get."

"I think our one-lap pace is already very good, but it's on the long runs that we still need to make progress. It won't be easy to find a set-up that will be perfect with 150 kilos of fuel on board and with just 20 kilos of fuel on board, but we're getting there. The goal, of course, is to achieve it before the first race but I think that at the moment no one can do a long run going on the limit on every lap, because the cars are still not perfectly set."

Nico Hulkenberg did a Grand Prix simulation around lunch time, running in the 1m22s to start with, but as his tyres started to drop off the German started to lap into the 1m23s and ended the main run, of 24 laps in the 1m24s, showing that tyre wear on the Williams FW32 is still an issue. His day came to an end early when he stopped on the track with an hydraulic problem.

For Michael Schumacher the day was not as productive because Mercedes performed a couple of major changes in the set-up of the car during the day that kept the German in the garage for much of the time. The German was struggling with understeer with the Mercedes and perhaps the team went too far on the changes it made, as Jenson Button reported, "the Mercedes seemed all twitchy in the rear and Michael was locking the rear wheels quite often. Maybe they had a very heavy car, but the balance certainly didn't look great!"

Schumacher, who didn't speak to the press in Jerez, put out a brief statement on his personal website, "That was a nice end of the testing days in Jerez, it was nice finally being able to drive in the dry for some more laps in a row. We are in our schedule but at the same time we are well aware there is still a lot of work ahead of us. Barcelona next week will be an important test in this respect for all of us and will give us more information about the performance of our car."

Robert Kubica was 6th quickest as he continued to make progress with his Renault R30 and now that he has found a basic set-up for the car he worked on different programs. The Polish driver did tyre comparison work as Bridgestone brought new dry weather compounds for this test. He also performed a good number of practice starts with a completely full tank to gather date for the team and also learn how to get off the line as quickly as possible with a much heavier car than previous years.

Adrian Sutil had exclusive use of the Force India VJM03, after Paul di Resta shared the car on the previous two days, and did a lot of set-up work, making the most out of the favorable weather. Like other drivers the German tried to find a good compromise with different fuel loads, but found out the tyres grained too quickly, "The tyres at the moment are quite difficult to handle as the soft compound grains up very quickly in the low temperatures. The mediums last a bit longer but still grain after 10 or 12 laps. There's no way to avoid it at the moment but I'm not too concerned as I am sure they will handle better in the higher temperatures we'll see in the races."

Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber had the most frustrating day. A fuel pump problem stopped him at the start of his first flying lap of the day and after a few repairs he was sent out and did three more laps before stopping as the fuel system was no longer working properly. With the need for lengthy repairs he was in the pits for more than five hours and had just enough time to complete 20 laps in the last hour of the session. He said, "Of course it would have been better to run as the track was dry but I'd rather have this kind of problems in testing than at the first race. This is our third week of testing and we didn't have a reliability problem before, so this was the first one and if it took long to fix, I don't think it will recur, so we should be OK for Saturday, the final day of testing."

The two new teams already testing brought up the rear of the time sheets with Lucas di Grassi at Virgin having a scary moment at the start of the session when he spun coming out of the chicane and did minor damage to the front of his car. He managed to get going later in the day but ended up stranded on the track with yet another problem with the hydraulic system, something that has been plaguing Virgin. Technical Director Nick Wirth admitted, "we've been running conservatively with the hydraulic system since we had the problems on Wednesday and will have a fix for it overnight, but the proper changes to the system will only be available for us next week in Barcelona."

Lotus had its first proper day of testing after Fauzy did little more than an extended shakedown and Kovalainen's first day in the car was halted by a minor off. The Finn stopped early out on the track with a clutch sensor problem and the T127 also had small issues with overheating and cracked exhausts, but in total he managed to complete 68 laps and was happy with his day's work, "Today was a much better day. We lost almost no time with reliability issues and the ones we had were really minor and quickly fixed. I could do some runs and try the two types of dry weather tyres we've got here, giving us some valuable data for the coming test and for Bahrain. As I said yesterday the car feels well balanced but we're lacking on downforce. we already had some new parts today and will have some more for Barcelona and even more for Bahrain, so we'll keep on making progress. We know the first part of the season won't be easy, but I feel the car has a lot of potential, the team is working well and the only way for us is the way up!"

Testing will be concluded on Saturday with most teams keeping the same drivers for the final day. Mercedes, Force India and Lotus are the three exceptions, as Rosberg and Liuzzi will be back, while Jarno Trulli will have his first outing with the new Lotus T127.

Best Times:

1. Mark Webber (Red Bull RB5-Renault), 1m19,299s (115 laps)

2. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari F10), 1m20,116s (132)

3. Jenson Button (McLaren MP4-25-Mercedes), 1m20,394s (101)

4. Nico Hulkenberg (Williams FW32-Cosworth), 1m21,432s (138)

5. Michael Schumacher (Mercedes MGP W01), 1m21,437s (79)

6. Robert Kubica (Renault R30), 1m21,916s (100)

7. Adrian Sutil (Force India VJM03-Mercedes), 1m21,939s (69)

8. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber C29-Ferrari(, 1m22,228s (28)

9. Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso STr5-Ferrari), 1m22,564s (120)

10. Lucas di Grassi (Virgn VR-01-Cosworth), 1m23,504s (38)

11. Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus T127-Cosworth), 1m23,521s (68)

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