Schumacher sets the pace in Barcelona
Michael Schumacher set the pace on the penultimate day of testing in Barcelona on Friday, with team-mate Nico Rosberg setting the third-fastest time. Today’s test session was the first day the Mercedes GP team had ran their new upgrade package on the car before the season opener in Australia later this month, and with a first and third top finish, the team’s upgrades look encouraging.
"We have been developing the car step-by-step this week with new parts arriving each day. So our focus today has been on understanding how to get the best from the car now that it is pretty much in its final configuration for the first time." Said Schumacher "The car has behaved as we expected and it's been a very productive day. We completed our programme and I should also be able to get some experience of the expected wet conditions tomorrow."
The seven time World Champion, ran a series of qualifying-style one-lap runs in the morning session, in this time he produced the fastest time of 1m 21.249s, which is half a second quicker than anyone has done at Barcelona this winter before today.
Schumacher’s team mate, Nico Rosberg took over driving duties of the MGP W02 for the afternoon session, and completed 19 laps to Schumacher's 67, and produced the third top time of the day.
"First of all, it's super that I was able to do some laps today, given the forecast for tomorrow." Said Rosberg "It was a good few laps, and obviously now that we have most of the developments for the car, it was handling much better and I had a good feeling. So I'm pretty pleased with the situation and would like to thank the whole team for getting everything onto the car that we wanted. We've made good progress over the winter."
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was second fastest on the day, and as like Schumacher, produced his best time in a qualifying-style run. Ferrari attempted a race simulation later, but it was interrupted by a red flag when Sauber driver, Kamui Kobayashi stopped out on track.
Lotus Renault GP driver, Nick Heidfeld was fourth fastest with a time of 1m 22.073s, again as like many of the other top times of the day, Heidfeld set this time in a qualifying style run. The German driver did switch to longer runs for the afternoon session. Although, mechanical issues meant he spent part of the session stuck in the garage whilst they were fixed.
Williams’ driver, Rubens Barrichello was fifth fastest, although it was his race distance form that was most notable. The Brazilian's times only dropped off by around a second across each 10-12 lap stint, suggesting far less tyre degradation than had been seen previously on many long runs this winter. The Williams team had hoped to give both drivers running time today, although the need for an engine change meant new driver, Pastor Maldonado only had chance to complete 11 laps before the end.
Yesterday’s fastest team, Sauber were sixth quickest with Kamui Kobayashi at the wheel. Toro Rosso’s, Jaime Alguersuari was just behind in seventh.
Red Bull had a relatively low-key last day of testing with current World Champion Sebastian Vettel at the wheel of the RB7. The young German driver spent the majority of the day running five to six laps at a time, and finished eighth fastest on the day. However, Vettel did cause the last red flag of the day when a minute before the end of the session his car stopped at the pit exit.
Team Lotus had a more productive day than yesterday, when their latest aerodynamic parts produced some encouraging results. Heikki Kovalainen completed an impressive 137 laps on the way to securing the ninth fastest time.
Force India split its day between its two drivers, Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, who were 10th and 11th. Whilst over at McLaren an engine change also cost Jenson Button a lot of running time.
Speaking afterwards Jenson said: “As today was my final day of testing, it was disappointing not to be able to put more mileage on the car. But I think we learnt some positive things: today was never about pace, as we weren’t running lower fuel-loads, but there is pace in the car – it’s just been masked by reliability issues.
“Now, I’m looking forward to Melbourne: you can’t under-estimate a team as determined as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: we’re all pulling together and we’ve got some interesting developments in the pipeline."
HRT unveiled its F111 in the lunch break, but the team had to postpone its track debut as some parts had yet to arrive.
For most teams today was their final winter test for 2011, but McLaren, Williams, Ferrari, HRT and Mercedes will stay on to complete their fourth and final day of testing tomorrow.
F1 TEAM TESTING -T04 – BARCELONA (FRIDAY)
Paul di Resta
All timing unofficial