Sebastian Vettel has finished top of the time sheet on the opening day of the four-day pre-season test in Barcelona. The current world champion and Red Bull driver set the fastest time in the last hour of the session, knocking long-time leader, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso into second. Vettel completed only 37 laps of the Catalunya Circuit, whereas, Alonso crossed the start/finish line 101 times.
Speaking about his lack of running time today, Sebastian Vettel said: “Unfortunately, we didn’t complete many laps today, as we had a long break – longer than expected. It wasn’t anything big, nothing broke, but at the test if you think there might be a problem then you’d rather take the car apart and check. The boys did their best and we still got some runs towards the end of the day – not as much as we’d like, but the car feels good and hopefully we’ll do more tomorrow.”
Ian Morgan, Head of Race Engineering at Red Bull, added: “It was frustrating today, as we lost some time making checks to the car during lunch. It’s what testing is for, but we would have liked to complete more laps today.”
The circuit was hit with heavy rain on Thursday evening, meaning that it took until Friday lunchtime for the track to dry out completely. These track conditions meant that the majority of the driver’s set their fastest times of the day during short exploratory runs late in the morning session, just as the track was at the tipping point for being ready for slick tires. This damp start to the day gave the teams a chance to test the intermediate Pirelli tyres, before conditions began to dry.
Michael Schumacher kicked off Mercedes GP’s programme for the Barcelona tests, completing 90 laps over the first day and finished eighth fastest overall. Schumacher first headed out midway through the morning session to complete aerodynamic evaluations and balance checks, and then spent the afternoon session completing a successful race simulation including pit stops.
Michael Schumacher commented on the team’s first day in Barcelona saying: "We had a good day and it is certainly satisfying to finish a race distance with all of the systems operational and to have everything working fine. Now we have to turn our focus to performance and it was important to complete today's simulation to understand how the car and tires behave going from a heavy to lighter fuel load."
Lotus Renault GP team gave testing time to both their drivers today, spending time getting use to a new traffic light system for use in pit stops. This has been developed over the last year and the plan is to use it at the first race.
Nick Heidfeld, who has been drafted in by the team to replace injured Robert Kubica for the start of the new season said: “I was in the car for just an hour this morning to do some pit stop practice. It was a bit damp to begin with, so we started on the wet tyres and I got my first feel for them. I didn’t do a proper run, just one timed lap and then came in and out for pit stops. It was the first time I have used the new traffic light system and it worked okay, but we found some small things to improve for next time.”
Team-mate Vitaly Petrov added: “A difficult day for us because we lost a lot of time finding the problem with the KERS, but at least I got out for the final 40 minutes so that we could do the practice pit stops with our new lighting system. Because we didn’t manage to do much running today, the team will give me some more time in the car tomorrow morning before Nick takes over.”
Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari finished 3rd fastest on the day at his home circuit with a lap time of 1m 25.638s. Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi was fourth fastest, although both drivers caused red flags during the day. Kobayashi ran out of fuel on a fuel consumption evaluation, and Alguersuari went into the gravel at turn four.
Commenting on the day Kobayashi said: “We couldn’t complete the whole programme due to a technical problem. We had wet conditions in the morning so this was fine to collect some information on wet tyres. In the afternoon we couldn’t do everything we planned, so we have some work left for tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Sauber’s technical director, James Key added: “It was a wet start this morning, so we decided to do a wet tyre programme. Pirelli brought the wet race spec tyre here and, as we had already tried the intermediate race spec, we decided to use the opportunity to get to know the wet tyres. This was useful because the track started to dry up by mid-morning, and we were able to learn how both, the wet and the intermediate tyres behave on a drying track, which is always useful. We then suffered a problem with the powertrain, which delayed us a little bit this morning, but after this we recovered in the afternoon. We did another fuel system check test by running out on the track, and then worked on the tyre compounds we have here - the hard, the medium and the soft. We finished the day with a long run. Kamui did a good job on this and was fairly consistent, which is good for the medium tyre on a track which is hard on tyres. It wasn’t really until this afternoon that we were able to start to set up the car for Barcelona. We found some useful directions and we will carry on with that work tomorrow.”
Over at the McLaren garage, the team had a fairly quiet day, with Jenson Button sitting out much of the afternoon session, but still finished fifth fastest.
Williams’ Rubens Barrichello started the morning session well, when he was the first to get good pace out of slick tires. Although, the Brazilian driver caused a red flag just before the end of the morning session, and then was forced to sit out for the majority of the afternoon session whilst the team made a precautionary engine change. Barrichello produced the seventh fastest lap of the day.
Barrichello said: “We did some laps in the wet this morning which was good as it allowed us to get a feel for the car on intermediate tyres. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much running in the dry. I had a short run after lunch, but we had to make a precautionary engine change so my day was cut short.”
Williams’ technical director, Sam Michael added: “We didn't have enough set-up time today. The track was moist to start and didn't start ramping up until late morning, at which point we encountered an issue with the engine. Over the break, we changed the engine and did just one proper run at the end of the session. All of our running was carried out on the medium compound tyre. Despite the downtime, we actually tested and measured quite a few aero and systems items in the background. Tonight, we will re-activate KERS in preparation for tomorrow’s running.”
Team Lotus’s Heikki Kovalainen, also lost some track time when his car suffered a water leak.
F1 TEAM TESTING -T03 – BARCELONA (FRIDAY)
Paul di Resta
All timing unofficial