Nico Hulkenberg topped the times today in Barcelona in the Williams Cosworth. The 22 year old set a time of 1m20.614, compared to Jenson Button’s pole from last season at 1m 20.527. He was fractionally faster than Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
The time was set on the second flying lap of a three lap run on super soft tyres towards the end of the day. It is the first time that Williams has really shown its colours this winter testing season. It has been fairly conservative up to this point, bedding in the new Cosworth engine in the early tests. A new floor arrived for the car last night and there are more upgrades coming over the next couple of days, as there are with many teams.
‘A fastest lap could be possible but I’m not sure about a podium, ” he said of his chances in Bahrain. “Unlike last year I hope we can carry forward our Friday pace into qualifying and the race. We have a good baseline with this car and the engine and my goal is to score many, many points.'”
Alonso’s time was set on the first lap of a four lap run on softs. Ferrari did 134 laps today, Alonso focussing on some race simulation work. Like McLaren and Red Bull they started their runs on used soft tyres, as if they had used those tyres in Q3, then at the pit stop, they changed to new sets of medium compound tyres. The exercise was slightly spoiled by a red flag for the Lotus of Jarno Trulli stopping with a steering rack hydraulic problem, which happened twice in the afternoon.
The Ferrari again showed strong pace on the long run, with laps in the low 1m 25s moving down into the 1m 24s with Alonso’s trademark consistency. It was widely agreed that the Ferrari looked very good again today. They had some aerodynamic updates on the car, including a shark’s fin engine cover and an update to the diffuser. Most of the teams are bringing new pieces to the car over the final couple of days of the test.
It was Alonso’s last day of testing and the team’s confidence is there for all to see, “In all it was seven days and I really do have a good impression,” he said. “I’m calm for the first races, because I know that we’ve done some great work. I think there are still some unknown factors, because the tests were limited: we’ll see what will happen in Bahrain. The key will be how the tyres will be used in the races.”
Hamilton’s pace was quite slow on his long run, with laps in the 1m26s and 1m 27s. McLaren is bringing new aero parts to the car throughout this test. Hamilton’s best time of 1m 22.152 came on the second lap of a six lap run, which did not look like he was running low fuel.
Michael Schumacher was also in action. He did a 1m 21.689 on the second lap of a four lap run around lunchtime. Asking around engineers from other teams, the feeling is that Mercedes is not sandbagging, but does have some issues, perhaps around the weight distribution. It seems that getting the tyres switched on for a single lap is proving tricky. If this is the case, it’s worth remembering that the Brawn had the same problem in the second half of last season.
“At the moment we are not perfectly in the position we would like, probably, to be competitive enough to win the first races,” Schumacher said. “But we are working hard, the season is long, and the main issue is not to be too far off. And it is difficult to judge right now what is the real picture.”
BMW Sauber had a productive day with Pedro de la Rosa, covering a practice, qualifying and race simulation. The qualifying performance yielded a 1m 20.973 on the second lap of a three lap run. His race pace was in the 1m 26s for the first part dropping into the 1m 24s for most of the second stint. It was De la Rosa’s last day of pre-season testing and he seems to be back up to speed now after a long lay off from racing.
It’s interesting once again to remind ourselves that the first half of the races are going to be pretty slow this season in comparison to what we are used to in recent times. The front running cars will be three or four seconds per lap slower in the opening phase than they were last season, due to all the extra fuel. Those in the second half of the grid will be relatively less slow, because they tended to run long one stop strategies anyway, with around 80 kilos of fuel in the car, around half of what they will use for a race this year.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel covered 125 laps today. His fastest time of 1m 21.258 was set on the first lap of a three lap run, but he did not appear to be running low fuel in a full qualifying simulation. On his race simulation, the first stint was mainly in the 1m26s, the second part largely in the 1m 24s. The feeling about Red Bull is that the car is a little heavy on its tyres, as last season, which might not help it in races, despite looking like a pretty quick car.
Headline Lap Times Barcelona Day 2
1. Nico Hulkenberg Williams 1:20.614 99
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:20.637 134
3. Pedro De La Rosa BMW Sauber 1:20.973 114
4. Tonio Liuzzi Force India 1:21.056 90
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:21.258 125
6. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1:21.571 104
7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:21.689 85
8. Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes 1:22.152 93
9. Robert Kubica Renault 1:24.912 53
10. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1:25.524 70
11. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1:25.942 52