Today was the first dry day of running in the second official test of the pre-season. Ten of the 13 teams who will contest this year’s world championship were in Jerez on the second of four days. Forecasts suggest it may turn out to be the only dry day’s running at this test.
After remarkable reliability in the first test at Valencia, today several teams lost time due to technical problems. The most extreme of these was Virgin Racing, which managed just 11 laps before the front wing came off. The team called a halt to testing for the day, pending some reinforcements from the factory in Oxfordshire.
Technical director Nick Wirth said, “This morning we experienced a front wing mounting problem which caused the wing to come off the car at the beginning of a run. The cause has already been identified. Unfortunately, we’re missing one or two spare parts which will hopefully arrive this evening, so we won’t be able to run for the rest of the day. In the short amount of running that we’ve achieved so far, we are very encouraged by what we’ve seen and we have gathered some vital aero data which is very much in the range of what we were predicting. We look forward to resuming the programme tomorrow morning.”
The team says that they expect to be back out on track tomorrow afternoon. They were reluctant to “risk” the car in yesterday’s rain, but as time is running out, they will probably be forced to send it out tomorrow to get some mileage.
Williams also lost time today due to a hydraulic problem in the morning and a driveshaft issue in the afternoon. Nevertheless Nico Hulkenberg covered 67 laps. At one stage this morning he set the fastest time through the sped trap, which wasn’t in the script as Williams’ drivers are generally running quite conservatively, particularly on the new Cosworth engine.
There is a quiet confidence about the performance potential of this package. One area of concern however is likely to be the exhausts of this car, as Williams had a lot of failures in this area the last time they used Cosworth engines. Williams make the exhausts themselves and this year they will be called upon to run very hot at times when the engine is being run lean for fuel saving reasons.
McLaren also had some reliability issues with Jenson Button stopping late on in the day due to “a warning light in the cockpit” according to McLaren. Nevertheless the world champion says he is now comfortable in the car and had a more positive experience than in Valencia.
Fastest today was Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber, a time set right at the end of the day on low fuel after he had spent most of the day on high fuel loads. Sebastien Buemi in the Toro Rosso was second fastest. But it was the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso which caught the eye with a long run of 48 laps at a very strong pace.
“We’re really satisfied with what we’ve done during these two days, ” said Alonso. “We’ve driven many kilometres without any reliability problems, which is something that makes me really happy. We put many components under pressure over these five days and we didn’t have any problems at all.” He added that the car is “very easy to drive”. He now hands it over to Felipe Massa.
Michael Schumacher had a busy day in what may turn out to be the only dry day for Mercedes, covering a race simulation in the afternoon.
Red Bull and Force India both had their first day of dry running with their new car. Force India seemed the happier of the two. The car seems to be living up to expectations and like last year’s car it is slippery in a straight line. It was the fastest car through the speed trap today. Mark Webber covered 99 laps in the Red Bull and gave the car a cautious thumbs up, “We’ve still got quite a bit of testing to go before we get to Bahrain, which we are going to need to continue to understand the car and to find performance. We are off to a pretty solid start and we’ve got a great base to build on.”
Most teams have started to work on set up and are beginning to push the performance envelope. New specification Bridgestone tyres are being used in Jerez, which puts a greater strain on the tyres than Valencia.
Vitaly Petrov was replaced by Robert Kubica today, giving rise to rumours to that the Russian’s funding was in trouble. But the team says that Petrov will be back in the car again tomorrow, when more rain is forecast. Chief engineer Alan Permane described today as “very productive.”
Tomorrow many of the drivers will swap over and the line up will be as follows:
Red Bull – Vettel
Renault – Petrov
Mercedes – Rosberg
McLaren – Hamilton
Force India – Sutil
Williams – Barrichello
Ferrari – Massa
Toro Rosso – Alguersuari
Sauber – De la Rosa
1. Kobayashi BMW-Sauber 1:19.950 103
2. Buemi Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:20.026 121
3. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.618 83
4. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:20.629 67
5. Liuzzi Force India- Mercedes 1:20.754 80
6. M.Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:21.083 124
7. Alonso Ferrari 1:21.424 129
8. Kubica Renault 1:22.003 103
9. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:22.043 99
10. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:29.964 11