Ferrari’s Felipe Massa again set the benchmark times the the first F1 test of the new season at Valencia and there were high mileages all around as everyone covered around 100 laps of the circuit in the day.
On his second day in the car he lapped in 1m 11.722s on the first flying lap of an 11 lap run early in the day. This is just 7/10ths off the fastest time at the circuit set in 2008. Massa didn’t do any particularly long runs today, most were 18 laps or less. The Ferrari managed another impressive haul of 124 laps to take the car’s total to 900 kilometres for the test to date. Tomorrow he will hand the car over to new team mate Fernando Alonso.
Second fastest for BMW Sauber was 2009′s standout rookie Kamui Kobayashi, who also set his time early in the day on the fourth lap of an eight lap run. “We had no problems with the car and covered a lot of mileage. The car felt good, ” he said.
Nico Rosberg did 119 laps in the new Mercedes but still complained of not being comfortable in the car. He did several longer runs, but set a best time of 1m 12.899 on the fifth lap of a six lap run.
“I’m quite happy with how the car felt on the longer runs with heavy fuel, ” he said. “It felt like the same car, just a little bit slower, but the balance was good. We’ve still got some work to do on my position in the car as I dropped down by 1.5cm during the day which explains why the visibility got a little difficult towards the end but that’s something we can fix before the next test.”
Yesterday Rubens Barrichello lobbed a hand grenade into the delicate situation at Mercedes, claiming that Rosberg was wasting his time being Schumacher’s team mate,
“If he (Rosberg) beats him (Schumacher) he’ll be world champion, but I don’t think they will let him do that.”
Rosberg responded to Barrichello’s comments today, saying, “I’m not too worried and, in general, I’m go to go for it and we will see what comes of it. If I’m ahead, great; if I’m behind, I need to work harder.
“I am confident from last year that I can do well. I don’t have a problem. It’s going to be challenge, of course, because I’m up against one of the greatest of all time.”
This is all part of the sledging that goes on in F1, particularly where people sense a weakness or a fault-line. Both Mercedes drivers are working hard to present a united and harmonious front and Rosberg has taken the tack of talking up his illustrious team mate, but there is no doubt that most observers see it as inevitable that Schumacher will assert himself in time -honoured tradition, particularly as he has strong bond with Ross Brawn with whom Rosberg has yet to establish a working relationship. It’s already quite clear that this is a point the German and foreign media will be picking away at over the season.
Lewis Hamilton drove the new McLaren today for the first time. He did his best time on the fourth lap of a 20 lap run. Tomorrow he hands over to Jenson Button. There has much talk of McLaren’s use of flow vis paint yesterday on the car to assess the aerodynamic performance, which some have taken as a bad sign, but I think that is just thoroughness after last year’s problems. It is normal practice to use it early on, usually at a shakedown, but as yesterday was effectively their shakedown they chose to do it then, despite it being very public.
Renault worked on dialling out understeer problems which had troubled Robert Kubica on Monday. He is talking about the adaptation process to his new car taking some time, particularly to the high fuel loads. He worked mainly on high fuel from the looks of things and did one run of 38 laps. He set his best time today on the second lap of a three lap run.
Williams continue to make steady progress, but you sense that they are working on reliability testing with the new Cosworth engine. I don’t have access to acoustic analysis, but it would be interesting to know whether the Cosworth is yet running to 18,000 rpm. It is after all the first track test for this engine.
HEADLINE LAP TIMES, DAY 2, VALENCIA
1. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:11.722 124
2. Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber 1:12.056 96
3. Lewis Hamilton Vodafone McLaren Mercedes 1:12.256 108
4. Robert Kubica Renault 1:12.426 119
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:12.899 119
6. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:13.377 102
7. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:13.823 107