The second official F1 pre season test ended at Jerez today with Williams’ Rubens Barrichello setting the fastest time and covering 103 laps after a week of niggling problems and frustrations for the team.
It has been a week when the importance of having experienced drivers setting up and developing the new cars has been a hot topic as Renault seek to not lose too much ground on that front due to the accident of Robert Kubica.
Barrichello did the time on the first lap of an eight lap run in which the tyre drop off was three seconds, which is pretty big. He later did a harder tyre long run of 25 laps in which the drop off was a couple of seconds, showing the range of tactics which strategists will be thinking through ahead of the first race. It really is going to be an interesting year for tactics.
At Renault, Bruno Senna had his first run since becoming the teams’ reserve driver. It wasn’t really an audition for Kubica’s seat as team principal Eric Boullier has said repeatedly that the team needs an experienced driver in this situation. This is also the reason why they have not tried to winkle Nico Hulkenberg out of the Force India test seat. “It was a very productive day,” said Senna. “The team liked my feedback and I enjoyed it very much. This was only the second test I’ve ever had in an F1 car and I’ve
raced for a whole year!” (other test was with Honda). You grow so much as a driver when you do a test like this. I set my fastest time on the soft tyre. I was waiting to go out on the super-soft at the end of the day when the rain came down (at 4pm)”
The Ferrari again did a huge mileage in Fernando Alonso’s hands, the Spaniard delighted at the car’s reliability, which has given him plenty of opportunity to evaluate all of the Pirelli tyres. However Alonso has been deliberately cagey on the performance of the Ferrari, refusing to be drawn on the ultimate pace of the F150th Italia. We should get more of an idea at Barcelona test next week.
McLaren had a frustrating day with Jenson Button struggling to find a balance in the windy conditions and with some reliability issues restricting his running.
For Mercedes, Nico Rosberg was very downbeat at the end of the day. He lost a lot of time in the middle of the day when the team made a precautionary engine change and his pace wasn’t startling on a long run mid-afternoon. He seems to have had more problems with the car on his days than team mate Schumacher. Nevertheless this team remains a question mark at this stage in terms of pace. Have they fallen behind Renault and Williams as well? Rosberg keeps talking about his hopes for the update kits due to arrive before the Bahrain test so let’s hope it does the trick.
Virgin’s Jerome D’Ambrosio was another to lose time today with an engine problem. The Belgian hasn’t managed to cover many miles in the new car. Meanwhile Pat Symonds has been pulled in as a consultant to the team, which is a smart, if slightly controversial move. He pleaded guilty to plotting to deliberately cause Nelson Piquet’s accident in Singapore in 2008 and although his sentence was cut back from the original ban, he was still not expected to be seen back so close to the sport so soon.
He is a very astute racer, however and Virgin was always the most likely place for him to return as it is the home of ex Renault engineering colleagues Nick Wirth, Christian Silk and Mark Herd.
Red Bull have been interesting to watch this week, at no stage setting the fastest lap times, staying deep undercover. They obviously have a lot of confidence in this car. Ferrari haven’t really extended their car either and McLaren have been bedding their new car in this week, so all of the top three are being cagey. The feeling persists though that when the time comes for Red Bull to see what the thing will do over a single lap on a low fuel run, it will lead to a collective intake of breath in the F1 paddock.
As for the Pirelli tyres, the degradation was quite high again, but motor sport boss Paul Hembery says the super-soft tyre is the only one being changed for the Barcelona test. The others are as in Jerez. Hembery added that there was a three-second difference between the four compounds in Jerez.
JEREZ TEST, Day 4
1. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m19.832s 103 laps
2. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m20.601s + 0.769s 86 laps
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m21.074s + 1.242s 115 laps
4. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m21.213s + 1.381s 90 laps
5. Bruno Senna Renault 1m21.400s + 1.568s 68 laps
6. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m21.632s + 1.800s 43 laps
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m22.103s + 2.271s 45 laps
8. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m22.222s + 2.39 s 90 laps
9. Jenson Button McLaren 1m22.278s + 2.446s 70 laps
10. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m22.985s + 3.153s 45 laps
11. Paul di Resta Force India 1m23.111s + 3.279s 99 laps