The penultimate day of the Barcelona test saw the Mercedes team complete a race distance on the new W03 car, which is quite impressive for a car which only began serious testing this week.
Michael Schumacher was at the wheel in the afternoon to complete a simulation, featuring live pit stops. Mercedes say the car has now done a total of 1700 kilometres, with a few niggles, but on the whole it’s been pretty reliable. “We have definitely improved our game which is what we wanted to achieve,” said Schumacher. “To what extent, we can only see later, but I am finishing with a positive feeling.”
The lap times looked good.
The feeling was less positive from Fernando Alonso as he signed off from testing the Ferrari at Barcelona. The Spaniard never managed more than short bursts of laps at a time. “I don’t know if we are competitive or not,” he said.” We’ve tested lots of things and the strengths and weaknesses we saw in Jerez are the same. It’s a complex car and we need to understand it,” he said. The body language of the Ferrari crew in Barcelona tells its own story. We’ve all known each other long enough that you can tell what kind of car a team has by watching the mechanics and engineers, without needing to look at a stopwatch or lap time clusters.
Speaking to Italian media Alonso said that the car has problems on corner exits in particular. “It’s an area where we are struggling,” he admitted. “We don’t know if it will be a season or triumph or disappointment. Our plan is ambitious; we want to win from the first race, but I don’t know where we are.” Today Felipe Massa drove the car and managed 84 laps, almost exclusively on the hard Pirelli tyres.
Jenson Button took over the McLaren and did over 100 laps, with a race simulation in the afternoon. “We’ve been really working hard to understand this year’s Pirelli tyres and getting the car to work efficiently around them. That’s a key part of the programme this winter,” said Button.
The signs are that the new Pirellis offer more rear grip relative to the front tyres than was the case in 2011. This is good news for Button and for his driving style. He got on very well with the Pirellis last year in terms of tyre management because of his smooth easy style. Although the 2012 tyres are designed to last a little longer, it looks like the characteristics of the 2012 tyres will suit him even better. One small note of caution is that because of the wider contact patch of the new tyres, the warm up isn’t quite as good. So we will see if that has any effect on Button’s qualifying performance. It’ll be one of the things McLaren will be working to engineer around in the tests before Melbourne.
Caterham had a difficult day with Vitaly Petrov struggling to find a balance in the car and a set up on which to start pushing forward. Sauber had Kamui Kobayashi in the car (above) for the first time in Barcelona and he covered almost 100 laps. Front tyre warm up was a reported issue for the team.
Pastor Maldonado set the fastest time of the day in the Williams, but like Hulkenberg’s time yesterday it cannot be compared to the front running teams as fuel loads and tyres were different.
BARCELONA TEST, Day 3
1. Maldonado Williams 1m22.391s 106 Laps
2. Schumacher Mercedes 1m23.384s +0.993 127
3. Kobayashi Sauber 1m23.582s +1.191 99
4. Button McLaren 1m23.918s +1.527 114
5. Vergne Toro Rosso 1m24.433s +2.042 78
6. Webber Red Bull 1m24.771s +2.380 97
7. Massa Ferrari 1m24.771s +2.380 84
8. Di Resta Force India 1m25.646s +3.255 83
9. Glock Marussia 1m26.173s +3.782 108
10. Petrov Caterham 1m26.448s +4.057 70