Formula 1 has six world champions in the field this year and today three of them stepped out of their cars, having done the early test work while three others stepped in. It was the turn of Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton to get their first taste of the Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren respectively.
Meanwhile Nico Rosberg came in for Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes and continued to set the pace; the German running the same 2011 specification car with the blown diffuser as the team builds up data on the new generation Pirelli tyres.
Rosberg did his fastest time on a single lap run, edging out Romain Grosjean in the Lotus who did his time on the first lap of a six lap run. Grosjean covered 117 laps today and did a long run of 20 laps in the afternoon with times in the 1m 22s dropping to 1m 24s.
Everyone apart from Mercedes is coping with the loss of the downforce and rear end stability that the EBD brought. Of the 2012 cars on show the Red Bull seems to be handling as expected, able to knock off the lap times at will, without yet showing what it can do when pushed to the limit. Vettel set his time on the second lap of a four lap run and his long run pace indicated that at all stages he was carrying a lot of fuel.
Ferrari and McLaren are feeling their way, not even exploring the limits yet. Ferrari continue to make gentle progress with their revolutionary new car. Its engineers have been saying that some new things on the car, like the pullrod suspension, are working as expected, while others, like the exhausts are more complicated to understand and make the most of.
Alonso’s best today of 1m20.412s was set on the first lap of an eight lap run, while Hamilton’s 1m 19.464s was done on the first lap of a five lap run. Fuel loads are unknown in the case of all the short runs.
When he left Jerez yesterday, Felipe Massa told the Italian media that, “There is a lot of work to do, perhaps a little more than we had anticipated.” Massa spent much of his time data logging, but did observe that the F2012 Ferrari has less understeer than its predecessors and has “gigantic potential”. But there’s a lot of work to do to bed down a completely new concept before extracting those vital few final tenths of a second.
McLaren too has been taking small steps with its car, but today engineering boss Paddy Lowe said that Jenson Button had given the car a thumbs up as one he could “do business with.”
Bruno Senna took the wheel of the Williams and covered 125 laps, the most of any driver today. Caterham’s recently announced new tester Guido van der Garde got an outing today too, trying KERS for the first time. Heikki Kovalainen has given the new Caterham the thumbs up, saying that be believes it is closer to the midfield pace they have been hoping for.
FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting took the unusual step of attending the test to check on some of the interpretations of the new rules. He’s already intervened to ba Lotus’ innovative brake stabilisation system. But he gave the thumbs up to the exhaust exits on the Ferrari, which some rivals had questioned. He did however say that aero devices on brake ducts which channel the exhaust gases to the diffuser would not be permitted. This is a concept that some engineers were talking about during the launch season.
One whisper doing the rounds is that former Sauber technical director James Key has been linked with a move to Lotus Cars to work on their sportcar programme.
JEREZ TEST, Day 3
1 Rosberg Mercedes 1m17.613s 118 Laps
2 Grosjean Lotus 1m18.419s +0.806 117 Laps
3 Vettel Red Bull 1m19.297s +1.684 96 Laps
4 Hamilton McLaren 1m19.464s +1.851 80 Laps
5 Vergne Toro Rosso 1m19.734s +2.121 79 Laps
6 Perez Sauber 1m19.770s +2.157 48 Laps
7 Alonso Ferrari 1m20.412s +2.799 67 Laps
8 Senna Williams 1m21.293s +3.680 125 Laps
9 Van der Garde Caterham 1m23.324s +5.711 74 Laps