Teams put the frustrations of poor weather on the opening day at Mugello firmly behind them today to get their test programmes underway in earnest, as Lotus’s Romain Grosjean and Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi ended up with identical times at the top of the timesheet.
The second day of the sport’s first in-season group test since September 2008 at the picturesque circuit in Tuscany gave teams who have brought significant upgrade packages here a first serious chance to assess their performance in dry conditions. It was little surprise therefore to see numerous cars running with an assortment of aerodynamic-measuring sensors throughout the day.
After lingering morning damp conditions cleared up, Grosjean set what turned out to be the day’s best time – 1m21.603s – less than two hours into the morning session, the lap coming during his third proper stint on his fourth flying lap. The Frenchman hadn’t actually been due in the car until tomorrow’s final day but the dismal weather on day one prompted Lotus to stick with one driver for the remaining two days in order to work from a consistent base, meaning Kimi Raikkonen now won’t be getting behind the wheel.
Grosjean’s time remained out of reach for anyone else for a further six hours before Kobayashi, aided by a fresh set of soft tyres, took to the track with just under 10 minutes to go and on his first flying lap matched the Lotus’s time to within one thousandth of a second. After a slow-down lap, he followed that up with a 1m22.087s. The Japanese, having earlier lost around an hour of track time with an off at turn 12 after his car began to handling inconsistently in increasingly windy conditions, carried out assessments on the C31’s new bodywork and cooling arrangement and Sauber reported that “the car with the new aero package reacted as it should”. Those updates being tested this week include reshaped sidepods and new front wing.
Red Bull split its running between Mark Webber (morning) and Sebastian Vettel (afternoon) and between them the pair put more than 100 laps on the RB8. Vettel said the team revisited parts tried on the car over grands prix weekends so far this season, as well as new development updates, and Webber, who ended up a tenth slower than his team-mate, said at the end of his day and a half in the car and said the test had already proved useful.
“We had absolutely truck loads of stuff to go through, but so far so good. Mileage is so limited these days it was good to be in the car again; this test has been very useful. I think for Barcelona we will largely keep pushing with what we have done already, although I’m sure there will be small details that will change,” he said.
Ferrari managed to put 106 laps on the F2012 on Felipe Massa’s sole appearance of the week. The car ran with a periscope aero-measuring device for most of the day and our BBC colleague Gary Anderson reported that the team had gone back to trying the exhaust arragement that had proved so troublesome in pre-season. “Ferrari have tried two different positions of exhaust exit here – the one they have been racing with and the one they had to abandon during pre-season testing because it was overheating the rear tyres. They believe the pre-season testing one is the best, and they have been doing more work on that here.” Further updates are expected to appear on the car tomorrow, although the full Spanish GP package won’t be rolled out until next week.
Mercedes enjoyed a very productive day with Michael Schumacher completing a mammoth 144 laps as the Brackley team continued to work on honing its understanding of Pirelli’s 2012 tyres , as well as trialling some development parts. Schumacher, a Mugello veteran from his days at Ferrari when testing was unrestricted, said: “Of course we also tested some new things, which I would not want to go into detail about, so it is definitely worth coming here at this stage of the season. I am really happy with how things are proceeding with our car and our team, and I am convinced we have a good basis for the final day of the test tomorrow.”
As Jenson Button alluded to last week, McLaren has not brought a particularly big upgrade package to the test and today the team said long-serving test driver Gary Paffett was “mainly focusing on improvements to aero correlation and broadening our understanding of tyre temperature and behaviour”, the Briton putting 59 laps on the MP4-27 before a gearbox problem sidelined him for the final three hours. The car again featured the severe-looking spiked measuring device at the bottom of the diffuser.
One constant to continue coming out of the test was drivers’ enjoyment at tackling the fast flowing 3.259-mile circuit, Vettel even saying: “unfortunately we don’t have this track on the calendar. It’s an incredible circuit with a lot of high-speed corners.” However, while proving popular with the men behind the wheel, its average lap speed, Spa and Silverstone aside, is atypical of most of the circuits currently on the calendar and therefore less useful for engineers.
Nonetheless, Force India would have welcomed plenty more track time today than turned out to be the case after hydraulics problems limited Paul di Resta to a mere 14 laps – the Scot’s only timed runs coming right at the end of the day. The team’s engineers changed the VJM05’s hydraulics system as a precaution and although di Resta played down the lost time, the team has tonight confirmed that the Scot will now be back in the car for Thursday morning with Nico Hulkenberg’s running now shifted to the afternoon.
Mugello test, Day Two
1. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m21.603s
2. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m21.603s + 0.000s
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m21.825s + 0.222s
4. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m21.997s + 0.394s
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m22.257s + 0.654s
6. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m22.422s +0.819s
7. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m22.588s +0.985s
8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m23.404s +1.801s
9. Charles Pic Marussia 1m23.982s +2.379s
10. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m24.312s + 2.709s
11. Gary Paffett McLaren 1m24.480s +2.877s
12. Timo Glock Marussia 1m24.499s + 2.896s
13. Paul di Resta Force India 1m24.749s + 3.146s
14. Bruno Senna Williams 1m24.842s + 3.239s