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Mugello test day 2: Lotus and Sauber share spoils as teams make up for lost time
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Romain Grosjean - Lotus F1 image
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 May 2012   |  7:32 pm GMT  |  28 comments

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

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28 Comments
  1. Sean hardman says:

    Great to have some in season tests. I know things got out of hand previously but surely a compromise can be found. All the tweets and pictures coming in from Mugello have been very interesting.

  2. Anand R says:

    Seems like Lewis is in Mugello track-side. (Ref pic from Mclaren.com)

    Good to see that!

  3. Martin says:

    James the Lotus looks very fast at all circuits. Do you see them as a dark horse – maybe even as potential champions. And is Grosjean the one to put your money on? He seems very matured compared to 2009 when he was drivning a car that was impossible to drive.

    1. Mark V says:

      Sure, his blazing fast world champion teammate aside, of course Grosjean is the one to put your money on. I’ll take your money. ;)

    2. SP says:

      It is a very good car indeed! If they can keep up with development I expect Kimi to challenge for more podiums and maybe a win or two. The Spanish GP should show the cars which have strong aero and hopefully give a hint on form for the rest of the season.

      Another interesting fact, if Kimi hadnt had problems in the previous races and lost points, he would be near the top of the standings! Not bad for someone who has been away for 2 years ;)

  4. A.B.Normal says:

    Why wouldn’t the quicker and vastly more experienced driver, Raikkonen, provide the baseline. Something sounds fishy, like a Finnish Lutefisk.

  5. MrNed says:

    Does anybody know if teams have to use one of their 8 race engines during testing, or are they able to fit a spare unit? I’m presuming the latter, but I haven’t heard mention of it one way or the other…

    1. Robbiehooper says:

      Hi Mr Ed
      It’s a separate engine to the ones they race. It had been discussed on F1 Fanatic.
      Cheers,
      Rob

  6. tarun says:

    James, is lotus favoring Grosjean over Kimi, by giving him two test days. certainly it could have been the other way round too. Can the feedback from driver seriously change the development direction of the car or we shouldn’t read too much into this.

    1. Craig says:

      I think Kimi will be fast asleep somewhere.

  7. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    I think its encouraging that they got 15,000 fans to a test day!

    1. AH Jordan says:

      It’s Italy and it’s Ferrari’s test track…!!

  8. SP says:

    James, I’ve been away for just a week and you’ve produced much for me to catch up on! :D Along with the discussions too. Dont know where to start!

    Will there be a tech analysis of upgrades/parts teams are trying out? Any news on Mclaren resolving their pit-stop issue? I was told it was due to the wheel hub/thread and type of metals used…. not sure of the truth in this though.

  9. kfzmeister says:

    Wow, what’s going on with McLaren’s gearboxes???

    1. iceman says:

      Yes looks like they might have a design problem there doesn’t it.

      1. SP says:

        Any info on the problems? And how many failures?

  10. Davexxx says:

    Many thanks for a comprehensive report James.

  11. A.B.Normal says:

    Or perhaps a Boullier bouillabaisse? Seems strange that a team principal can also manage one of its drivers, especially in a team with as sordid a recent past as Lotus/Renault. James, are there no rules prohibiting such an obvious conflict of interest in F1?

    1. James Allen says:

      No but licenses are coming in for key people

    2. Warren Groenewald says:

      Briatore managing Alonso? Or Todt’s son managing Massa who just happened to sign a long term deal shortly before Todt moves from the F1 team? Been going on a while and it’s definitely a little dodge.

  12. Mat says:

    A postive result for Marussia, they set a time within 3% of that of the top time. Impressive.

  13. Tim says:

    My one comment is that Mugello is a fantastic circuit, so much more interesting and evocative than the Tilke-domes.

    Mind you, sitting here in a dismal, rainy Milton Keynes the idea of being at a ractrack in sunny Tuscany watching F1 cars all day sounds like heaven!

  14. Kevin Irwin says:

    that rear wing of the lotus looks like a DDRS set up but no front wing set up , what are they doing, stalling the diffuser?

  15. JohnBt says:

    Lotus has the edge this year since last year testing and races and yesterday’s test. Even today before lunch break they were second. And with Kimi I’m sure we’ll be witnessing the IceMan shinning.

    Ferrari seems to have improved. But I prefer to wait for the Spanish GP.

  16. Andrew says:

    McLaren should just practice pit stops instead.

  17. KGBVD says:

    James,
    Are there any safety regulations governing these sensors that the teams are putting all over the cars? Some of them look unnecessarily menacing and heavy. Not good considering that what hit Massa was a 1.1kg cylindrical spring.

    1. James Allen says:

      Not that I’m aware of, but teams take safety very seriously so they’ll be well secured!

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