Felipe Massa underlined Ferrari’s statement of intent by topping the times on the penultimate day of testing, in Jerez. He set the two fastest times of the week to end the day around a second clear of Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel. After two difficult days of unreliability for Mercedes, Rosberg managed to make up for lost time with 148 laps, or 655km of running; more than two race distances in one day.
Ferrari have been one of the first teams to start bringing development parts to the car after starting tests on Tuesday with a fairly standard launch car.
After spending much of yesterday concentrating on constant speed runs for aerodynamic measurement, fitting a different exhaust configuration and a new floor, he was able to let loose in the F138 today during a series of short runs on the soft tyre this morning. He lowered Romain Grosjean’s benchmark from Wednesday and became the only driver to dip in to the 1m:17s. He did this twice during the day.
He did the time on the first lap of a six lap run, which means he will have had around 20 kilos of fuel on board, so there is another six tenths of a second there for a low fuel time.
The Ferrari looks consistent on the longer runs too, the degradation looks well managed and the drop off in performance not as severe as McLaren and Mercedes’ long runs at this stage.
Ferrari found the same issues on the softer compound tyres that other teams have during the week. Although temperatures have been considerably lower than we can expect to see later in the year, Pirelli have admitted that the Jerez circuits abrasive surface prohibited teams from attacking over a a series of laps, with driver’s having to adopt a one-lap-on one-lap-off strategy.
So far this week Red Bull have been able to lap most consistently and quickly over a longer run. With Sebastian Vettel behind the wheel of the RB9 for the first time today they were able to complete an eleven lap run on the medium tyre with an average lap time of 1:21.7s – a pace which any other team is yet to show of a run of similar length. As a comparison to the changes in lap times over the course of the week, Jenson Button averaged 1:24.1s over an eight lap stint on the medium tyre, on Monday.
“It is an evolution of last year’s car and we have tried to keep the strengths and address some of the weaknesses. Obviously with relatively stable regulations the car is an evolution as are some of the others,” Christian Horner said today.
Red Bull has now done 1,222 kilometres of running on the new car. Vettel was one of three drivers to complete more than one hundred laps today, alongside Esteban Gutierrez and Nico Rosberg. Mercedes were in need of a faultless day, and after completing 148 laps they will be looking to Lewis Hamilton for some short, light fuelled runs when he returns to the car tomorrow.
Rosberg and Vettel ended the day in second and third places, both around a second off Massa’s pace.
Rosberg’s time was set on the first lap of a 16 lap run in the Mercedes. He will have had 60 kilos of fuel on board at the time, which is 40 kilos more (equivalent to around 1.1 seconds of lap time) than Massa’s fastest timed lap. However the Mercedes lap times tail off steeply towards the end of the run. This is worth keeping an eye on in the next two tests when the teams will do race distance runs and we will get a clear picture of which cars are looking after their tyres the best.
At this early stage it looks positive for Ferrari.
Kimi Raikkonen had his first day in the Lotus E21 and spent much of the morning getting himself comfortable and conducting constant speed aero tests. A series of short runs this afternoon brought him to within 2/10ths of Vettel.
Raikkonen was closely followed by Jean-Eric Vergne, in his first outing in Toro Rosso’s STR8, and James Rossiter in the Force India. Vergne continued Toro Rosso’s promising pace this week as he completed a number of short runs and he too ended the day within 2/10ths of Vettel.
Rossiter had a troubled morning after striking his front-jack man. The mechanic has been checked and given the OK, but Force India were hit by exhaust troubles later in the afternoon when Paul Di Resta took over.
After topping the times on Monday, Jenson Button ended the day in seventh. McLaren chose to concentrate of long, fuel laden runs in the afternoon with Button completing eighty-three laps in the process.
[Additional Technical Analysis - Mark Gillan]
JEREZ TEST DAY 3
1. Felipe Massa – Ferrari 1m17.879s 85 Laps
2. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes 1m18.766s +0.887 148
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m19.052s +1.173 102
4. Kimi Raikkonen – Lotus 1m19.200s +1.321 40
5. Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso 1m19.247s +1.368 85
6. James Rossiter – Force India 1m19.303s +1.424 42
7. Jenson Button – McLaren 1m19.603s +1.724 83
8. Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber 1m19.934s +2.055 110
9. Max Chilton – Marussia 1m21.269s +3.390 78
10. Valtteri Bottas – Williams 1m21.575s +3.696 86
11. Charles Pic – Caterham 1m22.352s +4.473 57
12. Paul di Resta – Force India 1m23.729s +5.850 7