Much had been made of Ferrari’s relatively low-key start to pre-season testing with the new F2012 but Fernando Alonso ensured everyone was talking about the new challenger in a more positive light today as he ended the final day at Jerez fastest of all.
Red Bull, meanwhile, ran into their first reliability setback of the year after an electrical problem struck early on the RB8 to leave world champion Sebastian Vettel a spectator for much of the day, although he still finished third in the order.
While issues with the F2012 meant Alonso himself completed only 39 laps, his early forays gave a first glimpse of the new car’s underlying pace despite Ferrari having stressed since the start of the week’s running that, given the radically different nature of their new challenger, the first test has been all about data gathering rather than lap times.
Taking the soft Pirelli tyres for two relatively short stints, he first set a time of a 1m19.289s before immediately lowering that mark to 1m18.877s at the start of his next six-lap run, which put him within four tenths of a second of the best lap achieved by Lotus’s Romain Grosjean yesterday.
He didn’t improve thereafter in his limited re-appearances on the track but it was still enough to see him finish 0.720s clear of surprise second-placed man Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso.
Frenchman Vergne, completing his second day in the car, said the more familiar he got with the STR7 the more he was able to understand and develop set-up directions which he believes took the car’s performance forward.
Vettel returned to the track at 2.25pm local time and squeezed in 50 laps to finish right behind Vergne, with Lewis Hamilton putting another 86 laps on the McLaren to take a close fourth.
Some minor water leaks on the promising Lotus E20, meanwhile, interrupted Grosjean’s second day in the car. The Frenchman, who still ended the week with the fastest time for a 2012 machine, got his first run on Pirelli’s soft tyres this morning before switching to some longer-run simulations in the afternoon.
Sauber were another team to run into some minor glitches – a hydraulics leak on the C31 stopping Kamui Kobayashi out on the circuit and causing a brief red-flag period – but elsewhere there were some impressive lap totals.
The new Renault-engined Williams ran reliability enough for Bruno Senna to complete his week’s work with 125 laps, while Nico Hulkenberg’s lap count totalled 90 as the German finally got his pre-season underway following Jules Bianchi’s untimely crash in the Force India VJM05 yesterday.
Caterham’s new CT01, which is equipped with KERS for the first time this winter, also continued to run very reliably and today allowed Jarno Trulli to get 117 laps on the board on his return to action.
The veteran Italian has already seen enough to declare the new car a step forward: “My first impression of the car was that it is good – a definite progression from 2011 and a good basis for us to work on for the season ahead. Its reliability has been demonstrated all week here in Jerez and we have generated a lot of data, particularly on KERS and the 2012 tyres which will help us improve setups for the next couple of tests.”
“We know there’s a lot more to come in pure pace – perhaps we were the only team to run without dropping the fuel but we wanted to focus on running through the development program and making sure we completed the plan each day.”
JEREZ TEST, Day 4
1. Alonso Ferrari 1m18.877s 39 Laps
2. Vergne Toro Rosso 1m19.597s 80 Laps
3. Vettel Red Bull 1m19.606s 50 Laps
4. Hamilton McLaren 1m19.640s 86 Laps
5. Grosjean Lotus 1m19.729s 95 Laps
6. Kobayashi Sauber 1m19.834s 76 Laps
7. Hulkenberg Force India 1m19.977s 90 Laps
8. Senna Williams 1m20.132s 125 Laps
9. Trulli Caterham 1m22.198s 117 Laps