Pre-season testing is over – in two weeks time the first Grand Prix of 2013 will take place in Melbourne and Nico Rosberg signed off today with the fastest time recorded this year in Barcelona, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
As with Lewis Hamilton yesterday, Rosberg used a set of the soft Pirelli tyres to set the fastest time we have seen in the eight days of testing at Barcelona as well as going 4/10ths of a second faster than Hamilton managed yesterday and 1.5 seconds faster than the 2012 pole time. He set the time in the middle of the morning session.
However, Rosberg’s fastest lap came on a single lap run, compared to at the beginning of a five lap run that we saw for Hamilton on a higher fuel load.
With the afternoon spent on longer runs and race simulations, the excitement at the front came early in the day as Rosberg and Alonso took it in turns to better each others time. They each set out on a number of soft tyre runs and continuously lowered the bench mark, with Rosberg coming out on top with a 1m20.130. Later in the morning he set a near identical time to ensure he took the two fastest times of pre-season testing on to Melbourne.
Alonso was 3/10ths shy of the German, meaning his time was quicker than that of Hamilton yesterday. It was another promising day for Ferrari, who have showed very good race pace over the more lengthy runs and are now at the sharp end when it comes to qualifying simulations.
Interestingly the Ferrari was faster in Sectors 1 and 3, with Rosberg’s Sector 2 four tenths faster than Alonso’s.
During this final week of testing the majority of teams have fitted the remaining upgrades to their 2013 cars ahead of the first race. However, Alonso has stated that Ferrari are slightly behind in their upgrade plans and we will not see their final configuration until the car arrives in Melbourne. Whether they will find a significant amount of time is unknown, but either way the Scuderia are certainly in a more competitive position than they were twelve months ago.
Both Button and Sebastian Vettel set their fastest times of the day on unmarked tyres, but it is presumed that Button used the soft tyre, whilst Vettel, in seventh today, was more likely on a harder compound.
After a series of short runs on the unmarked tyre Button and McLaren turned their attentions to more lengthy runs on the medium tyre in the afternoon.
There was some excitement sparked by Red Bull when they sent the triple World Champion out on a set of super softs before lunch, but it was just a constant speed aero test with no competitive times being set. They then spent the majority of their final afternoon running the unmarked compound, as usual keeping their cards close to their chests.
Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, recovering from his illness yesterday, was looking to make up for lost time and gain some further information about the E21 before the climax of the pre-season. But he was left frustrated by another reliability issue regarding the gearbox and did not set a competitive time until after the lunch break. When he did get out on a set of soft tyres he quickly made his way up the time sheets and ended the day in fifth place.
It has been a mixed twelve days of testing for the Enstone squad with a mixture of impressive pace and plenty of time lost due to technical issues. If they can iron out their reliability problems then they too are looking at a good rate of progression from last year.
Analysis of the tests, the times and the car updates will follow over the coming days.
Barcelona Test Day 4
(Tyre on which best lap time was set in brackets)
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m20.130 131 Laps (S)
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m20.494 +0.364 120 Laps (S)
3. Jenson Button McLaren 1m21.444 +1.314 122 Laps (UM)
4. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m21.541 +1.411 118 Laps (S)
5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m21.658 +1.528 50 Laps (S)
6. Paul Di Resta Force India 1m21.664 +1.534 112 Laps (S)
7. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m22.415 +2.285 42 Laps (S)
8. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m22.514 +2.384 100 Laps (UM)
9. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m22.524 +2.394 31 Laps (S)
10. Charles Pic Caterham 1m23.115 +2.985 116 Laps
11. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m23.167 +3.037 62 Laps
12. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m23.628 +3.498 91 Laps
13. Max Chilton Marussia 1m24.103 +3.973 49 Laps