Sebastian Vettel topped the first day of the third test at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona yesterday.
Many drivers – including Vettel – left it late in the day to set their quickest lap, many due to a damp start to the session and a series of race simulations being committed to during the late-morning and early afternoon. Admittdly Vettel did not fall into the category of running a race distance.
The reigning World Champion suffered two minor offs, which led to the RB7 being withdrawn for sveral hours as the machine was checked over. Vettel still managed a best lap of 1:24.374; however the German only completed 37 laps.
Fernando Alonso was next up in his Ferrari F150th, albeit his quickest turn was a clear 1.1 seconds off of Vettel. It is highly unlikely that the gap will be even close to that come the opening race weekend (wherever and whenever that may be); however it is more significant that the Italian team has shown a high degree of reliability thus far.
Jaime Alguersuari made it two Spaniards in the top-three, as he placed his Toro Rosso 3rd in the timing sheets. The Italian squad focused on a long run during the morning, before splitting the afternoon into short stints to learn more about their new braking system.
Kamui Kobayashi registered 78 laps in his Sauber C30 yesterday, but still lost time due to a powertrain failure. Kobayashi’s best of 1:25.641 was only three-thousandths shy of Alguersuari’s quickest pace, but the Japanese driver held a solid advantage over the McLaren of Jenson Button.
It is likely that a short-filled tank may have “elevated” the Sauber up the order somewhat, but it did not relieve some of the frustrations that McLaren faced. A stuttered morning bled into a brighter afternoon as the British team successfully completed a race stint and also ran the Drag Reduction System (movable rear wing) for the first time.
Force India’s Paul di Resta had a short day. The Scot ran only 26 laps (with a best of 1:26.575 leaving him 6th), before a shorteage of spare parts curtailed running for the Silverstone-based team.
Rubens Barrichello also had a relatively brief day, with the Brazilian only managing 52 laps following an engine change during the afternoon. The team were still able to proceed with several aero tests, as their day stuttered along.
Michael Schumacher had a slightly busier day in his Mercedes MGP-W02, as they proceeded with a programmed that included a race simulation. The seven-time World Champion completed 90 tours of the Barcelona circuit, setting the 8th quickest time.
Narain Karthikeyan ran 116 laps in the 2010-spec Hispania on his way to 9th on the time sheets, as the F110 continues to display the reliability that it showed last year. Vitantonio Liuzzi will jump into the seat today, as rumours about the Italian taking the drive this year ramp up.
A gearbox issue curtailed Heikki Kovalainen’s running. The Finn only ran 54 laps with a best of 1:30.065 – a time that left Kovalainen 5.69 seconds off of Vettel’s pace; however the lack of meaningful running in the afternoon severely the efforts of the Lotus squad.
Jerome d’Ambrosio also completed 116 laps in his Virgin MVR-02. The Belgian proceeded to run a race simulation, with several short stints either side with no problems. Compared to this stage last year, the Virgin is showing some impressive reliability.
The Renault pair of Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld suffered a difficult day. Heidfeld ran in the morning, completing multiple pit stop practices as they tested their new pitlane traffic light system. Petrov had a staggered day at the wheel of his R31, thanks mainly to a fault in their KERS unit.
Pos Driver Car/team Time Gap Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m24.374s 37 2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m25.485s + 1.111s 101 3. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m25.638s + 1.264s 57 4. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m25.641s + 1.267s 78 5. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m26.365s + 1.991s 77 6. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m26.575s + 2.201s 26 7. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m26.912s + 2.538s 52 8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m27.512s + 3.138s 90 9. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m28.393s + 4.019s 116 10. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m30.065s + 5.691s 54 11. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m30.950s + 6.576s 116 12. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m35.174s + 10.800s 20 13. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m44.324s + 19.950s 27