In the final day of the second pre-season test, the rain came down in droves at the Catalunya circuit near the normally sun-drenched city of Barcelona. It was Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who took the honour of fastest lap time after making an early run on medium compound Pirelli tyres during the brief dry period during the morning.
The 2008 World Champion’s time of 1:23:282 was just 0.3 quicker than his old Mclaren sparring partner Jenson Button, who said his team ‘still had work to do’ on the MP4-28 before it was a totally efficient fighting tool. Hamilton for his part played down any expectations amongst his wildly optimistic fanbase that he would be instantly challenging for victories this year.
‘I’m aiming for top tens initially’ he claimed. Summing up the progress made by Mercedes on their W04 car so far in testing he said put simply it ‘has a good engine, and not so good downforce’. Nevertheless, Hamilton has looked more comfortable in the car this week than he did a fortnight ago in Jerez and consequently is the focus of much attention as we had into the final test next week.
Behind the two Briton’s it was Jean Eric Vergne who continued to lend credence to the belief that Toro Rosso have made a major step forward for 2013 compared to their lonely placing down the championship order last year. The Frenchman managed a solid 80 laps in both dry and wet conditions and ended the day pleased with his showing.
It was not such a good day for Mexican hopeful Esteban Gutierrez who aquaplaned off the track several times during the afternoon in his Sauber C31. After escaping several near-misses by the skin of his teeth Gutierrez’s luck eventually ran out and the car had to be rescued from the drenched circuit by the recovery services after one off-track moment too many.
Jules Bianchi was ahead of the Sauber man with 4th place but his bid for the 2nd Force India seat was hampered by the limited running caused by the afternoon rain showers. Likewise Mark Webber and Felipe Massa, the Brazilian only managing a handful of laps in the dry before his one and only day of the week in the car was ended when the heavens opened.
The rain did treat any lingering spectators to a sight that brought a grin to their otherwise damp faces – in lieu of setting laptimes Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado chose to exercise in the pouring rain with their mechanics out the back of the Williams motorhome. A squad of Williams employees jogging up and down in the murk is one of the best moments of pre-season testing for some time!
Giedo Van Der Garde took advantage of the short dry session in the morning to post 6th fastest time with rookie rival Max Chilton down in 9th in the Marussia. However, it is the Anglo-Russian team that have looked the fastest out of the two ‘new’ teams so far this year by some margin. Romain Grosjean rounded off those that had set times for Lotus, the English outfit focusing on data-gathering runs today in a bid to squeeze more performance from their sleek E21.
At the end of the week it is difficult to tell who is quickest, but it’s safe to say the established pecking order at the front looks as secure as ever. Mercedes appear to have made some progress, but they were quick pre-season last year and it certainly didn’t translate into the results they wanted when the racing started. Red Bull have yet to top a session this year; there is a camp of thought that believe sand-bagging is the order of the day at the anally-secretive Milton Keynes squad, while Mclaren and Ferrari both admit they have progress to make. Toro Rosso appear to have a solid package beneath them and a good base on which to head into the final test, while Sauber appear to have lost a sizeable amount of performance relative to their 2012 campaign. Lotus are quietly and efficiently getting on with their job despite one or two reliability issues for Kimi Raikkonen, and Force India are surely close to announcing who will get that (now very-vexing!) second seat.
Testing resumes at Barcelona next Thursday, 28th February and will continue through until 3rd March.
|3||Jean Eric VERGNE||Toro Rosso||1:24:071||80||Soft|
|4||Jules BIANCHI||Force India||1:25:732||61||Medium|
|6||Giedo VAN DER GARDE||Caterham||1:27:429||50||Medium|
|8||Mark WEBBER||Red Bull||1:27:616||64||Medium|
|11||Valtteri BOTTAS||Williams||No Time||23|
|12||Pastor MALDONADO||Williams||No Time||13|
Twitter handle: @AntF92 or subscribe to this F1 news blog at the top of the page to continue receiving updates.