Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vettel makes fast Barcelona start

Sebastian Vettel put World Champions Red Bull's RB8 on top of a testing timesheet for the first time in 2012 on the opening day of the second pre-season test at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya

The reigning two-time title winner moved to the fore during a competitive morning session in Spain and then mid-way through the afternoon increased his advantage over impressive countryman Nico Hulkenberg to just under two tenths of a second with a lap of 1:23.265.

Force India driver Hulkenberg, completing just his second day of running in the VJM05, had earlier topped the timesheet himself and such was his pace that by the end of the day he still remained ahead of Lewis Hamilton's McLaren in second place.

For Hamilton, however, it was undoubtedly still a positive start to the second test as he topped a century of laps for the first time this winter - 114 - with the MP4-27 again running reliably, the former champion eventually having to settle for a time which was three tenths of a second adrift of Vettel.

Ferrari were again, in contrast, forced to spend more time in the garage than they would have wanted during the morning as the team worked to resolve some niggling issues with the F2012, although Fernando Alonso eventually racked up 75 laps to take fifth behind Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo.

After delaying the introduction of their 2012 car by a fortnight, Mercedes' pre-season preparations finally got serious after the new W03 was rolled out this morning. With the team likely still carrying out early evaluations, Michael Schumacher completed 51 laps - although was still just 0.8s off the pace.

Sauber's Sergio Perez lost some track time through some reliability concerns, as the new Williams FW34 again showed good reliability, if unspectacular pace, in the midfield positions.

A similarly low-key day would have certainly been welcomed at Lotus and Caterham, however, after both teams ran into their first major headaches of the winter.

The situation was more costly, and potentially concerning, for Lotus - the mileage leaders and 2012 pacesetters Jerez - who managed to put just seven laps on the second E20 chassis that made its debut on Tuesday.

Romain Grosjean had completed just seven laps when the team became concerned that the new chassis wasn't responding quite as it should and, after some analysis back in the garage, announced at lunchtime that as a precaution it had decided to fly the chassis back to the factory for further investigations before returning to the track tomorrow.

However, the team's scheduled return has since been put back to next week after they subsequently confirmed that they had to make changes to both models.

Caterham, meanwhile, saw their CT01 machine stop out on the circuit just nine laps into the day when a rear track-rod failure struck.

However, after several hours of repairs, Heikki Kovalainen was able to return for the day's final 45 minutes and clear 30 laps, with the newly-promoted Caterham Group Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne hoping the issue proves to be a one-off.

"We had a rear track rod failure on Heikki's third run this morning which brought him to a halt on track," he said.

"As soon as we had the car back in the garage we identified the issue and managed to fix it on site, and we have more parts coming out tonight to make sure we don't have the same problem again. We know that this car is fundamentally reliable, so the aim for the next three days is to complete the plan for this test and put ourselves back on schedule."

One man not having any problems racking up the mileage was French rookie Charles Pic, who made his first on-track appearance since being made an F1 race driver over the winter for Marussia.

The Russian-backed squad, running with last year's MVR-02 while they await the arrival of their new car in time for next week's sessions at Barcelona, clocked up 121 laps as they got their first taste of the new range of Pirelli tyres for 2012.

Day one times:
1) Sebastian Vettel 1:23.265 79 laps
2) Nico Hulkenberg 1:23.440 97
3) Lewis Hamilton 1:23.590 114
4) Daniel Ricciardo 1:23.618 76
5) Fernando Alonso 1:24.100 75
6) Michael Schumacher 1:24.150 51
7) Sergio Perez 1:24.219 66
8) Bruno Senna 1:25.711 97
9) Heikki Kovalainen 1:26.035 31
10) Romain Grosjean 1:26.809 7
11) Pic 1:28.026 121

Source: SkySports

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