February 27th, 2013 (F1plus/Rebecca Creed).- Teams and drives come back to Barcelona -or maybe they never left- to start the last round of testing before the serious business really starts in Melbourne in a couple of weeks from now. So, far it has been hard to gauge with certain precision the outlook for that first race, but certainly this week at Circuit of Catalunya surely will shed more light about what to expect.
Despite the team having the fastest time of the four days with Sergio Perez the team appeared to still be struggling to understand their car. Perez’s time was set on the softer compound tyre on the second day. The team amassed 315 laps over the four days and ended up with the first and 11th best times of the week. But Button’s long runs on Thursday afternoon suggest that the team is not quite where it wants to be and could struggle to challenge the Red Bull and Ferrari. The team will want to work harder to understand their car and give themselves the best chance in Melbourne.
The team from Milton Keynes finished the four days of testing with the fifth fastest time set on the soft tyre and the 13th fastest time. Sebastian Vettel has said that he expects Red Bull to start the season better than it did last year but still expects this season to be very close. The team completed a race simulation, at the same time as Lotus, on Thursday with Mark Webber and the two teams appeared evenly matched. Overall the team managed 322 laps and their testing program in the lead up to Australia has gone well. At the final pre-season test we may be able to see how Red Bull is fairing against the other teams.
Fernando Alonso got his first taste of the 2013 car on Tuesday after deciding to sit out of the first test in Jerez. His time on Thursday left him with the second fastest time overall of the week with Felipe Massa setting 22nd fastest time after only running on the rainy final day. Together the two drivers managed a total of 363 laps however the team did not complete a full race simulation as other teams did and this makes it difficult to compare the car and its pace to the other teams.
Lotus managed the fourth and eighth fastest times over the four days after completing 274 laps and a full race simulation from Romain Grosjean. Despite some issues with Kimi Raikkonen’s gearbox on the Wednesday of the test which left him in the pits for much of the morning session the E21 appears consistent. Grosjean’s times in his full race distance run were comparable to Red Bull’s and showed that would not have been separated by much during a race. Lotus team principal Eric Boullier has downplayed the performance of the car until the final pre-season test, saying the final updates in preparation for Australia are all that matter.
Mercedes topped both Tuesday’s and Friday’s sessions with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton respectively. However they only ended the week with the sixth and ninth fastest times after completing 335 laps. The team looks as if it is going to be more competitive than last year, however Hamilton has said that he does not expect the team to be challenging for wins. The car certainly looks as it has the potential to be quick and could spring a surprise come the first race in Australia.
Esteban Gutierrez has done a good job so far suring winter testing.
Sauber completed 308 laps during the four day test with Nico Hulkenberg setting the third fastest time of the test on the Thursday. Prior to the impressive time from Hulkenberg the C32 had looked disappointing over testing, consistently being slower than its midfield rivals. Esteban Guiterrez set the 18th fastest time however he was running on Tuesday’s relatively green track and during Friday’s damp session. The form of the car over the past few days suggests it could be in a similar position to last year and capable of challenging for podiums.
Force India chose to run three different drivers for the four day test. Paul di Resta tested for the first two days setting the 16th fastest time of the test. Adrian Sutil got his first taste of an F1 car in over a year on Thursday setting the 12th fastest time of the week over a second faster than Di Resta’s time. Jules Bianchi drove on the Friday during the wet session setting the 19th fastest time of the test. Between them they completed 318 laps and look as if they can challenge what appears to be a tight midfield. The team’s second driver should hopefully be announced before next week’s Barcelona test.
Barcelona is the first outing for the FW35 and the car looks as if it could be a contender for the top of the midfield. Pastor Maldonado set the eighth fastest time of the test whilst Valtteri Bottas set the 10th fastest time of the test. Both times were roughly one second slower than the time set by Sergio Perez in the McLaren. Maldonado said he was positive about the new car as it had completed lots of miles without problems.
Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso
The Toro Rosso STR8 looked good on certain days of the test with Jean Eric Vergne setting the third fastest time on Firday however this was over a second slower than his best time in the 1m23s. Toro Rosso ended the test with the 14th and 15th fastest times and completed 329 laps. The team look to be in a similar position to where they were last year and in Australia should be in tight competition with the other midfield teams.
The team set the 20th and 21st times in Barcelona with Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic testing for the team. Between them they completed 284 laps with their best lap times in the 1m26s around five seconds behind the time set by McLaren. The team currently look to be behind their backmaker rivals Marussia and will want to bring some updates in order to keep them in contention for 10th in the constructors championship.
Marussia decided to run Max Chilton for all four days of the pre-season test in Barcelona, leaving new recruit Luiz Razia without the chance to test the car. Razia was scheduled to run for two days of the test but Marussia said it made sense to keep Chilton in the car for the sake of consistency. Chilton set the 17th fastest time of the test with a time in the 1m25s, around four seconds off the pace of the McLaren. Chilton completed a total of 241 laps. The Marussia currently looks faster than their backmaker rivals Caterham.