BARCELONA, March 1, 2013 (AFP) - France's Romain Grosjean, in a Lotus, set the fastest time in Formula One testing at the Catalunya circuit on Friday, making the most of dry afternoon conditions, in marked contrast to the wet surface of the morning session.
Grosjean's time of 1min 22.716sec was half a second faster than McLaren driver Jenson Button's best of the morning. Button, the 2009 world champion, had clocked 1min 25.936sec before improving to 1min 23.181sec in the afternoon.
In the early morning over the wet track, it was Nico Rosberg from Mercedes who set the pace on intermediate tyres, but then after switching to slicks, McLaren had the upper hand with Jenson Button being the quickest with a margin of 0.216 seconds over Germany's Adrian Sutil.
It was Pastor Maldonado who took the lead and was the first to try out the slicks (super soft) and rapidly he set the best time, something that was noticed the rest of the field who followed the move and turned to non-wet rubbers.
This was a sample of what was coming in the afternoon with a dry track that allowed for some long runs on the Medium and Soft compounds. Almost all drivers improved their times significantly before rain started to fall with 30 minutes left before the session for the day was over.
The Venezuelan clocked the third best time in the promising FW35 that went through several set-up changes in the session.
Current World Champion, Sebastian Vettel, did better than in the morning –he went to the gravel once- and set fourth best of 1:23.743, interestingly though, not under the use of the new passive drag reduction device (DRD) the team had been testing throughout the day. At the time of his best lap (#7) the device was not in place.
Sauber keeps its good momentum, this time with Nico Hulkenberg who recorded fifth best, just unbelievable and marginally slower than Vettel. The difference was of 0.001 of a second.
Then it was Adrian Sutil making his formal appearance as official driver for Force India. The German was sixth with 62 laps completed in total, but was off the pace for about second and a half.
At the lower end of the time sheet, Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo clocked was seventh, which was just a tenth faster than Max Chilton's Marussia.
The youngster was again sitting where Razia was supposed to be, but the recent issue with the Brazilian sponsorship is keeping him away from his driving duties. Not a great message for those with talent and not a decent financial back up.
The four-day testing session ends on Sunday ahead of the start of the 2013 season in Melbourne on March 17.
The best times for the day:
|4||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:23.743||65|
|6||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:24.215||62|
|7||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||1:25.483||61|
|9||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham||1:26.316||48|