Kimi Räikkönen topped the timesheets on the last day of winter testing while Red Bull Racing produced a new rear wing but had a disappointing day. They spent most of it in the garage and languished dead last on the time sheets. In between those two, there was a little bit of everything.
Another foggy morning in Barcelona had plenty of people at the Circuit de Catalunya thinking about sunny afternoons in Melbourne’s Albert Park. OK, so most of them had their eyes on relaxing on the Monday after the Australian Grand Prix outside the Elephant & Wheelbarrow by the park gates – because from now until then they’re going to be frantically analysing data, fabricating parts and shipping everything off to the Southern hemisphere.
Testing has finished but the job most definitely has not. Everybody has answers from a month on the test track: the next bit is figuring out if those answers are right or wrong.
The final day saw five world champions on track: Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull Racing, Lewis Hamilton for the McLaren, Michael Schumacher in the Merc, Fernando Alonso on duty for Ferrari and Kimi Räikkönen driving for Lotus. Elsewhere, Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado shared the Williams, Kamui Kobayashi was in the Sauber, Nico Hulkenberg had the Force India, Daniel Ricciardo the Toro Rosso and Vitaly Petrov the Caterham.
2012 winter testing began with Kimi Räikkönen setting the pace for Lotus. It ended with Kimi Räikkönen setting the pace for Lotus, which is all very neat. The same could be said for Kimi’s performance. After being last on Saturday and bedevilled with steering difficulties, the Finn had no problems and ran serenely to the chequered flag – or at least as serenely as a man with a penchant for dressing up in a gorilla costume can. Not only was Kimi quickest, but he also ran the longest. His race simulation was done at a good lick with his tyres holding up very well on the Barcelona asphalt. On the evidence, Lotus may well have a part to play this season.
“I was happy with today,” said Kimi. “Everything worked, we tried a lot of set-ups on the car and it all came together well. It was a long time in the car today but I feel fine.
“Of course, the fastest time at the end of the day looks good but no one will know how fast any of the cars are until we get to qualifying at Albert Park. All the changes we have made over testing have been improving the car, so we’ll have to see what happens in Melbourne.”
Red Bull Racing
Things weren’t quite so chirpy at Red Bull Racing. After Saturday’s new front wing and exhaust treatments, RBR strapped a new rear wing on the RB8. Or maybe they didn’t because every time the car came into the pitlane, mechanics fussed over it like a collection of rather burly mother-hens, brandishing tool trays, covers and some rather natty umbrellas.
It’s possible they didn’t want anyone to get a good look at the wing. It’s possible there’s nothing to see and talk of the wing was a bluff. It’s possible they were really testing a new type of Red Bull umbrella. We’ll never know as Vettel didn’t do enough running for anyone to seriously form an opinion.
The car spent most of the morning in the garage, which Seb explained was a combination of two entirely different problems. “This morning I had an issue, I went off track and broke the front wing and had to come in. It took quite a while to get back out and then just before lunch we had a problem with the gearbox so it upset the whole day. After that there wasn’t much we could constructively do.
“To be honest, it wouldn’t be fair to judge the updates we have, as I didn’t get many laps today. I think yesterday was quite a decent step and it was a good day for Mark, so we’ll take what we can from that.”
Scuderia Toro Rosso
Just ahead of Seb on the timesheet but 77 laps to the good on the mileage chart was Daniel Ricciardo. Once again Toro managed to do 100-laps and Daniel was very happy. But Daniel would be very happy if the Faenza factory cat disgraced itself in his overalls, so long as he got to drive the car anyway, so perhaps other voices are better to sum up events. “Looking at the 12 days of testing as a whole, we can say it has been an effective pre-season campaign,” says chief engineer Laurent Mekies.
“We are moving in the right direction in terms of car development, which will be important, as it is going to be very tight in the midfield and being at the front or the back of that group will be down to very small differences between the car packages.
“Between now and taking to the track at Albert Park for FP1, we will be working hard looking at the data to make sure we are getting the most out of our current package.”
Italy’s second team (OK, sorry) had a good day with Fernando Alonso completing 115 laps. The 2005 and 2006 World Champion slotted in just behind his successor on the timesheet, though it’s impossible to know what he thought of that as for the last two days Ferrari have kept their drivers from talking to the media.
Given the sizeable Italian press corps and the fact Fernando attracts quite a bit of interest in Spain, that hasn’t gone over too well. Ferrari did issue a statement explaining that it wants ‘to keep the whole team fully focussed on the job and there is not any polemic intent behind it.’ You have to love a press office that won’t let Felipe Massa say ‘for sure’ a lot but will throw around words like ‘polemic’. Later on technical director Pat Fry did say that he’s ‘disappointed’ with the level of performance and didn’t expect the F2012 to be fighting for a podium in Australia. Maybe that’s true and maybe it isn’t.
In between, there was less than a second between the other runners. Bruno Senna was third in the Williams, Hulkenberg fourth for Force India and Kobayahsi fifth for Sauber who caused one of two red flags when an engine issue stranded the Japanese driver on track. The other red flag was caused by Vitaly Petrov who went into the gravel with his Caterham. The Russian still managed 101 laps and finished seventh quickest, sandwiched between Hamilton (sixth) and Schumacher (eighth). Pastor Maldonado finished the day ninth, a second slower than his team-mate but running at the slower time of day.
That isn’t quite it from Barcelona. HRT, we hear, are planning to run a ‘filming day’. They’re allowed a couple of these a year on a different specification of tyre and limited in mileage. A couple of scamps in the paddock suggested their non-appearance is a ruse to keep a killer design out of the public eye before Melbourne. We’re accustomed to teams hiding their true abilities during testing, but that one might stretch credibility a little too far.
See you in Australia.
1. Raikkonen | Lotus | 1m22.030s 121 laps
2. Alonso | Ferrari | 1m22.250s +0.220 115 laps
3. Senna | Williams | 1m22.296s +0.266 53 laps
4. Hulkenberg | Force India | 1m22.312s +0.282 101 laps
5. Kobayashi | Sauber | 1m22.386s +0.356 72 laps
6. Hamilton | McLaren | 1m22.430s +0.400 115 laps
7. Petrov | Caterham | 1m22.795s +0.765 101 laps
8. Schumacher | Mercedes | 1m22.939s +0.909 100 laps
9. Maldonado | Williams | 1m23.347s +1.317 48 laps
10. Ricciardo | Toro Rosso | 1m23.393s +1.363 100 laps
11. Vettel | Red Bull Racing | 1m23.608s +1.578 23 laps
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