Massa sets the pace on opening day in Jerez (with pictures)


Felipe Massa set the fastest time on the first day of testing at Jerez, the Ferrari driver completing 101 laps on his way to posting a best time 0.774s ahead of his nearest rival, Sergio Perez.

At the wheel of the F150th Italia (!), the Brazilian's programme focussed on finding the best set-up for the car, increasing understanding of the Pirelli tyres' behaviour, aerodynamic testing and starts.

Despite endless red flags which were especially prevalent this afternoon, the Brazilian was able to complete the planned programme, without any technical problems.

"I am pleased with today," said the Brazilian, who continues here tomorrow. "I was able to run continuously, without losing any valuable time. All those kilometres helped me get to know the car better and especially the tyres, an area where we were able to try different things to those we did in Valencia.

"The fastest time?" he continued. "It doesn't mean anything, because we don't know what trim the other drivers were running."

Second quickest was Mexican rookie Sergio Perez in the Sauber, the youngster covering 94 laps on his way to posting a best time of 1:21.483.

"I'm very happy with how the day went," he said. "We covered a good mileage and again I learnt a lot. I'm getting more and more confident with all the procedures with the team and the car. I'm looking forward to another busy day tomorrow."

"Today was a productive day for us," added technical director, James Key. "In the morning we started off with some base line runs. Before we concentrated on set-up and worked on the braking system we also planned to run out of fuel, which was why the car stopped out on the track.

"In the afternoon we carried out back to back comparisons to learn more about the mechanical set up of the car," he continued. "Although there were several red flags in the afternoon, we have found some good directions for further work. We only used the medium and hard tyre compounds today. In the afternoon we used no more than three sets of the harder ones, and they certainly degrade, but not so badly that we could not learn anything from them. Sergio concluded the day with practice starts and will continue to drive tomorrow."

Mark Webber was back in action for Red Bull, the Australian, like Perez, completing 94 laps, as he team focussed mainly on tyres, evaluating a broader range of compounds compared with those used in Valencia.

"It was pretty good today," said the Australian. "There were a few red flags, but we did almost 100 laps and the car ran well. On the performance side I think we're going okay; it's very early and you don't know who's doing what, but we're focusing on ourselves and seem to be going in the right direction."

Toro Rosso had two drivers on duty, Australian hot-shot Daniel Ricciardo in the morning and Jaime Alguersuari in the afternoon. The team has put in a lot of work at its Faenza factory, making changes to the STR 6 based on data acquired in Valencia and today's performance suggests that those changes have delivered signs of progress.

For Ricciardo, today was something of a milestone for it was his first time in a Toro Rosso car. The Australian, who will drive for the team in Free Practice 1 at most Grands Prix this year, completed 31 laps ion his way to posting the fourth best time of the day.

"Jerez is where I first drove a Formula 1 car, when I tested for Red Bull Racing at the end of '09," said Ricciardo, "and the last time I drove an F1 car was last November, again with Red Bull in Abu Dhabi.

"It doesn't sound like a long time," he continued, "but three months out of a race car is long enough. It was good to be back in the cockpit. Fortunately, I seem to have remembered how to drive!

"Driving the Toro Rosso for the first time was another exciting experience for me. It went well and I did enough laps this morning to get settled in the cockpit, which is important, as I hope to get a bit more track time in testing, so that I can feel confident when I get to Bahrain and run in free practice on Friday morning at my first Grand Prix weekend. I also managed to use both of the important new elements, the KERS and the DRS (drag reduction system) which seemed to function as planned and I felt quite comfortable by the end of the morning."

It was a cautious start for McLaren and its new MP4-26 as the Woking team spent much of the day undertaking rigorous checks. In the morning the team focused on short runs to enable Lewis Hamilton and the engineers to run through a number of systems checks and make small set-up and tyre-compound changes in order to gauge the car's reaction to adjustments.

At lunchtime, the car was routinely stripped for a more thorough check of the new systems, returning to the track for the final hour's running.

While the day's programme ran without the engagement of the drag reduction system, the latter part of the day saw the team running its new hybrid system for the first time.

Hamilton completed 58 laps without any problems and the team declared itself satisfied. Jenson Button continues tomorrow as the Woking outfit puts more miles on the car and ramps up its programme.

"Today was mainly about checking the car," said Hamilton, "not the most exciting day, but it was important to make sure everything was running okay. We didn't do any particularly long runs, and I wasn't too aggressive with the car, but we learned a couple of useful things. The car feels good compared to last year's, which is positive. It feels like a good step over MP4-25."

Force India's VJM04, which was unveiled on Tuesday, completed its first-ever laps today, with Adrian Sutil at thne wheel. According to the Silverstone outfit it was a successful debut, with the major systems checks completed and new components shaken down. After installation laps in the morning, the German gradually increased the lengths of his runs and completed 28 laps in total over the course of the day.

Sutil will continue in the car tomorrow with the objective of running through further checks before moving onto performance work in the afternoon.
Paul di Resta will get his first outing in the new car on Saturday.

"A successful first day of testing for the new car, a big well done to all the team," said Sutil. "Out of the box it runs well and feels generally better than the 2010 car in every area. We had a good baseline set-up and balance, already the car is very smooth, which is always positive as then you can focus on improving performance.

"Despite a bit of downtime this morning with a problem with the floor we could still do 28 laps, which isn't too bad for a new car, and got in all our baseline runs. I've got a good feeling and tomorrow we're going to aim to put in some more laps, longer runs and look at different tyre compounds. It's too early to say where we are, but at this stage in testing I think we can be quite pleased and proud that the hard work everyone back in the factory and wind tunnel has - so far - paid off."

"Today was the roll out for VJM04," added circuit engineering director, Dominic Harlow, "and as such we were looking to install and shakedown the car whilst increasing our run lengths and looking to reach stabilised temperatures. The plan from there was to begin taking measurements and adjusting the car into our normal operating envelope and perhaps starting to sweep some set-up and control parameters.

"We lost a few hours today with a problem with the exhaust blast shields, which required some ingenuity to solve, but once that was done we covered the first of our objectives and completed just over 120km with no further issues. It was great to see the new car on track, and we have made a positive start to the test."

Lotus Renault GP, which had Vitaly Petrov on duty, ran two of the four Pirelli tyre compounds, gathering further important data for evaluation. Aero runs in the morning allowed the team to continue evaluating the car's aero performance on a track that has several high-speed corners, while Petrov was able to begin his first set-up programme in the R31.

"Things were much better for me today compared to Valencia," said the Russian, "and at least we managed to do quite a lot of laps. We still lost some time because the car had an oil leak in the middle of the day, but we made the most of the time on track and I managed to do some set-up work in the afternoon. At the moment it's important to understand how the tyres are working and we found there was quite a lot of degradation with the rears, and that's one of the reasons why it's difficult to find the right set-up. I also continued using the KERS and moveable wing today and that went well with no issues."

We started the morning doing some aero work with a fully instrumented floor, front and rear wing," said Alan Permane. "Vitaly lost some track time in the middle of the day with an oil leak, but we managed to get back out after lunch and completed some reasonable mileage. We ran with two of the four dry compounds that are available and will continue evaluating the remaining compounds over the coming days."

"After a difficult few days, it's good for the team to be back at the track and to have our minds focussed on developing the car," added Eric Boullier. "Things went pretty well, but it's early days and there is still so much for us to learn about the new car, especially at a track like Jerez with some high-speed corners. We had a small oil leak on the car in the morning, which kept us in the garage for a while, but the aero programme went well today and has taught us some useful things."

Mercedes focused on continuing the set-up programme from the test in Valencia last week, along with further acclimatisation to the Mercedes KERS as Nico Rosberg had his second test day with the system. The German completed longer runs in the afternoon to conduct set-up comparisons and continue to develop the team's understanding of the new tyres.

Rosberg completed 67 laps, however his running was compromised due to a repeat of the hydraulic issue experienced in Valencia. However, the German outfit claims today's failure enabled it to confirm the source of the problem.

"We had a reasonable day and I was able to complete quite a few laps, which is positive," said Rosberg. "It's important for both me and the team to get good mileage and we're really learning about the car all the time. We had a few little issues, which you always expect from a new car, so we just have to keep putting the miles on it.

"The KERS was working well," he continued, "and having more time to get used to the system is a real help; it's not just a question of using the buttons but also understanding the effect of the KERS under braking. We are starting to understand the tyres better and that will be one of the key factors to success over the race weekends."

Jarno Trulli was on duty for Lotus, the Italian completing 54 laps over the course of 8 runs, the longest comprising 13 laps, when it also tested it's DRS system. However, a technical problem in the afternoon meant that there was limited running.

"The car does feel pretty good," said Trulli, "but the problem this afternoon limited our total time on track. Despite that we are still where we want to be - close to the midfield and in a car that we still have a lot more to add to. I think there is still a lot more to come from the car so I'm very positive and looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow."

"We started the day well and had a good morning session," added the team's sporting director, Dieter Gass. "For the first time we were able to do meaningful setup work and start being able to understand the aerodynamics of the car. Unfortunately we had a small problem this afternoon which limited our running, but the team worked well to rectify it and we managed to give Jarno another 45 minutes at the end of the session. We will take another look at the problem tonight and will make sure it does not affect us tomorrow."

After a day of promotional filming here yesterday, the new Virgin MVR-02 was run for the first time in an official test session today. With the track being quite cold this morning, during its initial installation lap the team experienced a fuel pressure problem which confined the car to the garage. A solution was in place by lunchtime and in warm and sunny conditions, Timo Glock was able to run the car in anger for the first time this afternoon, initially focusing on shorter stints before building up to some longer runs towards the end of the session.

By the end of the day the German had completed 42 laps, gaining valuable information about the car's behaviour. The team will now analyse the data and use this information during the remainder of the test programme.

"I was really looking forward to driving the new car for the first time and it's been an interesting first day," said Glock. "We had a problem in the morning and lost a bit of track time, but when we were up and running we were able to complete a lot of laps in the time we had and collect valuable data. It was a little frustrating to have the car in the garage this morning but putting that aside I am feeling positive about what we achieved this afternoon and from that point of view it has been a very good start."

"It's great to see the new MVR-02 car out on track for the first time after all the work and effort the team has put into it during the winter," added John Booth. "We recovered well from a small setback and went on to complete 42 very valuable laps. We look forward to continuing in the same vein during the rest of the week."

It was a frustrating day for Williams and Pastor Maldonado, the Venezuelan only completing 14 laps and failing to post a serious time due to a problem with the movable rear wing.

"It has not been a productive day for us I'm afraid," admitted Sam Michael. "After the installation lap we had a problem with a bleed screw for the rear wing hydraulic actuator. It is straightforward to correct, however during the day it caused a lot of downtime as we shuffled parts around to get the car out on the track. On the positive side, in the late afternoon we did complete all the aero testing that required the front tyre rake, so that will come off tonight.

To check out our Thursday gallery, containing over 250 pictures click here.

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Published: 10/02/2011
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