Rubens Barrichello topped the timesheets on the final day of testing at Jerez, the Williams driver posting the fastest time of the four day test.
After three days of sunshine, conditions were somewhat different today with blustery winds throughout, heavy cloud for much of the afternoon and heavy rain for the final fifteen minutes.
Having lost time over the last couple of days, mainly through KERS related problems, Williams had an altogether better time today, with Barrichello completing 103 laps, mostly consisting of long runs. There was one stoppage around midday due to a hydraulic leak but overall the Grove outfit declared itself satisfied with the progress made.
"Nothing was going to stop us from doing over 100 laps today!" said Sam Michael. "After limited running up to now, we concentrated on setup and long runs. Rubens was trying various things to learn about the Pirelli tyres - some worked, some didn't. Now we've also gathered some data on the Pirelli wet tyre after a small shower at the end of the session. At the next test we will also have KERS back on the car as we ran without it today."
"We did suffer from a hydraulic leak during the middle of the day," he continued, "but overall it's encouraging that we've had no major fundamental failures on the car - especially considering how tight the package is. All of the faults that have been causing our downtime in the recent days are small things that systems will quickly put right."
"We completed some long runs today," added Barrichello, "and looked at trying some different things on the car. This morning was also the first time we could run a few new sets of tyres and get some momentum. The car performed as it should do so I am happy with that. The day went with minor problems, but we have some good direction and it is great to get some more mileage on the car."
Kamui Kobayashi continued for Sauber, and while the Swiss outfit lost some track time in the afternoon due to a power train related issue, it remains positive about the lessons learnt in Southern Spain.
"Today we had to stop early because of a power train related problem," revealed head of track engineering, Giampaolo Dall'Ara, "but still we have covered a reasonable mileage. We started in the morning with runs of about eight laps each on the hard Pirelli tyre compound to test mechanical set-up options. After 11:00 we did one single run on super soft tyres, and then worked again on the car's set-up on harder tyres.
"After lunch we did long runs with medium and hard tyres, the longest distance being 18 laps. Kamui also had an off today and got stuck in gravel, but without damaging the car. Because we had to finish early we had no running in the wet at the end.
"Overall we had very good track conditions in Jerez and did a lot of tyre evaluation, worked on systems and set-up. While it was also good for Kamui to work with the new systems, it was even more important and a really positive experience for the team to do some proper work with our new driver, Sergio, here in Jerez. More mileage in total would have been appreciated, but there are more tests to come."
"For me these two days have been very interesting," said Kobayashi. "Although we lost track time today, we still covered some good mileage and I have learnt a lot more about the character of the new tyres. We still have to work hard but to me it was a positive test."
The Ferrari F150 continues to show good pace and reliability, Fernando Alonso - once again cheered on by a partisan crowd of many tens of thousands - completed 115 laps and posted the third best time of the day. The Spaniard worked on a comparison of various set-up options to suit the Pirelli tyres.
"The best thing about these first two test sessions is definitely the reliability," Alonso told reporters at the conclusion of the session. "Both myself and Felipe have been able to always do at least one hundred laps a day, which is very positive.
"Our aim in these tests is to make the car as tough as possible and then, when we get to Bahrain, introduce some developments aimed at performance. As I often said recently, there is no point in looking at the time sheets, but it would be very surprising if any teams other than Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes are fighting for the wins. Red Bull ended last year with an advantage of around half a second over the others and it would be strange if they were not the strongest in Bahrain."
Asked about the Pirelli tyres, which continue to show high levels of degradation, the Spaniard said: "It is the biggest change of the year and there is still a lot of work to do to adapt the car set-up and driving style to these tyres. From what we have seen so far, we will need to run different strategies with more pit stops. We managed to do around forty laps, not all at one go, on the same set of tyres, but we know that in the much higher temperatures of Bahrain, the situation will be very different."
Sebastien Buemi continued for Toro Rosso as the Faenza outfit spent the morning focussing was on aero evaluation and general set-up work, as well as running the super-soft Pirelli tyres for the first time this week. In the afternoon, the main aim was to look at reliability with the Swiss driver doing a couple of very long runs in race configuration. When rain finally, Buemi also managed a short run on the intermediate rain tyres.
"We got through the entire programme we had planned for today," said the Swiss, "so I have to congratulate the team for ensuring the car worked all day. I did 90 laps today and more than that yesterday, so we can be quite pleased. I had my first taste of Super Soft and Intermediate rain tyres just at the end, which is better than nothing, as I don't suppose we are likely to get much rain between now and the first race. Therefore, I am satisfied with the past two days, even if we know there is a long way to go in terms of developing the car. Reliability improved throughout the test and since Valencia, so we must continue working in this direction while also beginning to think more about performance."
"Overall, this was a good test for us, during which we completed a respectable number of laps and learned a lot about the new car in terms of reliability and performance," added chief engineer, Laurent Mekies. "We have to keep improving now, working on getting all the potential out of the car, which is the most important target over the next few weeks. Hopefully we can achieve even more in next week's test in Barcelona."
Having auditioned Nick Heidfeld yesterday, today Lotus Renault GP handed over the R31 to Bruno Senna. The sight of the iconic Senna helmet colours in the equally iconic black and gold liveried Renault-powered car caused many in the paddock to feel a tingle down their spines.
The R31 featured a new specification of gearbox cooler - which the team evaluated with no major concerns - while it was a day of firsts for Senna, who tried Pirelli tyres, KERS and the adjustable rear wing for the first time. Incidentally, it was only his second ever F1 test session.
"Bruno took a sensible approach to the day," said Alan Permane, "slowly building up his pace and giving good feedback to the team, and showing good speed on new tyres at the end of the morning. The planned programme was similar to Nick's yesterday, some set-up work, new tyre runs and long runs in the afternoon. Unfortunately the afternoon was disrupted with red flags so we didn't complete the long runs. We also continued with aero mapping, which has been one of the main priorities of the week, along with the tyre evaluation."
"It was an awesome day," said Senna, "my first chance to drive the R31 and I'm pleased with how things went. It was very much a learning day for me. I had never used the adjustable wing or the KERS before, so I had to adapt to these. It's not easy at first, because there is a big workload and you are operating two factors that change the balance of the car, but by the end of the day it became more like second nature. I started the day pretty relaxed; gradually built up my confidence, and then by lunchtime I was feeling pretty comfortable with things. I was looking forward to doing some hard laps at the end of the day, but with the red flags and the weather, there wasn't enough time."
Heikki Kovalainen completed another 43 laps in the Lotus, the team losing a couple of hours due to a water leak and a couple of other minor issues.
"The combination of a number of small issues throughout the day and different weather conditions than the last three days meant we had a bit of a disrupted day," said the Finn, "but we did manage to take another step forward with the setup options and that lap at the end proves there is good pace in the car.
"We spent quite a lot of time looking at how to find the best balance settings with the tyres," he continued, "and it looks like we keep moving forward in that area. It's a little unfortunate that we had a stop/start day but this is what testing is about. We have a few days now to work on ironing out the issues and look to Barcelona to start working on long runs so I leave Jerez in a positive frame of mind and am already looking to get back in the car next week."
"Firstly I think we're all pleased to see Heikki put in such a good lap at the end of the day in tricky weather conditions," added Dieter Gass, "both he and Jarno have performed really well over the last couple of days and I want to thank them both for their efforts. Today was affected by a few issues on the car and the obvious change in the weather but the team has worked extremely hard over the whole test to give both Jarno and Heikki a chance to show what the car can do and our thanks go to them and everyone back in the factory for working so hard. Even with these problems the car does look quick and we have a very good platform to work on in Barcelona and at the final test in Bahrain."
At Mercedes, Nico Rosberg's programme was to continue the set-up and development work from the previous three days, alongside further acclimatisation to the KERS system. A precautionary engine change interrupted the programme with good work from the team enabling the German to go back out on track by mid-afternoon for a series of aerodynamic development evaluations.
"Every lap is beneficial in pre-season testing," said Rosberg, "and the work that we achieved today was good, however the long stoppage was unfortunate. It's a steep learning curve and there is a lot of hard work ahead, but with the developments that we have to come, I am confident that we will continue to progress."
"The four days in Jerez have proved to be extremely useful for the team," added Ross Brawn, "although the test has not been without its challenges. We had good reliability for the middle two days which allowed us to accumulate a lot of mileage, however there are issues to be resolved so that we can maximise our track time for the remaining two tests. Both Michael and Nico continue to feel comfortable in the car and our priorities remain on reliability, developing our understanding of the tyres and the KERS, whilst simultaneously pushing on with the developments still to come. "
Continuing Red Bull's evaluation of the new tyres, Sebastian Vettel completed some longer runs during the day to test their durability, as well as looking at the best car set-up to suit them. The Austrian team also tested some aerodynamic components and development suspension parts.
"It's been a pretty solid test overall," said Ian Morgan, the Milton Keynes outfit's head of race engineering. "We've got some good mileage and the car has been reliable. Our main focus during the test has been on understanding the tyres and how to get the best from them and I think we've made some good progress with that."
It was frustrating day for McLaren, the windy conditions compromising its data gathering programme and affecting efforts to find a satisfactory set-up for the MP4-26. Jenson Button was unable to find a suitable balance with the car, and the team's progress was brought to an early end in the middle of the afternoon following the failure of an internal component.
Jerome d'Ambrosio continued for Virgin, the Belgian completing only 45 laps as the team experienced an engine problem which confined him to the garage for the middle part of the day. The problem was subsequently solved and in the afternoon the car was back out on track for a race simulation. The long run was useful in understanding the behaviour of the Pirelli tyres and for putting more mileage on the car. At the same time the team was able to continue testing the new moveable rear wing.
During the course of the four days in Jerez, the Virgin team has completed a total of 216 laps, demonstrating promising reliability straight out of the box with only a few minor issues affecting the programme.
"My two first days driving the new MVR-02 have been very interesting and useful for me and the team," said D'Ambrosio. "We are all still getting to know the new car and it was a shame that I couldn't have more time in the car today. But I am happy with the work we have done here in Jerez and now I can't wait to get back in the car in Barcelona and continue improving."
"We are already half way through the pre-season tests and I'm very pleased with what we have achieved so far," added John Booth. "The last four days here in Jerez have been extremely productive. We have been able to recover well from small setbacks and we are making excellent progress as we count down towards the first race. Both Timo and Jerome have done a fantastic job here and we just have to keep pushing hard now to maintain the momentum in Barcelona next week."
"Overall, I am delighted with this positive first test for the MVR-02," said nick Wirth. "Many of the systems that caused us problems last year have performed faultlessly and we've learned a lot. The team has gathered lots of basic aero data, pressures and loads, and conducted tests with the blown diffuser and moving rear wing and the data correlates well with our aero predictions.
"As with every new car, the test has revealed a number of small issues which we'll address quickly," he added, "but the main thing is that the basic package seems reliable, which was our first priority. We're still missing some parts, which has limited our basic set-up and a bit of performance, but we'll have these for Barcelona. The car is a good step forward from last year, which is what we wanted."
Paul di Resta worked through a programme designed to gather further set-up and tyre data to determine the direction for the second VJM04 test in Barcelona later this week. During the installation laps the team also made preliminary checks on the new moveable rear wing, before its full introduction at the next test.
The Scot put in a further 400km to bring the car's total mileage so far to more than 1,100km, although the day's running ended earlier than expected when he suffered a front left suspension failure on his planned penultimate run of the day.
"Another productive day with a lot more miles on the car," said di Resta. "At the moment that's what it's all about - giving ourselves a clear direction and getting as much data as we can on the performance of the new car on different fuel loads. We're not going for times, rather fine-tuning the balance and set-up, plus getting to grips with a few development items we will use at the next test, including the DRS [drag reduction system]. Towards the end of the day we found a good path for the next test and have something positive to build on next week. Unfortunately we couldn't do our final run of the day when something broke on the front of the car and I skidded into the gravel. It was a shame and the team will look at it now, but until that point we were improving with each run."
"Today's objective was increasing the mileage on the VJM04 by carrying out some race run simulations," added Dominic Harlow, the Indian team's circuit engineering director. "The weather was slightly blustery and so performance running was difficult, and we also ran through a variety of systems tests as well as using the DRS wing for the first time, which appears to be working well. The session was cut short with a mechanical failure. Fortunately the car finished up in the gravel without too much damage, but obviously we will make sure we understand the problem and implement a fix as soon as possible."
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