Sunday, February 26, 2012

Barcelona Days Two, Three and Four

Sorry for my several days absence everyone, I caught a nasty flu (the second bout of illness that I have endured over the past few months) and have been confined to my bed since Thursday. Thankfully I am on the mend now, but it really is amazing the stuff that you miss when you turn off your computer for just a short amount of time. For example, I could not follow the final three days of testing thanks to my illness and have only just begun catching up with all of the Formula 1 gossip that I have missed.

Wednesday’s test in Barcelona saw Nico Hulkeberg top the time sheets in his Force India VJM05. The German was followed closely by Ferrari driver academy member Sergio Perez whose Sauber C31 finished only 0.04 seconds adrift. If these times are any indication, we should have a very competitive midfield this season.

Sebastian Vettel completed an impressive 104 laps in his Red Bull RB8 and managed to clock a time that was good enough to claim third fastest spot. Fernando Alonso finished the day, which was spent comparing various exhaust solutions, in fourth place. The Spaniard would later admit that while many of the other teams have switched their focus to conducting race simulations, Ferrari is still trying to understand the F2012. “It’s true that we keep getting information out of the car, information that we should already have in our pocket, but the car seems quite complex and we need to keep understanding better what the behaviour is.” Alonso stated. “But then I remember last year when we did a race distance in the first day and we were one and a half seconds behind Red Bull in Australia. Race distances are always welcome, but I would prefer to have a performing car and then we find reliability than have a very strong car that is slow.”

Day three of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya did not see a further change in Ferrari’s pace or reliability issues but the arrival of the sun and heat at the Spanish track did see an unlikely name at the head of the field. Pastor Maldonado clocked a time of 1:22.391 while on supersoft tyres in the Williams FW34. Maldonado went on to complete 106 laps with only Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button being able to produce similarly productive stints totalling over 100 laps. After his moment in the spotlight, a pleased Maldonado told the media that podium finishes may even be on the cards for Williams this year. “The car looks competitive; much better than last year’s car for sure. Everything is working- engine, gearbox, aero of the car, mechanically- so, it’s not a perfect car; it’s still early and we have lots of things to improve but I’m very happy.” He summarised.

The Venezuelan had another impressive day in the Williams on the fourth and final day of the Barcelona meeting. He managed to complete a total of 134 laps in the FW34 and set the second fastest time of the day behind Kamui Kobayashi, who highlighted the latest Sauber’s promising form.

Felipe Massa drove the F2012 to fifth place of the day, but in the process completed a total of 103 laps, indicating that Ferrari may finally be finding their form. In the wake of the test the Brazilian was upbeat about the direction that the team is heading in. “In the morning I was not sure if I was able to do more than eight or nine timed laps consistently and then we changed so many things for the afternoon and I was doing much more than this in a very consistent and good way. I think this is very positive.” Massa said. “For sure, we still need to work a lot on the car, but at least we have found the direction to have a much better car to drive. Not just for lap time but also for consistency.”

The second Barcelona test is scheduled to begin on the first of March, but both Ferrari and Red Bull have elected to begin the test a day later, ending their running on March the fifth. The struggling Lotus team, which was forced to sit out the second test of the season due to chassis problems, may also join them. They have already petitioned the other teams for permission to test an extra day and their request is expected to be granted. Ferrari’s twitter account also states that the team will be at the Circuit de Catalunya on the 28th and 29th of February, completing some promotional filming that was cancelled on February 3rd. There will therefore be just a few short days spent at the factory before the circus re-emerges once more and speculation begins anew.

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