Mar.2 (PVM) Romain Grosjean ended fastest of all on day two of the final Formula 1 pre-season testing at Circuit de Catalunya, in Barcelona, repeating his accomplishment of 24 hours earlier in the Lotus E20.
The Frenchman attacked the top of the timing sheet with a succession of fast laps that saw him conquer top spot again on what will be his final run in the cockpit until the first free practice session of the season, in Melbourne, in two weeks time.
It was a case of deja vu as again he left his run of fast laps until the very end of the day with his fastest lap of 1 minute 22.614 seconds enough to ensure that he leaves Barcelona on a high note, as he is also the only driver to have topped the timing screens on two consecutive days in ten days of testing.
The Lotus driver was among the busiest on the day, completing 124 laps of the Spanish Grand Prix venue with a variety of long and short runs during the course of the day.
When asked about their earlier problems, Grosjean gave the strengthened E20 the thumbs up, saying: “Not at all, the car feels fine. It has the same good feeling that it did in Jerez; I can push and trust the car and you can really play with it which is very enjoyable. If you push a little bit too much you know how it will respond. You push too hard? You get understeer. Push a little bit harder in a fast corner? You get a little bit more understeer. The E20 never snaps on you or responds in an unpredictable manner. For a driver, it’s exactly what you want from a car.”
The day started well for jean Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso STR7, the rookie going fastest early on with a set of soft Pirelli tyres, but after 30 laps the STR7 caught fire exiting Turn 8, caused by a Ferrari engine failure.
The car only reappeared right at the end of the day, but the Frenchman did not do any meaningful laps, but rather focused on pitstop practice. Nevertheless when it was on song the STR7 was setting the early pace, and Vergne stayed glued to the top of the timing screens until late in the day when countryman Grosjean snatched top spot.
Both Grosjean and Vergne will relinquish their seats, for the last two days in Barcelona, to their respective teammates Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo.
World champion Sebastian Vettel, who was back in the cockpit of the Red Bull RB8, ended the day third fastest with 85 laps on his chart.The German’s best time was set during an afternoon run.
Fourth fastest, and the only other driver within a second of the fastest lap, was Fernando Alonso in the ‘complex’ Ferrari F2012. The Spaniard spent the afternoon on a full race simulation on soft and medium Pirellis of the type to be used in Melbourne. He amassed the most laps on the day, with 125 tours of his home circuit.
Heikki Kovalainen surprised many with a strong run ending the day fifth fastest, in the Caterham CT01, and the best the team has ever been relative to the front runners, although the Finn had a set of super softs bolted on for his run. He also notched up 104 laps in the process.
Sixth fastest on the day went to Kamui Kobayashi whose day was compromised with hydraulic issues on the Sauber C31. He ended the day with 77 laps to his credit.
The Force India VJM05, with Nico Hulkenberg in the cockpit, was sidelined with a drive line problem which forced the team to scupper their entire afternoon programme.
Way down in eight and ninth respectively were the Mercedes powered pair of Michael Schumacher in the Mercedes AMG W02 and Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren MP4-27.
The only team to use both their drivers on the day were Williams with Bruno Senna doing 48 laps and setting the 10th best time, while Pastor Maldonado only managed 20 laps and ended the day slowest of all, but spent most of his time practicing pitstops with his crew.
The track stayed open for business until 5.30 pm, the extra half hour added at the end to make up for the fact that the start was delayed, when thick fog in the area meant the Safety Helicopter could not take off.