Fernando Alonso ended his three day stint at the wheel of the Ferrari F138 by topping the timing screens at Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona with a time of 1:21.875 and 97 laps to his credit, with Nico Hulkenberg second quickest in the Sauber as Ferrari powered cars hogged the top two spots at the end of the day.
Alonso, who missed out on Jerez testing, made amends by racking up 283 laps over the course of the three days, and pretty much catching up on the mileage clocked by his rivals. His fastest time was before lunch, and with most teams opting to run their drivers in race simulation mode in the afternoon, the time – set on Pirelli soft tyres – remained unbeaten until the end of the day.
The Spaniard’s best was a fraction slower than Sergio Perez’s best 24 hours earlier.
Alonso told BBC afterwards, “We concentrated on a comparison of the (tyre) compounds, starting with the soft and moving on to the hard in the afternoon. We tried various aerodynamic configurations and for the first time, we made some set-up changes to get a good understanding of tyre behaviour and degradation.”
“With every change we made, the car reacted as I expected and it was useful to try out the different settings, especially to understand which direction we need to go in next week, when there will be a greater emphasis on performance.
“Once again this year, the tyres will be one of the crucial aspects to manage: they are softer and quicker, but also less consistent and they degrade rapidly with every lap. We will have a lot of work to do to understand how best to balance the car, but that applies to all the teams,” concluded the Spaniard.
Hulkenberg ticked off 91 laps on his second consecutive day in the cockpit of the Sauber C32, ending the day 0.285 seconds shy of the top time.
The German said afterwards, “It was a positive day. We got a lot of testing done with just minor problems. I ran the soft tyres in the morning here in Barcelona for the first time to get a feeling for those, which was interesting. The car is performing pretty well, and I‘m as happy as I can be.”
Lotus were hampered by technical issues during Kimi Raikkonen’s two day stint in the E21 which curtailed their track time, but with Romain Grosjean on duty there were no problems as the Frenchman did 119 laps, including a full race simulation including pit stops, on the way to setting the third best time.
Nico Rosberg was back in the cockpit of the Mercedes W04, as the Silver Arrows have opted to alternate their drivers during the course of the four days, and had a busy day clocking up 107 laps and the fourth fastest time. He ended the day 0.736 seconds down on Alonso’s best.
Next up on the timing sheets were the Williams pair of Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas, fifth and sixth respectively. Maldonado on duty in the morning session and rookie Bottas taking over the cockpit for the afternoon stanza. Together they amassed 145 laps on the day.
McLaren should be oozing confidence with the knowledge that they have a very handy car in the MP4-28, with Perez topping the times a day earlier and setting what is thus far the best time of the Barcelona test. Perhaps with this in mind Jenson Button was never looking to threaten the top times and ended the day seventh fastest, a second down on the day’s best and his teammate’s fastest time the previous day.
Adrian Sutil was back in F1 action with Force India after over a year on the sidelines. He delivered a solid day’s work in the VJM06 to finish the day eighth fastest with 78 lap on his chart. Times will show that he was 1.002 seconds down on the best of the day, but notably also a full second up on Paul di Resta’s best a day earlier in the same cockpit.
Down the order was Mark Webber who took over the Red Bull RB9 from teammate Sebastian Vettel for the final two days. The Australian was ninth fastest with 108 laps to his credit.
Next up, tenth quickest, was the sister Toro Rosso car with Jean Eric Vergne on duty for the first time this week. He completed 106 laps.
Max Chilton was 11th in the Marussia and Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde ended the day12th – Marussia again faster than their back of the grid rivals, as they have been for the first three days in Barcelona.
Barcelona Test Day 3, Best Lap Times – Thursday, 21 February 2013