Mark Webber driving the Red Bull RB9 topped the timing sheets at the end of a grim and wet day at Circuit de Catalunya on the first day of the final, of three, preseason Formula 1 tests.
Rain fell tirelessly throughout the early morning and became stronger as the morning progressed. Thereafter it came in stops and starts before stopping towards the end of the day. The rain affected tests make a good case for Formula 1 to consider testing in a place like Abu Dhabi where the weather is particularly good this time of the year – and seldom rains as it tends to do in southern Europe in February and March.
Nevertheless the conditions gave drivers and teams plenty time to well and truly sample the Pirelli full wets and the intermediate tyres.
Webber set his fastest lap time of 1.22.693 at the very end of the day, when the track was drier than it had been all day. It was also the first time in nine days of testing, thus far, that a Red Bull driver ended the day fastest of all. He racked up 90 laps in the process.
The Australian’s best time was 1.6 seconds faster than next best, and during a sustained period in the afternoon he was around a second faster than his rivals who were out at the same time.
“We got one hour at the end of the day at half-sensible conditions and we had a look at a few different compounds,” Webber told Sky Sports.
“We opted to throw on some tyres and see how the car went, and that went okay,” he added after completing 90 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya. “We’ve still got work to do…we are seeing some very fast times from the other cars. There are some very strong teams out there. We’re not on our own, that’s for sure.”
Having said that it is worthwhile pointing out the Lewis Hamilton, who ended the day second quickest in the Merceeds W04, had a spell where he too was couple of seconds a lap faster than anyone on track. The Silver Arrows newbie did 113 laps during the course of the day, which was more than anyone else. He also survived a spin during one of his hot laps late in the day.
“I’m really happy that we’re making progress together and very much enjoying working with everyone. The last couple of days of pre-season testing are always really exciting when everyone starts to add their upgrades so I’m looking forward to the weekend,” said Hamilton at the end of the day.
The times of course deceptive as unknown fuel loads, setup configurations and other pace affecting factors are never going to paint a true picture, particularly on a sodden day as it was in Barcelona.
Jean Eric Vergne on duty in the Toro Rosso STR8 showed impressive pace in the wet, and was also not too shabby as the track dried. The Frenchman ending the day third quickest and fastest of the Ferrari powered brigade.
Vergne said afterwards, “I did plenty of laps, which is good for me and good for the new car to do a high mileage. The car seems to behave really well in the wet and it also felt good in the dry, during the few laps I managed at the end of the day.”
Fastest rookie was Valtteri Bottas in the Williams FW35 and had 85 laps on his chart, with McLaren new boy Sergio Perez up next in the McLaren MP4-28.
Rookie Esteban Gutierrez was sixth fastest in the Sauber C32 with 92 laps to his credit. He was responsible for the second (of three) stoppages just after midday.
Paul Di Resta was seventh in the Force India VJM06, with Felipe Massa eighth in the Ferrari F138 with 112 laps (second most on the day) on his board.
Marussia’s Max Chilton was ninth, ahead of Catreham’s Charles Pic in tenth.
Romain Grosjean was slowest of all as the team spent the day testing aero bits and spent time assessing their rear wing DDRS Device. fast laps were not on the day’s programme as the Frenchman explained, “It was a bit of a frustrating day as we concentrated on aero runs and never went for a time on the drying track surface.”
Barcelona Test Day 2, Best Lap Times – Thursday, 28 February 2013