Romain Grosjean has always had a penchant for topping the timing screens, throughout his junior years and also during his career in GP2 it was his modus operandi, thus at the end of the first day it must have pained him to be bottom of the timing screens in Barcelona, so much so that the urge to be fastest got the better of him.
It was another day of rain enforced interruptions with only about three and a half hours of dry running, one or so hour in the morning and the rest in the afternoon before the rain returned.
With a set of Pirelli soft tyres bolted on, at around 3.30 pm local time and the track dry, Grosjean attacked the Spanish Grand Prix venue to set the day’s best time of 1.22.716, on his way to racking up 88 tours of the Circuit de Cartalunya.
When asked by Sky Sports if a top time was his target Grosjean responded, “No, we were just trying to optimise the little amount of time we had in the dry to try the medium tyres and then the soft to see the difference between them and how the car reacted.”
The Frenchman was nearly half a second up on next best Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-28. Notably the 2009 world champion set his time on medium compound tyres and split a trio of Renault powered cars.
Button was upbeat after his day’s graft, “For us it has been the best day of the testing. We have a bit more of an understanding of the car, although we’re still not quite there in terms of pace, and the next two days need to be 100-lap days.”
Third quickest was Pastor Maldonado in the Williams Fw35, who caused the last red flag stoppage of the day at exactly 5.00 pm.
Sebastian Vettel was back in action, taking over the Red Bull RB9 from teammate Mark Webber. The world champion ended his day fourth fastest with 65 laps to his credit.
Vettel said afterwards, “I didn’t do that many laps. It’s a shame, it’s too cold and the tyres are not working properly. So it’s difficult to compare what you are testing. It’s very difficult to tell exactly where we are right now, but we have a rough idea and it’s fine – we’re happy with the balance and how the car the behaves. Whether that is enough, we don’t know.”
Nico Hulkenberg was fastest of the Ferrari powered trio of cars, setting the fifth best time in the Sauber C32 and ending a tad over a second down on the top time of the day.
It was a big day for Adrian Sutil who was in action at Barcelona week earlier as a candidate for the seat, but this time out he was enjoying his return to the top flight, confirmed to drive for the Force India team in 2013 a day earlier. He was sixth quickest in the VJM06, a second and a half down on Grosjean.
Daniel Ricciardo was seventh fastest in the Toro Rosso STR8. ahead of Max Chilton in the Marussia MR02 and Giedo van der Garde in the Caterham CT03.
Second from the bottom of the timing sheets was Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes W04, the team clearly intent on longer runs and as a result the German ended the day with 120 laps on his chart.
Rosberg said, “It was great to run in the wet today which I have not done so far during our pre-season testing programme. The car felt good in those conditions and it’s important to have had this experience as there is always the chance of rain in Melbourne. This afternoon, we did some race simulation work which was very productive. I am happy with my mileage today as every single lap is important for the learning process.”
Slowest of all on the day was Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari F138, but with a 102 laps in the bag the reds did not have hot laps on their programme.
The Spaniard reflected somewhat despondently, “I think we are a little bit behind the top teams, which is where we expected to be. In Brazil we were seven or eight tenths behind the Red Bull and McLarens and no one can recover that amount of time in a couple of months.”
Barcelona Testing Day 2, Best Lap Times – Friday. 1 March 2013