The final day of testing for this week saw better weather and faster lap times, though that might also be down to the grand prix weekend-equivalent of rubber the teams have put down over the course of this week. It’s not an end to running on the Circuit de Catalunya, everyone will be back next week having regrouped at the factory and analysed their data, but for the moment it’s job done… if not mission accomplished.
Nico Rosberg returned to the Mercedes and Heikki Kovalainen came back for Caterham but, apart from that, the runners were the same as yesterday. The field, however, was reduced to nine as Marussia failed to give Charles Pic another practice run, suspension problems keeping their car in the garage – an ignominious end for the 2011 Virgin which will be retired once the new Marussia launches next week.
In a week where Force India and Williams have already been top of the tree it seems appropriate that Sauber had its own day of glory. Kamui Kobayashi’s 1m22.312s, set on the soft compound Pirelli with the time approaching noon was the fastest of the day and fastest of the week. The Sauber has looked quick so far this winter while suffering various mechanical difficulties, so possibly the 145 laps Kamui managed will be of greater satisfaction to the Swiss team. “I’m quite happy,” said a very happy Kobayashi. “We achieved a very good mileage today. The set up changes we did in the morning meant an improvement in lap times, which, of course, is very positive. There is still a lot of work to do in terms of understanding the car and the different tyre compounds at different fuel levels, but we are working in the right direction. I think it was a good test for us.”
Paul di Resta caused the first moment of genuine excitement this week by taking a trip into the gravel and bringing out a red flag while the Force India was recovered. Despite that he still managed to notch up a century and call the day a success: “It was a good way to end the week. I had a small trip through the gravel in the morning, but nothing that caused too much of an issue, although we lost half an hour of running,” said Paul. “The important thing is that we still managed to do our long runs in the afternoon and I could feel the changes we made compared to yesterday. It’s given me a good impression of the car’s balance and consistency, and we’ve seen that our long run pace is improving step by step.”
Meanwhile, Caterham got to practice their engine-changing technique as Kovalainen’s car developed an electrical fault an hour into the session with just 16 laps on the board. Heikki was back out after lunch with a new donkey and proceeded to knock out another 54 laps unhindered. “This is the sort of test you look back on and think we’re pleased to have got behind us, but we have still learnt a lot here and have ironed out quite a few issues that could have been more serious later in the season,” said the perma-cheerful Finn. “Things haven’t exactly gone as we would have liked, but I think we all know where the car can and should be when it gets real in Australia, so now the challenge is to regroup in time for next week and make sure we come back here ready to put in a final week of hard work on track and get back to where we want to be."
Red Bull Racing
Once again RBR didn’t put in a great deal of mileage though today the team reports their programme was problem free and just involved an awful lot of set up changes as it crossed off everything left on the to-do list. “We got through a lot of stuff!” said Mark. “We tested a lot of elements and everything worked well, especially since we had such a big programme. That can mean not a lot of laps and a lot of garage time, but we gathered a lot of good information today and that’s a pleasing way to finish the week. We have a lot of work to do back in Milton Keynes over the next few days to get the car ready for the next test. We’ve done well over these two first tests and the feeling is pretty good."
Scuderia Toro Rosso
Much the same was the case at Toro Rosso where Jean-Eric Vergne set a nearly identical time with a programme that mostly involved short runs and a lot of spannering. Nevertheless JEV, a couple of weeks before his grand prix debut, claims learning about what goes on in the garage is time well spent. “I am much more confident in the car now than I was by the end of the Jerez test. We worked on many different aspects of the job and for example, today I had a much better understanding of the pit stops than I did after trying them yesterday for the first time. We did some good work today, acquiring plenty of data and I expect this will help us to improve still further next week.”
McLaren enjoyed another ominously serene day as Jenson Button put in 115 laps off the reel, while Nico Rosberg managed a monster 139. Going against the prevailing practice, Nico did his race simulation in the morning and shorter runs in the afternoon, possibly because the track temp was a little better than it had been on the previous three days and new conditions are always worth exploring – or maybe just for the hell of it. Ferrari and Felipe Massa were their usual anonymous selves while Pastor Maldonado hammered in more good times and a lot of laps for Williams.
And that’s it from Barcelona for this week. The engineers are hurrying back to England, Switzerland and Italy, the cars are stripped for a thorough inspection and the drivers are packaged away in their boxes for another week. They will be back.
1. Kobayashi - Sauber | 1m22.312s | 145laps
2. Maldonado - Williams | 1m22.561s +0.249 | 134laps
3. Di Resta - Force India | 1m23.119s +0.807 | 101laps
4. Button - McLaren | 1m23.200s +0.888 | 115laps
5. Massa - Ferrari | 1m23.563s +1.251 | 103laps
6. Webber - Red Bull | 1m23.774s +1.462 | 85laps
7. Vergne - Toro Rosso | 1m23.792s +1.480 | 92laps
8. Rosberg - Mercedes | 1m23.843s +1.531 | 139laps
9. Kovalainen - Caterham | 1m26.968s +4.656 | 70laps