Force India’s was the quickest runner on this week’s second day of testing at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. Hulkenberg posted a best Wednesday time of 1m 22.608s around the Spanish track to beat the Sauber of Sergio Perez by just four-hundredths of a second.
“We started the day with some aero work – trying some constant speed runs and collecting more data,” explained Hulkenberg. “Then, the rest of the day was spent working on the balance of the car and trying out all four tyre compounds. I did some short runs, long runs and just got a feel for the tyre characteristics and how the car reacts to them. Once again the car has been very drivable all day and our baseline set-up has proved to be a good starting point for running all the different compounds.”
Perez completed 85 laps in Sauber’s C31, despite an exhaust problem towards the end of the day. “Quite a few high priority points have been ticked off the job list,” explained Giampaolo Dall’Ara, the Swiss team’s head of track engineering. “In the morning we started with aero comparisons, and then did some proper mechanical set up work. We also carried out a full comparison of all tyre compounds and ran different fuel loads.”
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who had been Tuesday’s fastest driver, occupied the third slot on the timesheets, the world champions running practice and qualifying simulations in the morning before a full race distance in the afternoon. Fernando Alonso was next up for Ferrari. Alonso covered 87 laps in the F2012 and will hand the car over to team mate Felipe Massa on Thursday.
Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo finished in fifth, despite losing a chunk of track time to a driveshaft problem, ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who was upbeat following a productive day in the MP4-27.
“To have completed more than 1000 kilometres in the past two days is incredibly encouraging – the whole team should feel proud,” said Hamilton. “The car behaves really well in the high-speed corners – I think the baseline of our car is higher than it was last year – and it’s better overall at high-speed. It’s performing well in Turns Three and Nine, too.
“We don’t know the fuel-loads of the other cars, so it’s still hard to determine the pecking order. We didn’t bring any upgrades here, but our understanding of the car has developed since the test in Jerez. We’re learning more about how the tyres work, how the temperatures behave and how to balance the car using set-up. It’s been an extremely productive few days – and I think Jenson (Button) will continue to improve the car tomorrow.”
At Mercedes, Nico Rosberg had his first day in the new F1 W01 curtailed by an oil leak, but nonetheless finished seventh fastest.
“It was good to get into proper testing today,” said Rosberg. “Early in the morning, it was a bit too cold on the track to collect some decent information, however later we were able to get into our planned work. In the afternoon session, unfortunately we had a transmission oil leak which meant that I wasn’t able to complete any further running. That doesn’t affect my positive feelings about our test programme, and things like that can happen in the early stages of running a new car.”
Williams reserve Valtteri Bottas was eighth quickest, the Finn back behind the wheel for the team for the first time since last year’s Abu Dhabi young driver test. “I really enjoyed today,” he said. “The FW34 again showed good reliability, as we completed 117 laps while doing some interesting tests with the car set-up. I’m looking forward to assisting the team at race weekends this season and can’t wait to drive the car again.”
Vitaly Petrov, on his first outing for new team Caterham, posted the ninth fastest time. “I think that was a pretty positive day,” said the Russian. “We completed 69 laps and got through most of what we had planned. Physically I feel really good. It’s obviously been a while since I’ve been in a car, but I’ve kept up my fitness levels and I enjoyed myself on track, so it’s a good first day back.
“One thing I have noticed is that this car behaves a little differently from my previous experience and I think I may have to adjust my driving style to get the best out of it – I’ve been quite aggressive before, but I think this car responds better to smoother inputs, so that’s something I can work on, and work with the engineers on. Let’s see what we can come up with for tomorrow.”
After Lotus were forced to leave the test early following chassis problems on Tuesday, Charles Pic was the day’s final runner in the 2011 Marussia.
The test continues at Barcelona on Thursday.
Unofficial Wednesday test times from Barcelona:
1. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:22.608, 112 Laps
2. Sergio Perez, Sauber, 1:22.648, 85 Laps
3. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:22.891, 104 Laps
4. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:23.180, 87 Laps
5. Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, 1:23.639, 50 Laps
6. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:23.806, 120 Laps
7. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:24.555, 82 Laps
8. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:25.738, 117 Laps
9. Vitaly Petrov, Caterham, 1:26.605, 69 Laps
10. Charles Pic, Marussia*, 1:27.343, 108 Laps
* 2011 car