Jerez Day 3 – Rosberg leads, Lotus impresses

Nico Rosberg led the way in testing today, beating team-mate Michael Schumacher’s fastest time of yesterday by almost a full second. Rosberg clocked up 118 laps in the Mercedes W02 with a fastest time of 1m17.613. It is worth noting, though, that Rosberg and Schumacher’s lap times cannot be compared with the rest of the drivers, as Mercedes are running their 2011-spec car, which features the exhaust blown diffuser that is banned for 2012.

Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was second with a 1m18.419s fastest lap, which is the quickest lap by a 2012-spec car seen so far. With team-mate Raikkonen fastest on Tuesday, the Lotus E20 is looking promising.

The Red Bull RB8 featured near the front for the third successive day with Sebastian Vettel third on a 1m19.297s lap, and the team seem quietly confident in their new machine.  With Adrian Newey designing the car, that is hardly a surprise.

A Senna drove a Williams Renault for the first time in almost 19 years today, as Bruno Senna took over the FW34 from Pastor Maldonado. Senna completed the most mileage of the day with 125 laps, and was pleased with the new car, saying: “I feel that there is a lot of potential in the FW34 and also in myself driving the car. The team has done a great job and I’m happy we have had a trouble-free day. I’m now looking forward to continuing our test programme tomorrow to learn more about the car.”

Ferrari are reportedly not happy with the progress of the F2012. quoted technical director Pat Fry as saying “I’m not happy with where we are at the moment, there’s a lot of space for us to improve from where we are. Reliability wise it’s good, performance wise we’re OK. We can play around with the performance and improve some corners and some particular parts of the corner, but I wouldn’t say I’m happy yet until we get the whole thing working.” Ferrari have only 9 days of pre-season testing left to get their car up to speed before the first race in Melbourne.

Force India’s day was over almost as soon as it began as reserve driver Jules Bianchi became the first driver to crash a 2012 Formula 1 car. Bianchi left the track at the Sito Pons corner on his third lap of the day and hit the tyre wall with the right rear of the car. As it turned out, Force India did not have all of the parts required to repair the car, and so were unable to get back out on track. With only 12 days of pre-season testing in total, the loss of an entire day of running is a big blow to the team.

The second red flag of the day came out when Caterham reserve driver Giedo van der Garde spun into the gravel at Turn 10 with about an hour and a half to go in the day. Luckily for Caterham, there was no damage to car or driver, and van der Garde was able to return to the track for a few more laps after the car was recovered to the pits.

With about 10 minutes remaining in the day, Romain Grosjean caused the third red flag when his Lotus came to a halt between Turns 3 and 4 in what was presumably a fuel consumption test.

HRT were not present today, having only been at the test for the first 2 days. Their 2012 car will feature for the first time at the next test in Barcelona on 21 February, and so they had only planned to use the first two days of the Jerez test in order to evaluate the new Pirelli tyres. Mercedes likewise have used this test purely for tyre evaluation, and after 3 days are packing up and heading home, as planned.

Times and laps completed as follows:

Pos Driver Car Time Laps
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes W02  1m17.613s 118
2 Romain Grosjean Lotus E20  1m18.419s 117
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull RB8  1m19.297s 96
4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren MP4-27  1m19.464s 80
5 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso STR7  1m19.734s 79
6 Sergio Perez Sauber C31  1m19.770s 48
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari F2012  1m20.412s 67
8 Bruno Senna Williams FW34  1m21.293s 125
9 Giedo van der Garde Caterham CT01  1m23.324s 74
10 Jules Bianchi Force India VJM05 No time

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