The final day of the first pre-season test at Jerez saw a suddenly quick Ferrari, driven by Fernando Alonso. Alonso delighted his Spanish fans by setting the quickest lap of 1m18.877s, in what can only be assumed to be a glory run. The Ferrari has not been quick the whole week, and Alonso completed only 39 laps on the final day, so this time was presumably done on low fuel to grab headlines, and not really an indication of pace.
Bruno Senna completed the most laps for the second day in succession with 125 laps, followed by Caterham’s Jarno Trulli, who had his first taste of the new Caterham CT01, with 117. As always in testing, mileage is a good indicator of whose testing is going to plan, and so things are looking up for Williams and Caterham.
Toro Rosso’s STR7 has featured at the top of the time sheets for all four days of the test. It’s difficult to interpret lap times at this stage of testing, but Barcelona should provide a little more insight into the pace of the car. Vettel’s Red Bull and Hamilton’s McLaren likewise featured in the top half of the table, as expected, although Vettel did not spend much time on track in the morning as the team struggled with an electrical problem.
In terms of reliability, Bruno Senna’s Williams stopped at the exit of the Senna chicane with what Williams described as “a small technical fault” – presumably a fuel consumption test. The WIlliams brought out the red flag again later in the afternoon when it stopped at Turn 2. Kobayashi’s Sauber was the other car to have reliability issues, as it stopped on track with a hydraulic leak.
The day was characterised by longer runs than have been seen earlier in the week. Williams completed a race simulation, which is something we can expect to see from all of the teams in Barcelona. McLaren also completed a number of long runs, as the teams started to gather data about how the tyres behave on various fuel loads.
HRT and Mercedes did not take part in day 4 of the Jerez test, as they will only debut their new cars in Barcelona on 21 February. The two teams were at Jerez for only part of the test in order to assess the new Pirelli tyres with their 2011 cars.
Formula One now enters a week and half lull while the teams prepare for Barcelona. All of the teams who tested will be analysing the data collected and using their findings to fine-tune the development direction they are taking with their new cars. Mercedes and HRT will now have a good indication of how their new cars should deal with the new Pirelli tyres, and can adjust their final preparations for Barcelona accordingly.
Barcelona should see more race simulations, now that most of the teams have completed their systems checks and will have found a baseline set-up for the cars. We will hopefully also see some qualifying simulations, which should give some sort of indication of the relative performance of the cars. The actual pecking order will be mostly unknown until qualifying at the first race in Australia, as the teams prefer not to give too much away in testing.
The general conclusions that have come out of the Jerez test are that Red Bull are strong as expected, McLaren have a good base to build from, Lotus have produced a quick car, and so apparently have Toro Rosso. The performance of the Sauber and Force India is not quite as clear just yet. Caterham seems to have made a good step forward from last year, and it looks like they will be in the mid-field this season. Ferrari are the team that appears to be struggling most. The F2012 quite a radical car and the team has not yet found a comfortable baseline set-up. Alonso expects the F2012 to be quicker in Barcelona. Williams look to be putting their poor 2011 behind them as Maldonado and Senna have described the FW34 as being a great improvement on the FW33. The new Mercedes, Marussia and HRT have not been debuted yet.
Times for the final day of Jerez testing:
|2||Vergne||Toro Rosso STR7||1m19.597s||80|
|3||Vettel||Red Bull RB8||1m19.606s||50|
|7||Hulkenberg||Force India VJM05||1m19.977s||90|