Formula One: 2012 Barcelona Test 1 Recap

As we close in on the start of the 2012 Formula One World Championship, the cars, drivers and teams made their first appearance at a circuit on this season’s calendar. The Circuit de Catalunya is the home to the Spanish Grand Prix and to Formula One pre-season testing. With less than a month to go before the first race of the season, eleven of the twelve teams came to Barcelona to run their 2012 challengers.

Day 1 (February 21)

Normally, a testing day would be highlighted by the continuous one-upping of each other by the top drivers on the day as they traded fast times. Vettel ended up with the fastest time on the first day of testing but the top six cars were all within one second of his best time.

The real story of the day was the drama with the Lotus team. After only seven laps, Romain Grosjean parked the E20, reporting that the car felt strange and didn’t respond as it should have. The Lotus team discovered that the cause was a major chassis problem which is reportedly related to the front suspension. The team withdrew from the remainder of test which puts them four days behind their competitors heading into the season.

  1. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault – 1:23.265
  2. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India-Mercedes – 1:23.440
  3. Lewis Hamilton – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:23.590
  4. Daniel Ricciardo – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:23.618
  5. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:24.100
  6. Michael Schumacher – Mercedes – 1:24.150
  7. Sergio Perez – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:24.219
  8. Bruno Senna – Williams-Renault – 1:25.711
  9. Heikki Kovalainen – Caterham-Renault – 1:26.035
  10. Romain Grosjean – Lotus-Renault – 1:26.809
  11. Charles Pic – Marussia-Cosworth – 1:28.026

Day 2 (February 22)

After a surprising second-fastest time during the first day of testing, Force India and Nico Hulkenberg topped the time sheets on the second day of Barcelona testing. Their pace is surprising considering that they weren’t one of the top teams last season. However, they were quick at the start of the Jerez test before the rest of the field found their stride.

There were some other noteworthy debuts down the charts. Williams ran 2011 GP3 champion Valtteri Bottas for the first time. He has been a Williams test driver since 2010 and got the opportunity to get live seat time after winning the GP3 title last season. Wednesday also marked the debut of Vitaly Petrov in a Caterham. The Russian driver was rumoured to be close to signing with Caterham ever since it was announced that he was out of a drive at Lotus. Now Caterham (formerly Team Lotus) has a pay driver replacing Jarno Trulli. Well, even a pay driver would be more competitive than post-Renault Trulli.

  1. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India-Mercedes – 1:22.608
  2. Sergio Perez – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:22.648
  3. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault – 1:22.891
  4. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:23.180
  5. Daniel Ricciardo – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:23.639
  6. Lewis Hamilton – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:23.806
  7. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:24.555
  8. Valtteri Bottas – Williams-Renault – 1:25.738
  9. Vitaly Petrov – Caterham-Renault – 1:26.605
  10. Charles Pic – Marussia-Cosworth – 1:27.343

Day 3 (February 23)

After being in the bottom half for the first two days, Pastor Maldonado took his Williams to the top of the timesheets on Day 3. The belief around the paddock was that this was a qualifying simulation run on super-soft tires and low fuel. Maldonado claimed that the FW34 is showing signs of promise. However, when the next fastest car is almost one second behind, it’s more likely that Maldonado’s speed has less to do with the car under him as it does with the fuel in the car.

  1. Pastor Maldonado – Williams-Renault – 1:22.391
  2. Michael Schumacher – Mercedes – 1:23.384
  3. Kamui Kobayashi – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:23.582
  4. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:23.918
  5. Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:24.433
  6. Mark Webber – Red Bull-Renault -1:24.771
  7. Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 1:24.771
  8. Paul di Resta – Force India-Mercedes – 1:25.646
  9. Timo Glock – Marussia-Cosworth – 1:26.173
  10. Vitaly Petrov – Caterham-Renault – 1:26.448

Day 4 (February 24)

It was a busy final day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya as two-thirds of the drivers completed over 100 laps. It was Kamui Kobayashi who completed both the most laps and had the fastest time. The Sauber driver completed 144 laps which is more than twice the 66 lap grand prix race distance. Also completing over two race distances were Pastor Maldonado with 134 laps and Nico Rosberg with 139 laps.

One item of note is that Marussia did not run on the final day of testing at Barcelona. They discovered an issue with one of the suspension parts and chose not to use a replacement part until they investigated the reason for the problem. Charles Pic was scheduled to get a third day of running for the week. Based on his times from Tuesday and Wednesday, he needs all the track time he can get.

  1. Kamui Kobayashi – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:22.312
  2. Pastor Maldonado – Williams-Renault – 1:22.561
  3. Paul di Resta – Force India-Mercedes – 1:23.119
  4. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:23.200
  5. Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 1:23.563
  6. Mark Webber – Red Bull-Renault – 1:23.774
  7. Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:23.792
  8. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:23.843
  9. Heikki Kovalainen – Caterham-Renault – 1:26.968

After the second week of pre-season testing, the picture heading into the season might be more clouded than ever. One would have thought that Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari would’ve found their way to the top of the charts but their fastest man is 5th placed Sebastian Vettel. The top spots are surprisingly filled by usual mid-pack occupants Sauber and Force India. While this is likely just due to the fact that it’s testing, rule changes tend to mix up the order so it’s entirely possible that those two teams have found something to get them to the sharp end of the grid.

It’s also interesting to note that there is an astounding amount of parody to testing. Over the eight days of official testing, there have been eight different drivers sitting atop the time sheets. Over the course of testing, Kimi Raikkonen, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg, Pastor Maldonado and Kamui Kobayashi have each topped the charts. At some point, somebody will have to establish superiority over the rest of the grid and there’s only one more test left for that to happen.

Best Times of the Week

  1. Kamui Kobayashi – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:22.312
  2. Pastor Maldonado – Williams-Renault – 1:22.391
  3. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India-Mercedes – 1:22.608
  4. Sergio Perez – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:22.648
  5. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault – 1:22.891
  6. Paul di Resta – Force India-Mercedes – 1:23.119
  7. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:23.180
  8. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:23.200
  9. Michael Schumacher – Mercedes – 1:23.384
  10. Felipe Massa – Ferrari – 1:23.563
  11. Lewis Hamilton – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:23.590
  12. Daniel Ricciardo – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:23.618
  13. Mark Webber – Red Bull-Renault – 1:23.774
  14. Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:23.792
  15. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:23.843
  16. Bruno Senna – Williams-Renault – 1:25.711
  17. Valtteri Bottas – Williams-Renault – 1:25.738
  18. Heikki Kovalainen – Caterham-Renault – 1:26.035
  19. Timo Glock – Marussia-Cosworth – 1:26.173
  20. Vitaly Petrov – Caterham-Renault – 1:26.448
  21. Romain Grosjean – Lotus-Renault – 1:26.809
  22. Charles Pic – Marussia-Cosworth – 1:27.343

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