Jerez Day 4: Report from the paddock

By on Friday, February 10, 2012

Alonso in the F2012 at Jerez

After 4 days of activity on track, the F1 engines have been turned off in Jerez for this year. Another cool and sunny day with a good number of spectators on the stands. Since Mercedes have already finished their testing program yesterday, the drivers scheduled for today were Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Kamui Kobayashi, Jean-Eric Vergne, Bruno Senna and Jarno Trulli.

The spectators that came to the circuit with the hope of seeing Fernando Alonso shine went home with the satisfaction of watching their hero topping the time sheets. ONe question would be if that time was due to a good car or due to the team's need of a good headline. As on all previous days, the best times were achieved in the morning, when temperatures are lower. Interestingly, in the stints when Alonso did his best times, a hot fast lap was followed by a very slow lap - about 10 seconds slower - and then normal times. It looked the driver was going for good times and not for a series of laps. Regardless of the good individual times, the Spanish driver did not spend much time driving. He only completed 39 laps and was the driver who had the fewest kilometres under his belt. In the post-event press conference, Alonso driver admitted the car had suffered steering problems which they did not fix until today and also said that the team still has to understand how all the new parts work, although he felt confident the car will improve considerably.

The day did not start well for Red Bull. Sebastian Vettel’s car had to remain in the garage for many hours, because of electrical problems initially and engine problems later on. He could not really begin to run until 14:30, five and a half hours after the session started. He managed to do 49 laps, compared to the 124 laps of Bruno Senna, for example. His best time was 1:19.606.

Kamui Kobayashi also suffered technical issues, as his car stopped on track after 58 laps due to a sudden loss of pressure in the hydraulic system caused by a leak. Bruno Senna’s Williams also stopped at a certain point at the beginning of the afternoon due to an electrical problem on his 97th lap, but the team managed to repair it quickly and not long after that, he went back on track. He added another 27 laps to his count before his car suffered another technical problem. The Brazilian driver was nevertheless very upbeat during his meeting with the media.

Remarkably the 2nd best time of the day was set by Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne with 1:19.697. This has clearly been a good test for the Italian team. They only suffered some small teething problems on Tuesday, and both their young drivers - Ricciardo and Vergne could spend much time in the car driving and gathering the experience they need.

McLaren had a day without major problems with a mixed program, which included some aero tests. Hamilton set the 4th best time with 1:19.640, followed by Lotus' Romain Grosjean. The French driver completed 95 laps, some of them during long runs, and set a best time of 1:19.729. The Lotus continues to be closely observed by their opponents. When he was asked about things that had caught his attention today, while he was driving on track, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg replied that it was how planted the E20 looks on the track.

Hulkenberg’s final time was only 7th best, but at least he had the opportunity to drive the car for the first time this year. Jules Bianchi crashing and damaging front part of the car prevented him from doing so yesterday. Hulkenberg looked extremely happy after the session. Talking to, he acknowledged that their car still has areas where it can improve but he is optimistic. He also told us that today, the team managed to carry out some of the programs they missed yesterday due to Bianchi’s accident. Another driver to step into a car for the first time this season was Jarno Trulli, who ended the day in the last position with 1:22.198. He completed 117 laps and for the first time in a very long time, he declared he is happy with the power steering of his car.

Final times:

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1.  Fernando Alonso      Ferrari        1m18.877s            39
 2.  Jean Eric Vergne     Toro Rosso     1m19.597s  + 0.720   80
 3.  Sebastian Vettel     Red Bull       1m19.606s  + 0.729   49
 4.  Lewis Hamilton       McLaren        1m19.640s  + 0.763   86
 5.  Romain Grosjean      Lotus          1m19.729s  + 0.852   95
 6.  Kamui Kobayashi      Sauber         1m19.834s  + 0.957   76
 7.  Nico Hülkenberg      Force India    1m19.977s  + 1.100   90
 8.  Bruno Senna          Williams       1m20.132s  + 1.255  124
 9.  Jarno Trulli         Caterham       1m22.198s  + 3.321  117

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