Perez sets fastest time on day 3 in Barcelona

By on Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sergio Perez © Sauber Motorsport AG

After yesterday's delay due to fog and the constant stop/start due to seven red flag periods, today's morning session saw no red flags and tons of fastest qualifying style laps. Red Bull were under the spotlight as the session got underway, with the reigning world champions running their new updates for the first time.

It was the Red Bull of Mark Webber who set the first timed lap of the session, as the Aussie set a 01:28.643, which he bettered next time round as he entered the 01:26s. It was then Red Bull’s sister team, Toro Rosso, who went fastest as Daniel Ricciardo set a 01:26.080, which he improved on with 01:25.164 shortly afterwards.

As more and more cars began setting quick laps, Bruno Senna broke up the Australian dominance at the top with a 01:24.256, improving to a 01:24.058 which put the Williams a second clear of Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso. However, Webber returned to the top with a 01:23.577 as the times began to tumble as the session wore on.

The Ferrari of Felipe Massa then got in on the act, going quickest with a 01:23.149 before entering the 01:22s on the harder Pirelli compound. The Brazilian then set a scintillating lap with a 01:22.413, the first driver to complete a true qualifying style single lap run on the super-soft Pirelli’s.

Raikkonen was having steering problems all morning

Lotus had a slow start to the day, with Kimi Raikkonen returning to the car for the first time since Jerez early last month. The 2007 F1 world champion complained of steering problems with the car, after only completing a handful of laps early on. The mechanics set to changing the steering column for Raikkonen, who ended the session 10th and last +3.526 seconds off the pace. Lotus are one of many teams running new upgrades for their car today, with the team apparently running a revised front and rear wing design as well as new bargeboards.

As the morning session wore on, the majority of the gird began to complete low fuel qualifying style runs on the softer Pirelli compounds. Many drivers’ went 2nd fastest behind Massa, including Paul Di Resta on soft tyres, Nico Rosberg, Bruno Senna on the super-soft compound before Di Resta returned to 2nd with a 01:22.446 using the super-soft Pirelli tyres.

Probably the biggest surprise of the morning session was the speed of the Caterham of Heikki Kovalainen, who ended the session 6th fastest, going as high as 4th place with a 01:22.630 on the super-soft tyres. Regardless of the amount of fuel the car was running, Caterham have made huge speed improvement since their debut in 2010.

As the morning session came to a close, Daniel Ricciardo momentarily returned to the top with a 01:22.155 before the Sauber of Sergio Perez completed a qualifying styled lap with a 01:22.094 on the soft compound.

Rain hit the track during the afternoon session

After a morning session void of any red flag delays and full of quick qualifying style laps, the afternoon session was full of the usual longer race simulations by the teams. The session saw very little change on the timing sheets, as rain and hail hit the track towards the end of the day.

Jenson Button was the only driver to progress up the timing sheets throughout the afternoon, as the 2009 world champion leaped from 9th to 2nd after a tough morning session. The Brit completed only 17 laps in the morning, with McLaren suffering from a hydraulic leak which prevented the team from completing any significant mileage.

However, after only an hour into the afternoon session Button posted a 01:22.103, as well as the fastest time through the first sector all day. The McLaren driver was on soft tyres, and was making up for the lack of track time he had in the morning.

As the session progressed, the majority of the teams continued with heavy fuel race simulations, leaving Perez’s time at the top of the timing sheets unchallenged. Dark clouds began to materialize over the Circuit de Catalunya, and sure enough rain began to fall onto the circuit. At first it was only a light shower, then it progressed into heavy rain as the drivers’ flew into the pit-lane.

With many of the drivers’ taking refuge in the pits as the worst of the shower passed overhead, Ricciardo left the pits with new Cinturato intermediates on his Toro Rosso. However his times were miles off the pace, further securing Perez’s quick time set in the morning session.

If the conditions couldn’t get any worse for the drivers’, reports started to emerge of hail falling at turn 1. In a bizarre turn of events, a red flag was waved signaling the first red flag delay of the day. Many believed it was caused due to hail falling at turn 1, however it transpired it was due to Senna, whose Williams stopped on track.

As the session restarted, many drivers’ came out on intermediate tyres, with Ricciardo taking full advantage of the wet conditions and testing out the new Pirelli Cinturato full wet tyres. With the track exceedingly damp, no one was able to put pressure on Perez’s time, and the session ended on a quieter note than usual.

Tomorrow sees the last day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya, before all the attention switches to the season opening Australian Grand Prix.

Final times:

1  Perez Sauber  1m22.094s 114
2  Button McLaren  1m22.103s +0.009 44
3  Riccardo Toro Rosso  1m22.155s +0.061 131
4  Massa Ferrari  1m22.413s +0.319 122
5  Di Resta Force India  1m22.446s +0.352 108
6  Senna Williams  1m22.480s +0.386 111
7  Kovalainen Caterham  1m22.630s +0.536 64
8  Webber Red Bull  1m22.662s +0.568 70
9  Rosberg Mercedes  1m22.932s +0.838 129
10  Raikkonen Lotus  1m25.379s +3.285 43

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