Räikkönen ends winter testing on top
4 March 2012 – Winter testing has come to an end ahead of the 2012 Formula 1 season, with the last chequered flag coming down in Barcelona on Sunday. On an overcast day, there was a major delay for Sebastian Vettel as Kimi Räikkönen finished atop the timesheets – just as he had done when testing began in Jerez one month ago.
Although it was a fine day for spectating in terms of temperature, there was a distinct lack of sunshine on a truly overcast afternoon; to the delight of the teams, there was also a lack of the rain and even hail which had affected their programmes by causing a red flag on Saturday afternoon. Once again, the action began at nine o’clock.
As Red Bull busily shielded the rear end of Vettel’s car with two team-branded umbrellas each time the German was wheeled back into his pit box, Räikkönen attempted to recover from his power steering gremlins of 24 hours earlier, starting with aerodynamic runs on the start/finish straight. His eventual fastest time of 1:22.030 came just before the lunch break, using a set of yellow-marked Soft compound tyres, which are the fastest on this circuit in these conditions as the track is too abrasive for the red-marked Super Softs.
Over the first two hours, the top spot was shared by Lewis Hamilton (with a raft of updates), Bruno Senna and Fernando Alonso but it was Red Bull grabbing attention as a piece of bodywork came off Vettel’s car on the start/finish straight; whether this was related to the gearbox problem confirmed to GPUpdate.net remains to be seen. He finally made it back out onto the track during the final ten minutes.
There were a pair of stoppages during the day, first as Kamui Kobayashi’s Sauber stopped on the outside of Turn 3 at half past three, with the second coming when Vitaly Petrov took a trip into the Turn 4 gravel trap in the final hour. In the second phase of the day, a number of drivers completed race simulations, which was confirmed by lap figures being well into the 100s once again – Vettel’s day ended with just 23 tours to his name.
Heading towards the opening race weekend, Red Bull are still tipped to be ahead of McLaren, with Mercedes and Lotus expected to at least challenge Ferrari for the third overall spot. A tough midfield battle is expected to develop between Force India - which has demonstrated consistency but ran into troubles yesterday - and the likes of Sauber, Toro Rosso and Williams, with the Grove team still aiming to rectify its pace in slow-speed corners.
Caterham believe Q2 qualifying should be possible from as early as Australia, whereas HRT failed to make the test and is hoping for a day of filming on Monday. Like the Spanish squad, Marussia has also failed FIA crash tests this winter and is believed to be planning a Monday filming day, at Silverstone.
The 2012 Formula 1 season begins in Melbourne, Australia later this month. All sessions this year will be available through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report, starting with first free practice on Friday 16 March at 12:30pm local time