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Felipe Massa fastest for Ferrari during third day of testing at Jerez


By Berthold Bouman

Felipe Massa fastest for Ferrari during third day of testing at Jerez - Photo: FerrariFerrari had vowed not to make the same mistake as they did last year, and today Felipe Massa proved Ferrari is well-prepared and on the pace, as he scored the fastest time at Jerez today with a lap of 1.17.879, the fastest time overall after three days of testing at the Spanish circuit.

Massa was behind the wheel of the Ferrari F138 for the third successive day and tested the different Pirelli tyre compounds, tomorrow freshly recruited test driver Pedro de la Rosa will be in the car for his first taste of the new car.

Felipe Massa and tyre specialist Hirohide Hamashima - Photo: Ferrari

Felipe Massa and tyre specialist Hirohide Hamashima – Photo: Ferrari

Nico Rosberg made up for the time Mercedes lost during the first two days, and was second after completing 148 laps in the W04. He was pleased with today’s result, “I’m very happy with today and I think it was probably a personal record for me to do almost 150 laps. I’ve never been so well prepared physically as I am this season; I feel on top form and it was no problem to complete the programme.”

The German also practiced his pit stops and in the afternoon he tested a new front wing. Tomorrow his new team mate Lewis Hamilton will be back in the car.

All eyes were on triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who had his first outing in the Red Bull RB9, he was third and completed 102 laps today. He was happy to be ‘in the groove’ again, when asked about the new car he said, “The first feeling is good and the car is working well. It’s difficult to judge the speed, but in terms of reliability it looks pretty good. For today we accomplished what we set out to achieve — which was to put a lot of laps on the car.”

And he added, “At this stage it’s very difficult to judge anything else. It could be that there is a favourite after these three tests, but it could turn out to be completely different in Australia because it’s a different track with different characteristics.”

He was certain about one thing, “I expect the championship to be at least as tight as last year, as the regulations haven’t changed so much.”

Christian Horner and Adrian Newey - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Christian Horner and Adrian Newey – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Another driver closely watched was Kimi Raikkonen, he was fourth today. The Lotus E21 is a fast car, straight out of the box, Romain Grosjean proved that the first two days, and Raikkonen’s achievements today confirm the Lotus E21is fast enough to be at the front of the grid this season.

“The E21 feels quite good so far, even if the balance isn’t quite to my liking yet. That didn’t stop us going through the programme we wanted to do which had a lot of aero runs in it,” said the Flying Finn. He remained optimistic although he encountered a clutch problem in the afternoon, “We know the car can go faster, we were just running through what we needed to achieve. It’s a shame that we had a clutch issue at the end of the day, but that’s why we come testing so we can find these problems and fix them.”

Toro Rosso was again fast, as Jean-Eric Vergne took fifth place on his first day in the STR8, albeit 1.3 seconds slower than Massa.

Force India still hasn’t found a second driver, reserve driver James Rossiter was in the car today, he was sixth fastest in the VJM06 after completing 42 laps. Paul di Resta took over the wheel in the afternoon, but his stint was short-cut due to an exhaust failure, and he was only able to complete seven laps.

Rossiter said about his Force India debut, “It has been four and a half years since I last drove a Formula One car, but with the simulator experience I’ve built up recently it didn’t take too long to get back up to speed. The programme today has been very useful for getting a feel for the car as a reference for the simulator. The cars have changed quite a lot and it was the first time I’ve used KERS.”

First day in the C32 for Esteban Gutierrez - Photo: Sauber Motorsport

First day in the C32 for Esteban Gutierrez – Photo: Sauber Motorsport

After being fastest on Monday, Jenson Button took it relatively easy today and landed seventh place in the MP4-28. Unfortunately his car stopped on track just five minutes before the end of the session, McLaren did not reveal why the 2009 World Champion had stopped, but mentioned in today’s press release it had been ‘a precautionary stop’.

Esteban Gutierrez had his first taste of the new Sauber today, the young Mexican completed 110 laps on the Circuito de Jerez. “I had the chance to get to know the car  and the tyres that are behaving quite differently,” Gutierrez said, adding, “Because of this it was important to understand the warm-up characteristics and the behaviour on long runs with high fuel loads. It was very interesting to feel the progress — something that gets me up to speed. I’m positive about the new car and I immediately felt comfortable in it.”

Max Chilton leaves the garage - Photo: Marussia F1

Max Chilton leaves the garage – Photo: Marussia F1

Max Chilton was ninth for Marussia, and Valtteri Bottas tenth for Williams. Bottas, who made his debut as a Grand Prix driver, said about the Williams FW34, “I had the chance to get to know the car  and the tyres that are behaving quite differently. Because of this it was important to understand the warm-up characteristics and the behaviour on long runs with high fuel loads. It was very interesting to feel the progress – something that gets me up to speed. I’m positive about the new car and I immediately felt comfortable in it.”

Frenchman Charles Pic was 11th for Caterham, “The important thing for the first day was starting to get used to the car, particularly working with KERS and my new team.” And he added, “Obviously it’s important for me to feel comfortable in the car as quickly as possible and we’ve worked through a lot of the normal procedures today so I’m pleased with what we’ve achieved.”

Jerez testing times – Day 3 – February 7

 Pos  Driver               Team            Time                 Laps
  1.  Felipe Massa         Ferrari         1m17.879              85
  2.  Nico Rosberg         Mercedes        1m18.766   +0.887    148
  3.  Sebastian Vettel     Red Bull        1m19.052   +1.173    102
  4.  Kimi Raikkonen       Lotus           1m19.200   +1.321     40
  5.  Jean-Eric Vergne     Toro Rosso      1m19.247   +1.368     85
  6.  James Rossiter       Force India     1m19.303   +1.424     42
  7.  Jenson Button        McLaren         1m19.603   +1.724     83
  8.  Esteban Gutierrez    Sauber          1m19.934   +2.055    110
  9.  Max Chilton          Marussia        1m21.269   +3.390     78
 10.  Valtteri  Bottas     Williams        1m21.575   +3.696     86
 11.  Charles Pic          Caterham        1m22.352   +4.473     57
 12.  Paul di Resta        Force India     1m23.729   +5.850      7
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