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Rosberg fastest for Mercedes after first day of testing in Barcelona

By Berthold Bouman

Rosberg fastest for Mercedes after first day of testing in Barcelona - Photo: Mercedes-BenzNico Rosberg was fastest for Mercedes today during the first day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain today. The German lapped the circuit in 1m22.616, only seven thousandths of a second faster than second-place man Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus E21.

Rosberg had a gearbox issue this morning, but was able to continue testing in the afternoon, but it now seems the Mercedes W04 has a few reliability problems. Rosberg, however, was undaunted by the problems and commented, “We were able to work through a good programme this afternoon and, of course, it’s always nice to be quickest at the end of the day.”

And he added, “In general, I feel happy and comfortable in the car and it feels better than the last time we were here at this track. There is still some work to be done on tyre degradation and our programme this afternoon was helpful in understanding that.”

Third place for Kimi Raikkonen - Photo: Lotus F1

Third place for Kimi Raikkonen – Photo: Lotus F1

Lotus had problems with the telemetry, and Raikkonen only completed 44 laps. “It wasn’t an ideal day in terms of the number of laps we completed, but the car feels strong and we’ve made some good progress. After Jerez it’s nice to be at a circuit where we race and the E21 is definitely a step in the right direction. There’s lots of work yet to do this week but I’m happy with where we are at the moment,” Raikkonen commented.

Alonso was behind the wheel of the Ferrari F138 for the first time this year, and the Spaniard claimed third place after he completed 110 laps in front of his home crowd. All three drivers set their time on the medium Pirelli rubber compound.

In fourth place was current World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who completed 66 laps in the Adrian Newey designed RB9. “It’s very important for us to put good mileage on the car and this morning that wasn’t really possible,” said Vettel afterwards. “We had a small software issue this morning, I think many teams had. That wasn’t ideal but we got it fixed and after that it was another decent day.”

Fernando Alonso's first taste of the Ferrari F138 - Photo: Ferrari

Fernando Alonso’s first taste of the Ferrari F138 – Photo: Ferrari

A good day for Williams, as the FW35 was fast enough for fifth place, with a brand-new car straight out of the box, as their 2013 contender was launched this morning. Pastor Maldonado completed 86 laps, but he was 1.117 second slower than pace-setter Rosberg.

Daniel Ricciardo was not as fast as two weeks ago in Jerez, but still fast enough to take sixth place, still three-tenths of a second faster than a somewhat disappointing Sergio Perez in the McLaren MP4-28. Perez spent most of the day testing the new Pirellis, and in the afternoon he did a series of long runs ‘to evaluate the effects of the mechanical set-up changes’.

Paul di Resta took eighth place for Force India, on Thursday Adrian Sutil will make a return to the Indian team, and on Friday test driver Jules Bianchi will be in the new VJM06. Although Force India denies it, it certainly looks like it will be a last-minute shoot-out between Sutil and Bianchi for the last remaining 2013 race seat.

Mexican Esteban Gutierrez was on duty for Sauber today, he took ninth place, 2.5 seconds slower than Rosberg. Sauber too tested the new Pirellis and Gutierrez commented, “It was quite a tricky day with the tyres. We were struggling with tyre management and, as a result, degradation. We tried different things in the morning, but then in the afternoon we had some issues with the set-up of the car. The good thing is we have a lot of data to analyse.”

Max Chilton pleased with today's results - Photo: Marussia F1

Max Chilton pleased with today’s results – Photo: Marussia F1

Further down the order are  two of the original three new teams, Marussia and Caterham. However, Max Chilton in the Marussia was over four seconds off the pace, while Charles Pic was almost five seconds slower.

Chilton was still happy with the results of today, “It took a little while to get into our rhythm this morning as the track conditions were cool and green and the early part of our programme consisted mainly of checks with the KERS and other on-car systems. This afternoon we were able to get into a proper set-up programme and the initial results from that are quite promising. I am pleased with where I ended the day — P10 — in respect of the teams around us.”

Pic caused the only red flag today as his Caterham stopped in Turn 3 at the beginning of the afternoon. Pic had to sit out the rest of the afternoon and commented, “When I went out for a stint after the lunch break I had a mechanical problem going into Turn 3 and after we got the car back to the garage we found out it was a gearbox issue and that brought the day to an early end. We’ve already started work on the fix and I’m sure we’ll be ready for tomorrow morning when we can get back to work.”

Barcelona testing Day 1 – February 19

Pos  Driver               Team          Time                  Laps
 1.  Nico Rosberg         Mercedes      1m22.616               54
 2.  Kimi Raikkonen       Lotus         1m22.672   + 0.007     44
 3.  Fernando Alonso      Ferrari       1m22.952   + 0.336    110
 4.  Sebastian Vettel     Red Bull      1m22.965   + 0.349     66
 5.  Pastor Maldonado     Williams      1m23.733   + 1.117     86
 6.  Daniel Ricciardo     Toro Rosso    1m23.884   + 1.268     73
 7.  Sergio Perez         McLaren       1m24.124   + 1.508     77
 8.  Paul di Resta        Force India   1m24.144   + 1.528     82
 9.  Esteban Gutierrez    Sauber        1m25.124   + 2.508     68
10.  Max Chilton          Marussia      1m26.747   + 4.131     65
11.  Charles Pic          Caterham      1m27.534   + 4.918     49

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