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Rosberg sets the pace for Mercedes on final day of pre-season testing

By Berthold Bouman

Rosberg sets the pace for Mercedes on final day of pre-season testing - Photo: Mercedes BenzNico Rosberg set the quickest time for Mercedes on the final day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain today. The German completed 131 laps and recorded a time of 1m20.130s on the soft Pirellis, which is also the fastest time set during testing at the Barcelona circuit.

“We have achieved a lot of mileage and I can feel that the balance of the car is good. I have the general feeling that we are in a better position than in the second half of last year but this is testing not racing, of course,” said the German.

He remained cautious about his chances during the first race of the season at Melbourne, “The conditions in the first race will be completely different to here as it will be much hotter in Melbourne and Sepang so we need to wait and see.”

Spaniard Fernando Alonso set the second fasted time today in the Ferrari F138, he was 0.364s slower than pace-setter Rosberg. He was optimistic about Ferrari’s test results, “I think the team is pleased, because the results we saw today matched our expectations. Some new parts we introduced, on the bodywork for example, are clear to see, others less so, but they are all important and I feel optimistic and confident, because the car responds the way I had expected.”

“I still don’t have a clear idea of the general order of competitiveness,” he added. “For me, this is just testing and you can’t tell how the others are doing.”

Jenson Button - Photo: McLaren F1

Jenson Button – Photo: McLaren F1

Jenson Button was third for McLaren but the 2009 World Champion was 1.314s off the pace in the MP4-28 after completing 122 laps. In a statement McLaren said, “After completing over 5,000 kilometres, through dry and wet conditions, we have collected plenty of data from MP4-28A. We’re all really looking forward to the first race in Melbourne in two weeks — from the lap times we’ve seen the season is going to be incredibly close!”

Fourth fastest was Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber, and he was pleased with the progress Sauber has made, “We did most of the planned programme with a qualifying and a race simulation. The qualifying simulation went quite smoothly, but we have some potential left with the balance of the car and some homework to do before Melbourne. But I think that we found some interesting directions, and overall I’m quite satisfied.”

But all eyes were on Kimi Raikkonen, who called in sick yesterday, but today showed up to complete only 50 laps in the Lotus E21, unfortunately for him, the gearbox caused problems and had to be replaced, which cost a lot of time.

“I was sick yesterday and the car was sick this morning. It’s not what you want, but you go testing to find out if there are any problems with the car. For sure, we haven’t completed all the laps we wanted during pre-season, but that is often the case. We’ve found a few issues and we have solutions for them, which is positive,” the Finn commented.

Not just health problems for Raikkonen today - Photo: Lotus F1

Not just health problems for Raikkonen today – Photo: Lotus F1

He too, is looking forward to the first race of the season, “We ran through a lot of assessments this afternoon and the feeling in the team is that we have a strong basis to start the season; even if we haven’t shown that every day. I’m happy with the car and looking forward to going racing.”

Paul di Resta was back in the Force India again after Sutil had tested the VJM06 yesterday, the Scott was sixth today. Force India did a race simulation today and di Resta said, “The race distance this afternoon was straightforward and there were no red flags while we were running. The weather was much warmer today and that gives us useful tyre information, which we can compare with the data we have from Adrian’s [Sutil] work yesterday in similar conditions.”

Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas again shared testing duties for Williams today, Maldonado was seventh, while Bottas took ninth place. Sebastian Vettel ended the day in a Williams sandwich as he was eighth in the Red Bull RB9.

Asked about the test results the triple World Champion said, “We’re in good enough shape I think. Overall testing has been good for us and we didn’t have too many problems.” But this season will be all about new 2013 Pirelli tyres, the German reckons, “But if you sum up all three tests I think all the teams were linked in to what the tyres could do and at times it was extremely difficult to read the set-up changes and find a direction because the tyres were always pretty challenging!”

Tenth place for Charles Pic today - Photo: Caterham F1

Tenth place for Charles Pic today – Photo: Caterham F1

Charles Pic was tenth for Caterham today, as he left both Marussia drivers and Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso behind him with a lap of 1m23.115s, certainly not a bad result. “We’ve finished everything we planned for this test and completed 116 laps today, including a race simulation and full pit stops so we’ve done everything we can to prepare for the start of the season in a couple of weeks,” said the Frenchman.

Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton also shared testing duties today, Bianchi was 11th, some nine-tenths of a second quicker than Chilton, who finished the day in 13th and last place.

And finally, Ricciardo was 12th for Toro Rosso today, the team also concentrated on the tyres, “We had some shorter runs to do in the morning, during which we tried most of the tyre compounds, while getting through all the items on our job sheet. In the afternoon we managed a few long runs, which was good, as we hadn’t done many at this test, because of the bad weather.”

As mentioned, today was the final day of pre-season testing in Jerez and Barcelona, in total 12 days to prepare for the 19 races of this season. Just like last year, teams and drivers agree on one thing: the new Pirelli tyres will be the star of this season, and understanding them is crucial.

Who has gained the most knowledge about the tyres, will have a better chance of winning the first race of the season: the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne, on March 17. Until then!

Barcelona testing Day 4 – March 3

Pos  Driver             Team         Time       Gap       Laps
 1.  Nico Rosberg       Mercedes     1m20.130             131
 2.  Fernando Alonso    Ferrari      1m20.494   + 0.364   120
 3.  Jenson Button      McLaren      1m21.444   + 1.314   122
 4.  Nico Hulkenberg    Sauber       1m21.541   + 1.411   118
 5.  Kimi Raikkonen     Lotus        1m21.658   + 1.528    50
 6.  Paul di Resta      Force India  1m21.664   + 1.534   112
 7.  Pastor Maldonado   Williams     1m22.415   + 2.285    42
 8.  Sebastian Vettel   Red Bull     1m22.514   + 2.384   100
 9.  Valtteri Bottas    Williams     1m22.524   + 2.394    31
10.  Charles Pic        Caterham     1m23.115   + 2.985   116
11.  Jules Bianchi      Marussia     1m23.167   + 3.037    62
12.  Daniel Ricciardo   Toro Rosso   1m23.628   + 3.498    91
13.  Max Chilton        Marussia     1m24.103   + 3.973    49

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