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Monaco GP: Rosberg again fastest for Mercedes after final free practice session

By Berthold Bouman

Monaco GP: Rosberg again fastest for Mercedes after final free practice sessionNico Rosberg was fastest again after the final free practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix. The German set a time of 1m14.378s, the fastest time so far recorded on the streets of Monaco this weekend, where the barriers are close and one little mistake can mean disaster, as Felipe Massa, Adrian Sutil and Romain Grosjean found out.

Massa’s crash was a nasty one, he hit the barriers just before Saint Devote, and then helplessly slid into the second barrier, his car sustained a lot of damage and his engineers will have to work hard to get the car ready for qualifying this afternoon.

Adrian Sutil crashed his Force India at Beau Rivage, while Grosjean paid an unscheduled visit to the barriers of Saint Devote for the second time this weekend, his mechanics will also have to work hard to get his car ready in time for qualifying.

Rosberg again fastest this morning - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Rosberg again fastest this morning – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

But the French Lotus driver had already set his time, which gave him the right to second place, while Sebastian Vettel was third this morning. Fernando Alonso was fourth, followed by Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen who were fifth and sixth respectively.

Mark Webber was seventh in the second Red Bull while Paul di Resta was the fastest Force India driver as he took eighth place, while team colleague Sutil couldn’t improve his time due to his crash and the German finished the morning in 15th place. Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten.

Another crash for Romain Grosjean - Photo: Lotus F1

Another crash for Romain Grosjean – Photo: Lotus F1

No McLarens in the top ten as Sergio Perez and Jenson Button were 11th and 12th, they were followed by both Toro Rosso drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo. Further down the list were Massa, Esteban Gutierrez and Valtteri Bottas.

Caterham were faster than their arch rival Marussia this morning, as Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde were 19th and 20th, while Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton took 21st and 22nd place.

The result of the third free practice session can be found here.

Monaco GP: Rosberg fastest for Mercedes after first free practice session

By Berthold Bouman

Monaco GP: Rosberg fastest for Mercedes after first free practice sessionNico Rosberg topped the time sheets this morning during the first free practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix, round six of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The Mercedes driver set a time of 1m16.195s, however, the difference with the number two, Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, was minimal as the Spaniard was only 0.087s slower than Rosberg.

Lotus likes surprises and this time Romain Grosjean was third this morning, while his Finnish team colleague Kimi Raikkonen was 11th. Felipe Massa was fourth for Ferrari, while Lewis Hamilton took fifth place in the second Mercedes.

Alonso second for Ferrari this morning - Photo: Ferrari F1

Alonso second for Ferrari this morning – Photo: Ferrari F1

Pastor Maldonado surprised friend and foe as he took sixth place for the troubled Williams team, Valtteri Bottas in the second Williams was 17th, the Finn was 1,837s slower than his team colleague.

Mark Webber was the fastest Red Bull driver this morning, as he took seventh place, while triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel was tenth. McLaren apparently found some speed as Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were eighth and ninth respectively.

Just outside the top ten were both Force India drivers Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, the difference between the two was just 0.116s. Sauber tested a few parts and Nico Hulkenberg and his Mexican team colleague Esteban Gutierrez scored 14th and 16th place for the Swiss outfit.

Webber talks with the media - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Webber talks with the media – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Jean-Eric Vergne was the fastest Toro Rosso driver and took 15th place, while Daniel Ricciardo was 18th. No ‘guest drivers’ this morning, and thus Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic were 19th and 20th for Caterham, while Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton completed the list as they took 21st and 22nd respectively.

The results of the first free practice session can be found here.

Spanish GP: Lotus hoping to keep momentum, aiming for a win in Barcelona

By Berthold Bouman

Spanish GP: Lotus hoping to keep momentum, aiming for a win in BarcelonaIt has been a great start of the season for Lotus, Kimi Raikkonen won the Australian Grand Prix, and was second in China and Bahrain, while Romain Grosjean was also on the podium in Bahrain three weeks ago. But there is no time for complacency, and the black and gold team are aiming for a win this weekend in Spain.

Eric Boullier: It’s such a finely balanced and competitive season

Lotus team Principal Eric Boullier is of course satisfied with the results so far, but now the Formula One circus returns to Europe, there is no time to rest on their laurels. “Achieving a one-off result is one thing, but keeping momentum is a far bigger challenge and I’m pleased to say we’re doing a great job of that so far this year. It’s such a finely balanced and competitive season,” Boullier said.

Quizzed about his star driver Raikkonen, Boullier remarked, “Kimi is a fantastic driver and you can never rule him out in any race. In Bahrain, he drove a strong race to manage the tyres and was comfortable in second by the chequered flag. In Australia he won the race and said it was one of his easiest wins.”

Lotus celebrating in Bahrain - Photo: Lotus F1

Lotus celebrating in Bahrain – Photo: Lotus F1

Asked about the development race in Formula One the Frenchman commented, “We have a strong development programme for the E21 and I’m confident we can continue to improve it through the year, just as we did with the E20 before it. Most teams tend to bring a fairly major upgrade package to the first European race of the season and we’ll be no exception.”

Kimi Raikkonen: Let’s hope I’m happier in Spain

Raikkonen is a man who is never satisfied, he is always hungry for more, and a win at the Circuit de Catalunya is on top of his list. “You’re never really happy if you don’t win, but I suppose second place is as close as you can get,” he said about the race in Bahrain. “Let’s hope I’m happier in Spain,” the flying Finn added.

Raikkonen’s main rival is triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel, and Raikkonen commented, “It’s going to be hard to catch Sebastian [Vettel] if he keeps taking good results so we need to start taking more points from him, but you never know what can happen. We’ll keep pushing to improve the car and see where we end up.”

Asked what is required to catch up with Vettel he said, “Some more wins! To catch the leaders, we have to work twice as hard as they are. It’s no secret that we want more speed from the car in qualifying; it’s so tight up there at the front and we really need to be on the first two rows to fight for victories every time.”

Eric Boullier and Gerard Lopez - Photo: Lotus F1

Eric Boullier and Gerard Lopez – Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean: It will be important to qualify well

It’s no secret Grosjean has been struggling with the Lotus E21 the first three races of the season,, but third place in Bahrain has lifted his spirits. “It wasn’t the chassis, the aero or anything like that, but we took a while to get everything to my liking and that’s been frustrating. We managed to put our finger on the issue and I feel much more comfortable now,” said the Frenchman.

Asked about the key to a great weekend in Spain he commented, “It will be important to qualify well as it will be much harder to overtake than in Bahrain. As a team, this is an area where we can still improve a little bit, but we have some ideas of how to do that and hopefully we’ll be able to make the front row.”

Also read:

Red Bull Spanish GP Preview
Ferrari Spanish GP Preview
McLaren Spanish GP Preview
Lotus Spanish GP Preview
Mercedes Spanish GP Preview
Sauber Spanish GP Preview
Force India Spanish GP Preview
Williams Spanish GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Spanish GP Preview
Caterham Spanish GP Preview
Marussia Spanish GP Preview

Bahrain GP: Vettel cruises to victory and extends championship lead

By Berthold Bouman

Bahrain GP: Vettel cruises to victory and extends championship leadTriple World Champion Sebastian Vettel cruised to the victory on a blazing hot Bahrain International Circuit this afternoon during round four of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix. Although the German didn’t start from pole, he was fast enough to take over the lead from pole sitter Nico Rosberg.

“I knew it was crucial to get into the lead and look after the tyres, the pace was phenomenal, the car was great. I could push every single lap and look after the tyres,” said the victor. “I lost out to Fernando at the first corner, but I could get him back. I saved some KERS and could out-accelerate him into Turn 6. Out of Turn 4 I did the same on Nico, a little bit of KERS and got him into Turn 5.”

“It was an impeccable performance from Sebastian,” said Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner. “He was absolutely supreme. He had so much in hand and then he has to do the fastest lap at the end just to show he has plenty left in the tyres.”

Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Although Raikkonen had said the Lotus just wasn’t fast enough on the Bahrain circuit, the Finn, after numerous fights, moved up the ranks to finally finish in second place. Lotus had given Grosjean a new chassis after the problems he had experienced during the first three races of the season, it was the right move and the Frenchman immediately was considerably quicker than in the old car, and he finished third after a long battle with Paul di Resta in the Force India.

But the Iceman repeated what he had said earlier on, “I don’t think we had the speed this week against Red Bull. We could have finished a few places higher in qualifying but in the end we were still not close enough to Red Bull. I guess it would have helped, but it didn’t happen for many reasons and second was the best we could achieve today.”

Initially, Fernando Alonso took second place from Vettel during the start, but Vettel took his second place back at the end of the first lap. Rosberg, who led the race early on, was a sitting duck when DRS was activated after three laps, he lost the lead to Vettel, then lost more positions to Alonso, di Resta, and Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari.

A tough day for Rosberg, and the disappointed German said, “As nice as it was to start from pole this afternoon, it was just as hard to finish in ninth place. I didn’t feel comfortable in the car today and it wasn’t much fun out there really.” And he added, “We switched to a four-stop strategy at the end of my third stint but it wasn’t enough. We were using the rear tyres too much and at the end, I was really struggling and wasn’t able to push hard enough.”

Bad day for Ferrari - Photo: Ferrari

Bad day for Ferrari – Photo: Ferrari

It certainly wasn’t Ferrari’s day, the DRS flap on Alonso’s rear wing got jammed, he had to visit the pits, a good old whack from a Ferrari mechanic seemed to have cured the problem, but when the Spaniard used the downforce reduction device again, it got stuck for the second time, forcing the double World Champion to visit the pits for a second time, and he couldn’t use his DRS anymore for the rest of the race. Nevertheless, it was still an impressive performance by Alonso, who fought his way back from 17th to eighth position.

Also a bad day for Massa, his front wing was damaged after he had hit the rear of the Force India of Adrian Sutil during the start of the race, then after 17 laps got a right-rear puncture, and another puncture after 37 laps, which effectively robbed the Brazilian of a good points finish, he finished the race in 15th place.

Most drivers were on a three or four-stop strategy, but di Resta was on a two-stop strategy, the Scot showed what the Force India is capable of as he even led the race, but his last set of tyres started to wear out quickly during the closing stages of the race, both Lotus drivers easily overtook him, and he finished in fourth place. Sutil was less lucky and had to be satisfied with 13th place after a very early unscheduled pit stop due to the puncture he got during his fight with Massa.

Fourth place for Paul di Resta - Photo: Sahara Force India

Fourth place for Paul di Resta – Photo: Sahara Force India

Di Resta was pleased with the result today and commented, “It’s great to round off the fly-away races with a fourth place and a race that was probably my strongest Grand Prix. The podium was very close, but with our strategy we were always going to be vulnerable at the end of the race — especially to Grosjean who had two new sets of medium tyres. I had a good start to the race, a strong opening stint and we showed our true speed today, but ultimately fourth place was the maximum that was possible.”

McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were involved in several hair-raising wheel-to-wheel battles, the Mexican driver hit the 2009 World Champion several times, and after several other thrilling fights, he wheel-banged his way to sixth place. Button complained about his team colleague over the radio, and it was indeed a bit silly to watch Perez almost taking out Button.

Perez was on a rampage today - Photo: McLaren F1

Perez was on a rampage today – Photo: McLaren F1

Perez was aware of the fact he put McLaren in a tricky situation, “I guess I was a little aggressive on track today; banging wheels with Jenson was perhaps a little too risky, a little too hard, but the team never came on the radio to tell us to stop racing. There were no team orders. There was a lot of adrenaline from both of us, and Jenson is always a very strong racer, but hopefully we’ll help each other a little more in the future.”

It was also a difficult race for Lewis Hamilton, the Mercedes driver was also involved in various fights with Perez, Button, Rosberg and Mark Webber in the second Red Bull. During the closing stages of the race, Hamilton and Webber fought for position, but Hamilton emerged as the winner and finally took fifth place.

“It’s been a tough weekend for us but we got through it and finishing in fifth place was some good damage limitation,” said Hamilton. “My race didn’t start well at all. I was looking after the tyres but I really struggled on the first two stints and was falling back.” About his battle with Webber he commented, “I had so much fun fighting with Mark at the end. We really needed that point and I was so determined to get by. It was good, clean wheel-to-wheel racing.”

Vettel is now leading the Drivers’ Championship with 77 points, followed by Raikkonen (67), Hamilton (50), Alonso (47), Webber (32) and Massa is sixth with 30 points. Red Bull is also leading the Constructors Championship with 109 points, followed by Lotus (93), and Ferrari this with 77 points.

Bahrain GP: Lotus hoping to maintain momentum at Sakhir

By Berthold Bouman

Bahrain GP: Lotus hoping to maintain momentum at SakhirLotus made a great start this season: Kimi Raikkonen won the first race of the season in Australia, and scored a podium place last weekend in China. But according to Lotus, ‘nothings stand still in Formula One and the challenge is ongoing’.

Eric Boullier: We’ve seen some great racing this year

Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier is adamant tyre supplier Pirelli is partially responsible for the great racing that fans so far have seen this season. All teams and drivers are talking about the new tyres, what does Boullier think? “As a sport we asked our tyre supplier, Pirelli, to provide us with tyres which encourage different strategies and adapting to this is part of the competition.”

“We’ve seen some great racing so far this year and Pirelli can take some of the credit for this. We are all allocated the same tyres so it’s up to us as teams and the drivers in the cars to make the most of them.”

Asked whether another win is imminent the Frenchman said, “Once again, we’ve shown that we can fight for podiums, but nothing stands still in Formula One and the challenge is ongoing. Maintaining momentum is what we need to do, and we’ll leave no stone unturned in our quest to do this. Our competition is strong and they have a lot of resources at their disposal. We have to maintain the relentless pace over the course of all 19 races this season. Everyone at Enstone is up for this challenge and celebrate every success we see on track. We hope to celebrate many more.

Second place for Raikkonen in China - Photo: Lotus F1

Second place for Raikkonen in China – Photo: Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen: I’ve never won in Bahrain before

Also the Iceman was asked for his opinion regarding the fast degrading Pirelli tyres, and the Finn said, “I think you can push on these tyres, but it’s never perfect. You cannot always push 100%. I think they are very good in qualifying and have good grip, so it’s up to you and you have to look after them a bit more in the race. It’s not really any different from last year — at least for us anyway — so I don’t really understand why people are complaining.”

About his chances this weekend the Finn commented, “I’ve had some nice races there and picked up some good points although I’ve never won. It’s a little bit different from others we visit and it’s quite nice to be out there in the sand! Wherever you look around the track you can just see sand in the distance and you notice it in the paddock too. It’s a circuit where I’ve never won before, so maybe this year I’ll change that!”

And he added, “We have to try and do the best we can in every race and try to score some points to keep us in the fight. If everything goes our way, it will be a good result again. However, it is useless to promise anything beforehand. This is motor racing and whatever can happen, will happen.”

Grosjean still struggling to understand the car - Photo: Lotus F1

Grosjean still struggling to understand the car – Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean: I’m spending a lot of time with my engineers

Frenchman Romain Grosjean is still struggling with the Lotus E21, and he explained, “I would be lying if I said the car is exactly where I want it and we are having quite an adventure to get the setup and feeling from the car how we want it.”

“This is very frustrating for a driver, as you want your car to be obedient — to do what you want it to do — and to do it in a consistent manner. Certainly, we’re not the only team who are having a difficult time early in the season, but it’s something we really want to get on top of as quickly as possible. I’m spending a lot of time with my engineers and we’re all working hard to make improvements.”

Asked about his target this weekend he replied, “The priority is to find that connection with the car. I want to be right up there fighting for podiums and showing the speed I showed last year. Hopefully we’ll get there soon, and I think Bahrain would be the ideal place to really start getting some good points or even a return to the podium. We’ve been quick there before, so there’s no reason why we can’t do it again.”

Lotus is currently third in the Constructors’ Championship, while Raikkonen is second in the Drivers’ Championship, three points behind rival Fernando Alonso. Grosjean is currently ninth in the Drivers’ Championship.

Also read:

Red Bull Bahrain GP Preview
Ferrari Bahrain GP Preview
McLaren Bahrain GP Preview
Lotus Bahrain GP Preview
Mercedes Bahrain GP Preview
Sauber Bahrain GP Preview
Force India Bahrain GP Preview
Williams Bahrain GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Bahrain GP Preview
Caterham Bahrain GP Preview
Marussia Bahrain GP Preview

Chinese GP: Lotus to keep pushing, Boullier expects stronger results at Shanghai

By Berthold Bouman

Chinese GP: Lotus to keep pushing, Boullier expects stronger results at Shanghai - Photo: Lotus F1After a fantastic start of the season, Kimi Raikkonen won the first race, the Australian Grand Prix, the second race in Malaysia was a bit of a disappointment for the team. But according to Team Principal Eric Boullier, Lotus will keep pushing to improve their performance.

Eric Boullier: Rain exposed one of our weaknesses

About the Malaysian Grand Prix Boullier commented, “As a team we faced a tough event which exposed one of our weaknesses; namely our performance when the conditions are wet. That said, when you take into account our qualifying positions and the difficult start for both drivers I think the points we took for sixth and seventh is a solid result.”

But despite the successes Boullier remains cautious about the rest of the season, “It’s still early days; as usual we’ll wait to see how the first four races go before we can predict anything and when we’re back to Europe we’ll have a better idea of where we are and what we can achieve.”

Asked about the third race of the season in Shanghai he said, “We’ve made a step forward with the car in terms of single lap pace, but still the race pace looks strong as well. For China, Romain will have the upgraded exhaust and bodywork package which Kimi ran in Malaysia, plus there will be a few additional parts arriving so it’s going to be quite interesting.”

Kimi Raikkonen - Photo: Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen – Photo: Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen: It’s always difficult to predict what will happen

The Iceman agrees with Boullier about Malaysia, the Lotus E21 doesn’t like the rain very much, “The start was not good and then I lost part of my front wing on the first lap. The car didn’t handle too well after that and with the wet conditions it was pretty tricky. The pace wasn’t too bad, but it could have been much better when you look at our times on Friday.”

Raikkonen likes the Shanghai International Circuit and remarked, “It’s always difficult to predict what will happen in the next race as we haven’t been there yet with this car, and every car reacts differently to each circuit. I won there in 2007 and that was a good feeling as it was the year I won the World Championship. I celebrated those wins pretty well at the time. It’s a proper race track and there are good opportunities for overtaking. Our car looks good so far, so let’s see what happens when we get out on track.”

Last year Lotus didn’t score any points in Shanghai, and also ran out of fresh rubber. But Raikkonen hopes to do better this year, “Hopefully we’ll be a little bit more lucky with the tyre performance this time and well prepared from a strategy point of view. We had the race pace in 2012, that’s true, but we tried to carry on with our tyres for too long. They dropped off, and that was it.”

Romain Grosjean - Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean – Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean: I don’t think I’ve shown my full potential yet

The first two races of the year were difficult for Romain Grosjean, and the Frenchman said, “It’s been a little frustrating as I don’t think I’ve shown my full potential yet. The first two races were quite difficult for me and I would really like a weekend where I can show what myself and the team can do this season. We’ve got great potential, I just need to unlock it. Hopefully we’ll find the key in China.”

Despite the difficulties, Grosjean remains optimistic, and aims to score points in China, “I would like to score strong points. I finished in tenth in Australia, then sixth in Malaysia so I’d be quite happy if I finish in second place in Shanghai. That or a win would make me very happy! Let’s see how the car is once we arrive on track and hope there won’t be rain again as we know our car does struggle a little in wet conditions.”

Lotus is currently second in the Constructors’ Championship, 26 points behind leader Red Bull. Raikkonen is second in the Drivers’ Championship, nine points shy of leader Sebastian Vettel, while Grosjean is eighth with nine points.

Also read:

Red Bull Chinese GP Preview
• Ferrari Chinese GP Preview
McLaren Chinese GP Preview
Lotus Chinese GP Preview
Mercedes Chinese GP Preview
Sauber Chinese GP Preview
Force India Chinese GP Preview
Williams Chinese GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Chinese GP Preview
Caterham Chinese GP Preview
Marussia Chinese GP Preview

Malaysian GP: Boullier – Lotus a real top team now, Sepang will be tougher

By Berthold Bouman

Malaysian GP: Boullier - Lotus a real top team now, Sepang will be tougher - Photo: Lotus F1To win the first race of the year is always the best way to start the season, and Lotus are confident they can keep up with the best now. In Melbourne they beat Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren, as Kimi Raikkonen took the easiest win in his career.

Eric Boullier: Lotus a real top team now

Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier was proud to have won the Australian Grand Prix, and he reckons Lotus has acquired the status of ‘top team’ now. “I think Lotus F1 Team is truly a top team now. If we can be in the position where we can compete for wins, then that is where we wanted to be. From what we’ve achieved in the first race we can build on that nice momentum to one day become World Champions again,” Boullier proudly said.

Having the fastest car at Melbourne had everything to do with the tyres, Boullier explained, “We worked very hard to make sure that we kept the strengths of last year’s E20, and it’s true that with the 2013 tyres and the fact that they degrade a little more, has put us in a better position. This said, Melbourne is such a special track that we should wait a bit more before knowing our potential better.”

Quizzed about the progress star driver Raikkonen has made, the Lotus team boss jokingly said, “Well he’s smiling more! Kimi is Kimi, he builds himself up — he had a strong season last year, and he ended it even more strongly than he started. He’s starting this season as he finished last year, so he will keep building. I don’t think there is anyone on earth who can tell Kimi what to do, so I’m not going to start!”

First victory of the season for the Iceman - Photo: Lotus F1

First victory of the season for the Iceman – Photo: Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen: Melbourne victory is a good sign

Asked whether winning the first race of the season is really that important, Raikkonen said, “A win’s a win, it doesn’t really matter when in the season you get it. Of course I’m happy that we didn’t really have to go full speed all the time so it’s kind of a good sign, a good race for us, but it might be a completely different story in Malaysia.”

Sepang is a special place for the Iceman, as he won his first Grand Prix in Malaysia in 2003, while driving for McLaren. But it doesn’t really mean much to the Iceman, and he commented, “I would not say that circuit is more important for me — it’s not that special for me — but it’s quite a nice place to race at. I like it and the challenge is always at the highest level in the beginning of the year in the heat. It’s also one of those circuits where it usually rains sometime during the weekend.”

Asked whether Lotus can keep the momentum he said, “There was a big question mark last year over whether our team could keep up with the development of the bigger teams and I don’t think we did a bad job. Of course it’s not going to be easy for us. I’m sure we have the people and all the tools to make it happen. Budget is always a factor and it’s no secret that we don’t have the same money as Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes.”

And finally, asked about his chances for this weekend he replied, “Our car worked well in Australia and usually — at least last year — in hot conditions it’s been good for us so hopefully it will turn out to be a good weekend.”

Grosjean confident car problems have been solved - Photo: Lotus F1

Grosjean confident car problems have been solved – Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean: We’ll work hard to achieve the maximum

Frenchman Romain Grosjean experienced problems during the race in Melbourne, but he has sat down with his engineers to analyse the problem, and he’s confident his problems have been solved. “The car felt so good at times over the weekend, but then at other times it wasn’t where I wanted it to be. It meant that the race felt long and pretty difficult for me,” said the former GP2 champion.

The Lotus E21 looks strong, and Grosjean is adamant that things will turn out better in Malaysia, he’s, therefore, confident of a good performance this weekend, “Clearly Kimi’s car worked very well in Australia and the fact that mine felt good at times over the weekend gives us a clear target for where we want to get the set-up and a guide of what the car is capable of. I want to be scoring 25 points in a Grand Prix for the team!”

Also read:

Red Bull Malaysian GP Preview
Ferrari Malaysian GP Preview
McLaren Malaysian GP Preview
Lotus Malaysian GP Preview
Mercedes Malaysian GP Preview
Sauber Malaysian GP Preview
Force India Malaysian GP Preview
Williams Malaysian GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Malaysian GP Preview
Caterham Malaysian GP Preview
Marussia Malaysian GP Preview

Australian GP: Kimi Raikkonen — This was probably one of my easiest wins

By Berthold Bouman

Australian GP: Kimi Raikkonen - This was probably one of my easiest winsKimi Raikkonen celebrated his 20th career win this afternoon, as he won the Australian Grand Prix, the first race of the 2013 season. Clearly, the pit stop strategy of the Lotus team gave him the advantage, he stayed out very long on the super softs, and only made two stops, while his rivals needed three stops to finish the race.

“Our plan was to do two-stop and it’s always difficult, especially the first races, to really know when to stop, and not doing it too early and not too late. We got it, like he said, exactly right. The team worked very well and we had a good plan, and we follow the plan and it worked out perfectly for us,” the Iceman said during the post race press conference.

And he added, “I could save the tyres and I could go fast if I needed and I could really drive very easily. One of the easiest races I’ve done to win the race. Hopefully we can have many more of this kind of races.”

Asked about the fastest race lap he set on the penultimate lap, he said, “Fernando [Alonso] was catching me at some point, when I was taking it a bit more easy and there was some traffic, so I just wanted to make sure that if the rain comes or something happens we have a bit more [of a] gap. I was still taking it pretty easy. Like I said, the car has been very good all weekend and it was a pretty nice race, not so difficult.”

First win of the season for Kimi Raikkonen - Photo: Lotus F1

First win of the season for Kimi Raikkonen – Photo: Lotus F1

A great way to start the season, isn’t it? “You can’t start the season much better than winning the first race and of course we hope we can be fighting at the front of the Championship, but there’s a long way to go still and we need to keep pushing hard all the way,” Raikkonen said.

“I’m happy for the team and for myself also. We’ve had a quick car all weekend and there were no issues with it either, so we could just focus on trying different things and getting the setup how we wanted. I had a good feeling that we would be ok with the tyres after practice and the team got the strategy perfect.”

Also very pleased with today’s result was Lotus Team Principal Eric Boullier, “I’m very happy. After Kimi’s great start we were hoping that we could achieve a podium finish, then as the race unfolded and we saw the other teams pitting — showing that they were on three-stop strategies — our position became stronger and stronger. It’s a fantastic feeling to open the season in this way!”

And the Frenchman added, “This win is a further testament to all the hard work which goes on at Enstone and we owe tremendous thanks to each and every employee. We head to Malaysia in the best position we could be.”

Romain Grosjean makes a pit stop - Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean makes a pit stop – Photo: Lotus F1

Asked about what happened with Romain Grosjean, who finished in tenth place and scored only one point, he said, “Romain had a difficult race and we have to analyse what went wrong for him.”

Grosjean himself also agreed there was something wrong with his car, “Something felt wrong with my car, so I have to sit down with the team and analyse where the issue came from. It felt so good all weekend until the race itself, but in the end the race was long and quite difficult for me.”

But, there’s another chance next weekend he reckoned, “We know that Albert Park can be a tricky circuit and the weather has certainly not helped today. It’s been a great weekend for the team with Kimi’s win so it’s clear there’s pace in the car. Let’s hope I can unlock that pace too next weekend in Sepang.”

Also Technical Director James Allison was elated with the first win of the season, “It was a splendid thing we saw today. It’s a day like this which make everything about this job worthwhile and that will be true for everyone involved with the team. It’s great!”

Australian GP: Grosjean fastest in rainy final practice session in Melbourne

By Berthold Bouman

Australian GP: Grosjean fastest in rainy final practice session in MelbourneRomain Grosjean was fastest for Lotus this morning during the final free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, the Frenchman set his time in the rain, just before the rain came down even harder, others were not able to go quicker on the soaking wet Melbourne track.

Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari F 138 was just 0.071s slower than the Lotus driver, the Spaniard was followed by his team colleague Felipe Massa who finished the morning in third place, confirming Ferrari are on the right pace from day one this season.

Paul di Resta was fourth for Force India, six-tenths of a second behind Grosjean, while Adrian Sutil was this time eighth, after completing 18 laps on a wet circuit. The second Lotus piloted by Kimi Raikkonen was in fifth place, he was followed by the Toro Rosso’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, the Toro Rosso STR8 certainly looks quick in the rain.

Eric Boullier and Romain Grosjean - Photo: Lotus F1

Eric Boullier and Romain Grosjean – Photo: Lotus F1

Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest Sauber driver, he took ninth place after completing 18 laps, while his team colleague Mexican Esteban Gutierrez was tenth, both set exactly the same time and lapped the circuit in 1m28.253s.

Nico Rosberg was 11th for Mercedes, while Friday pace-setter Sebastian Vettel took 12th place, followed by his team colleague Mark Webber, who was 13th during the third and final practice session for his home Grand Prix.

The rain was an advantage for the slower teams, a point proved by Jules Bianchi, who was 14th in the Marussia, right behind the Red Bull duo. Also Caterham did well in the wet, as Dutchman Giedo van der Garde was 15th, and his French team mate Charles Pic took 16th position.

Not a good start for McLaren, also in the wet they were quite off the pace, Jenson Button was 17th, while Sergio Perez was 18th. The last four drivers on the board were not really able to set a representative time in the wet, as both Williams drivers Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas were 19th and 20th respectively, both were 12 seconds off the pace.

Pastor Maldonado struggling in the wet - Photo: Williams

Pastor Maldonado struggling in the wet – Photo: Williams

Max Chilton was again slower than his French colleague Bianchi, and was 21st, and Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes didn’t really bother to set a decent time, and was 22nd and last, 20 seconds behind Grosjean, Hamilton only completed 9 laps this morning.

All Formula One results can be found in the menu of the F1 2013 Season > Australian GP, together with links to the practice, qualifying and race reports.

Australian GP Results (Opens in new window)

Australian GP: Lotus confident to have made a step forward, continuity key to success

By Berthold Bouman

Australian GP: Lotus confident to have made a step forward, continuity key to success - Photo: Lotus F1Lotus continues another season with drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, and the black and gold team is confident to have made a step forward, despite the technical glitches during testing in Spain. For Lotus, the first race in the FIA Formula One World Championship in Melbourne, Australia, is the first real test of the season.

Team Principal Eric Boullier: 2013 is going to be as competitive as ever

For Team Principal Eric Boullier, keeping Raikkonen and Grosjean for the 2013 season, was very important. “To keep both these drivers, who are very complimentary, is the best situation for the team. Both now know the team well and it is their second consecutive year together in Formula One. With this you can build up a nice momentum for the start of the season,” the Frenchman said.

Asked how intense the competition is going be, he said, “I think it’s going to be as competitive as ever. You can see at least five teams having the potential to win races and it’s getting very tight.” But the Pirelli tyres will dominate the sport once again, and Boullier added, “The most important thing is we want to keep the strength we had from last year in that we managed the tyres well. This is one of the key points we could see during testing, but I think it’s going to be another challenge to understand these tyres.”

“We still have to try these tyres in hot conditions; we’ve only run in cold weather so far and they have been specifically designed for higher temperatures, so we may have some surprises.”

The Lotus team at the presentation of the E21 - Photo: Lotus F1

The Lotus team at the presentation of the E21 – Photo: Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen: Not concerned about reliability

Of course the Iceman, as he is nicknamed, is one of the most colourful drivers in Formula One. Normally he’s not very talkative and he’s not really a fan of press conferences — sometimes he just falls asleep — but he is enthusiastic about the new season and the new Lotus E21.

Testing wasn’t a complete success due to several technical problems, but Raikkonen is not worried. “I’m not really concerned about reliability or anything like that as it was the same problem which caused us the biggest problems in testing and we’re on top of that now.”

The E21 is a step forward, the Finn reckons, “I think you always want more, but this car is a pretty good starting point and we’ll see; hopefully we’re fast enough. I don’t think there’s any area where it feels worse than last year’s car; so far everything is better.”

Asked what he would like to achieve at Albert Park, he answered, “I’d like to start the season strongly and hopefully run the first races better than we did last year. We don’t know exactly what to expect so we’ll try to do the best we can; we should have a reasonable start to the season.”

Romain Grosjean: Ready for Albert Park

Romain Grosjean has learned a lot since he was banned from the Italian Grand Prix after his first-lap escapades in Belgium, and he is looking forward to another year with Lotus and Raikkonen.

He too thinks that the E21 is a step forward, “It’s a good continuation of the E20 and definitely a step forward; the team have been working hard and are doing their best to give us a good car. The answer will only be clear after qualifying in Melbourne; we looked quick during winter testing but it’s always different to race weekends, so let’s see what the first race brings us.”

And finally, asked about his relationship with Raikkonen he commented, “Kimi is a good team mate and the relationship we have is ok. We’re both quite quick and we’re always pushing the limits. In engineering meetings and internally we share everything which helps us both perform better on track and when we’re out there we push each other hard, but it’s always with respect and fair play.”

Also read:

Red Bull Australian GP Preview
Ferrari Australian GP Preview
McLaren Australian GP Preview
Lotus Australian GP Preview
Mercedes Australian GP Preview
Sauber Australian GP Preview
Force India Australian GP Preview
Williams Australian GP Preview
• Toro Rosso Australian GP Preview
Caterham Australian GP Preview
Marussia Australian GP Preview

Grosjean fastest for Lotus on second day of final Barcelona test

By Berthold Bouman

Grosjean fastest for Lotus on second day of final Barcelona test - Photo: Lotus F1Romain Grosjean was fastest today for Lotus on the second day of the final Barcelona pre-season test days with a time of 1m22.716, in the morning the Frenchman caused a red flag as his Lotus came to an unexpected halt on the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.

He was slowest yesterday and said about his last day of testing, “Even though the weather was far from ideal it was a pretty good day for us and it’s certainly a better feeling to end the session with the fastest time on the board rather than the slowest!”

Like yesterday, he remained optimistic ahead of the opening round in Melbourne, “We had strong reliability again today and the E21 feels good in all conditions, which is very promising for the season ahead. Of course, I wish I could have more time in the car before the season starts, but if we’re in the same position on the monitors when we get to Australia I’ll be very happy indeed.”

Although it was drier than yesterday, the weather again affected the test programmes today, most teams wanted to test the so-called Melbourne configuration, the configuration of the car as it will be on the grid for the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, which will take place in two weeks’ time.

Grosjean beat Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-28 by 0.465s, Grosjean set his time on the soft Pirellis, Button on the mediums. McLaren tested a number of different set-up configurations, and in the afternoon evaluated technical upgrades during longer runs.

Pastor Maldonado - Photo: Williams F1

Pastor Maldonado – Photo: Williams F1

Third was Pastor Maldonado in the Williams FW35, he was nine-tenth of a second slower than pace setter Grosjean. “I had a good feeling in the car but we still have things we can improve,” said Maldonado. “This afternoon we were able to complete some aero evaluations, with particular focus on trying some different front wings. We now have enough data to make some decisions on that, so I’m looking forward to getting some dry running in over the weekend.”

Triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel was fourth for Red Bull after completing 65 laps in the RB9. “I didn’t do that many laps today, but to be honest the weather wasn’t great and it was a pretty rough day in terms of the wind,” said Vettel. “It’s very cold as well. The tyres aren’t really working properly and I think everybody is suffering the same problem, struggling to make the tyres last for more than a lap,” he added.

Nico Hulkenberg was fifth fastest today in the new Sauber, he too experienced problems due to the weather, “It was a difficult day with changing track conditions, and it was very windy as well. This made it very challenging to do precise testing and get perfect results, but I think we made the best out of it and gathered a lot of data which the engineers can now analyse. I’m satisfied with the pace we had in dry conditions, however, we need to do more work on the intermediate tyres.”

Daniel Ricciardo in the garage - Photo: Toro Rosso

Daniel Ricciardo in the garage – Photo: Toro Rosso

Returnee Adrian Sutil felt at home in the Force India VJM06 and took sixth spot after completing 62 laps. “I ran the full wets, the intermediates and it was good to discover the crossover point with the slick tyres,” he said. “I only ran the medium compound dry tyres today, but it was difficult to do too much set-up work because the wind was affecting the aero balance quite a lot. Overall I felt positive today and whenever I went out on track the lap times were competitive.”

Daniel Ricciardo was in the car for Toro Rosso and took seventh place, while Max Chilton was eighth for Marussia. Further down the order was Dutchman Giedo van der Garde in the Caterham, he had technical problems at the end of his stint and caused a red flag after his car stopped on the Spanish circuit.

“We had a technical issue that cut into our run plan so we switched from the full race simulation we were going to run to more set-up work and tyre evaluation. Unfortunately the rain came back again with half an hour to go, which again meant we had to change the plan but the forecast for the last couple of days is better so hopefully we can get back to the original run plan and finish the tests as we’d planned,” reported van der Garde.

Max Chilton on the full wet Pirellis - Photo: Marussia F1

Max Chilton on the full wet Pirellis – Photo: Marussia F1

Nico Rosberg did a full race simulation in the Mercedes today, and therefore didn’t set a representative time, the German landed tenth place and commented, “It was great to run in the wet today which I have not done so far during our pre-season testing programme. The car felt good in those conditions and it’s important to have had this experience as there is always the chance of rain in Melbourne.”

And he added, “I am happy with my mileage today as every single lap is important for the learning process, and so overall it was a positive day for me here in Montmelo.”

Fernando Alonso also tried a full race simulation, his efforts were also  hampered by the rain in Barcelona, and the Spaniard was 11th and last after completing 102 laps. Ferrari tested a new exhaust configuration, new front wing end plates and a new diffuser.

Barcelona testing Day 2 – March 1

Pos  Driver              Team            Time       Gap        Laps
 1.  Mark Webber         Red Bull        1m22.693               90
 2.  Lewis Hamilton      Mercedes        1m24.348   + 1.655    113
 3.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso      1m25.017   + 2.324     59
 4.  Valtteri Bottas     Williams        1m26.458   + 3.765     85
 5.  Sergio Perez        McLaren         1m26.538   + 3.845    100
 6.  Esteban Gutierrez   Sauber          1m26.574   + 3.881     92
 7.  Paul di Resta       Force India     1m27.107   + 4.414     57
 8.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari         1m27.541   + 4.848    112
 9.  Max Chilton         Marussia        1m28.166   + 5.473     78
10.  Charles Pic         Caterham        1m28.644   + 5.951     83
11.  Romain Grosjean     Lotus           1m34.928   + 12.235    52

Alonso quickest for Ferrari on day three of Barcelona testing

By Berthold Bouman

Alonso quickest for Ferrari on day three of Barcelona testing - Photo: FerrariFernando Alonso was fastest today at the Circuit de Catalunya, he lapped the circuit in 1m21.875, a time recorded on the soft Pirellis. Despite the low temperatures, Alonso was able to carry out all the tests in the F138, the focus was again on testing the 2013-spec Pirellis.

“Today we concentrated on a comparison of the compounds, starting with the soft and moving on to the hard in the afternoon. The track was colder than yesterday, especially in the morning, which made it harder to adapt the car and find the right grip level,” said Alonso.

And the Spaniard added, “Once again this year, the tyres will be one of the crucial aspects to manage: they are softer and quicker, but also less consistent and they degrade rapidly with every lap. We will have a lot of work to do to understand how best to balance the car, but that applies to all the teams.”

Second was Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber C32, he put a time of 1m22.160 on the clock after completing 92 laps. “It was a positive day. We got a lot of testing done with just minor problems,” said Hulkenberg. He too tested the soft Pirellis, and commented, “I ran the soft tyres in the morning here in Barcelona for the first time to get a feeling for those, which was interesting. The car is performing pretty well, and I‘m as happy as I can be.”

Romain Grosjean on third spot today - Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean on third spot today – Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean was on duty for Lotus today, and he again confirmed the potential of the E21 by conquering third place. After completing 119 laps he said with a smile, “I think I’m ready for a sleep after so many laps in the car! It’s good to see reliability today to add to the pace we’ve already seen in the car. We’re still at an early stage of development so it’s really promising to see where we are.”

About the Pirellis he said, “The 2013 tyres certainly feel different from last year’s but already we’re starting to understand them. I hope it’s dry tomorrow so we can get some more laps under our belt.”

Fourth on today’s list is Nico Rosberg in the new Mercedes, he too experienced problems due to the low temperatures, “We didn’t have a perfect morning and it was tough out there with the low temperatures. They were causing a lot of tyre graining, which made it difficult to do much useful testing. It was a few degrees warmer after the break and that gave a completely different picture. In general, I’m pleased with what we’ve achieved this week — I did a lot of mileage and the team has done a good job over the winter.”

Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas shared testing duties today, Maldonado was fifth and Bottas sixth, the difference between the pair was just 0.151s. Bottas again showed he is very competitive and the Finn said, “We started the afternoon with some shorter runs but we still haven’t seen the full potential of the FW35. I have been able to improve some things in my driving since yesterday, but there are still things I can work on compared to Pastor.”

Not much to write home about for McLaren and Jenson Button, yesterday Perez set the fastest time, today Button was seventh, almost a second off the pace. After the lunch break McLaren decided ‘to carry out some larger mechanical changes’, which meant Button had to wait until 15:00hrs local time before he could resume testing.

Adrian Sutil finally back in a F1 car again - Photo: Force India

Adrian Sutil finally back in a F1 car again – Photo: Force India

Adrian Sutil made his return to Formula One today and after 108 laps in the Force India VJM06 landed eighth place, not bad considering he hasn’t driven a Formula One car for almost 18 months now. A happy Sutil said, “I found that I was able to get back up to speed quickly and set some good times before lunch. In the afternoon we did some long runs and also introduced the hard compound tyre, which feels quite different to the soft and mediums.”

Sutil had never tried the new Pirellis and said, “We started off by doing some aero work this morning when the track was quite cold and green. Later on we moved to some performance work and tyre testing, and feeling all the different Pirelli compounds was something quite new for me.”

It was Mark Webber’s turn to drive the Red Bull RB9, he too put in a lot of laps, this time without any reliability problems. “We had a pretty good run today, we’re learning plenty, so a positive outing for us,” said the Australian. “Overall the car ran smoothly and once again we amassed a huge amount of data for the guys back at the factory to go through.”

Asked who has the fastest car during pre-season testing he said, “As usual at tests, the question of the pecking order comes up all the time but, honestly, I have no idea.” He thinks the new tyres make it difficult to make any predictions, “There are a few quick cars out there, but in winter testing it’s so hard to say if anyone’s better than anyone else, especially with the tyres going off the way they are — you’re losing four or five seconds over the course of a stint — so figuring out who’s doing what is pretty difficult.”

Behind the wheel of the Toro Rosso STR8 was Jean-Eric Vergne, the Frenchman took tenth place, while Max Chilton took 11th spot for Marussia.

KERS problems for Caterham today - Photo: Caterham F1

KERS problems for Caterham today – Photo: Caterham F1

Dutchman Giedo van der Garde was twelfth and last today, after completing 93 laps in the Caterham. “We had a technical issue in the afternoon which meant we were running without KERS for the whole session after lunch but despite that we were still able to try a number of different set-ups that give us more to work on tomorrow and several options to work through at the next test.”

Rain has been forecasted for tomorrow at the Circuit de Catalunya, and although teams would rather like to test in dry conditions, the rain could also provide valuable information about how all new Formula One cars perform in wet conditions.

Barcelona testing Day 3 – February 21

Pos   Driver                  Team            Time       Gap       Laps
  1.  Fernando Alonso         Ferrari         1m21.875              97
  2.  Nico Hulkenberg         Sauber          1m22.160   + 0.285    91
  3.  Romain Grosjean         Lotus           1m22.188   + 0.313   119
  4.  Nico Rosberg            Mercedes        1m22.611   + 0.736   108
  5.  Pastor Maldonado        Williams        1m22.675   + 0.800    79
  6.  Valtteri Bottas         Williams        1m22.826   + 0.951    68
  7.  Jenson Button           McLaren         1m22.840   + 0.965    71
  8.  Adrian Sutil            Force India     1m22.877   + 1.002    78
  9.  Mark Webber             Red Bull        1m23.024   + 1.149   108
 10.  Jean-Eric Vergne        Toro Rosso      1m23.366   + 1.491   106
 11.  Max Chilton             Marussia        1m25.690   + 3.815    58
 12.  Giedo van der Garde     Caterham        1m26.177   + 4.302    93

Grosjean fastest during second day of testing at Jerez, Hamilton crashes

By Berthold Bouman

Grosjean fastest during second day of testing at Jerez, Hamilton crashes - Photo: Lotus F1Romain Grosjean set the fastest time for Lotus today during the second day of testing at Jerez, the Frenchman put a fastest lap of 1m18.218 on the clock with the new Lotus E21. Paul di Resta was second for Force India, while Daniel Ricciardo took a surprise third place with the Toro Rosso STR8.

Grosjean was optimistic after two test days, “For me, the whole test has gone well which bodes well for the year ahead. My feeling in the car is good and it was great to be at the top of the times. Even if it doesn’t mean anything during testing, it’s still good to be at the front.”

Romain Grosjean leaves the Lotus garage in the E21 - Photo: Lotus F1

Romain Grosjean leaves the Lotus garage in the E21 – Photo: Lotus F1

A productive day for di Resta and Force India, the Scot completed 95 laps, and he commented, “We got through the programme without any issues. We did some more good aero work this morning and then tried some set-up changes on the car.”

And he added, “Testing is a good chance to make bigger changes than you would make during a race weekend and that’s allowed us to really see how they affect the car and has given us valuable data on tyre performance. The handling of the car so far is good and I’m feeling comfortable after two days in the car.”

In the afternoon Force India reserve driver James Rossiter took over the wheel from di Resta, and he finished the day in tenth place.

Paul di Resta second fastest for Force India today - Photo: Force india

Paul di Resta second fastest for Force India today – Photo: Force India

Of course Toro Rosso’s Ricciardo was very pleased with today’s result, “A few more laps today and a bit of a clearer picture of what the STR8 is like. We completed our programme, with short runs in the morning and longer ones in the afternoon.”

And Toro Rosso of course also tested the Pirellis today, “We also tried the medium Pirelli, having only used the hard yesterday, so at least for this circuit, we have established a good compare of the two compounds.”

Mark Webber was fourth in the Red Bull RB9 after he completed 101 laps, almost the race distance of two Grands Prix, but he was over a second slower than pace-setter Grosjean.

Nico Hulkenberg was fifth for Sauber and he was positive about his Sauber debut, “For the second day in a row it was pretty successful. We went through a lot of test items and did a comparison of the compounds — soft, medium and hard — which was quite interesting. Otherwise I was able to continue my familiarisation with the car and I did some long runs. Like yesterday, it was a positive day.”

Plenty of drama for Mercedes in Jerez - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Plenty of drama for Mercedes in Jerez – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Not a good day for Lewis Hamilton, who crashed after 30 minutes in the Mercedes W04. He ploughed through the gravel trap and ended up in the barrier at Turn 6. He was unhurt but the car sustained quite some damage. Not a good start for Mercedes, as the car caught fire yesterday, the fire was caused by a faulty wiring loom.

Hamilton was sidelined for the rest of the day as Mercedes were trying to locate the problem, it later emerged a brake line to the right-rear calliper had broken. Hamilton commented on his unfortunate Mercedes debut, “These things happen and it’s all part of testing. Of course, it’s better that we get these small issues out of the way sooner rather than later, and the guys are working really hard to overcome them.”

About the W04 he said, “From the few short laps that I completed this morning, my general feeling was very positive. I got a good understanding of where the base of the car is and, whilst we need to do work in certain areas, it was good to have some laps to get a feel for what those areas are. I’ve told the guys that we just need to keep pushing and I know that we all will be doing that.”

A bit of a disappointment was Sergio Perez’s debut for McLaren, he finished the day in seventh place with the MP4-28, yesterday his team colleague Jenson Button took the fastest time of the day for McLaren.

Felipe Massa was kind of invisible today, but he duly lapped the circuit and finally finished the day in eighth place with the Ferrari F138.

Williams encountered a clutch problem this morning, but it was quickly fixed and the Grove-based team today concentrated on the Pirelli tyres, Maldonado was ninth fastest today, “We did some good running this afternoon going through our planned tests but there is still a lot to do to understand the tyres even better.”

Giedo van der Garde in the CT03 - Photo: Caterham F1

Giedo van der Garde in the CT03 – Photo: Caterham F1

Giedo van der Garde was 11th in the Caterham today, he also tested the Pirellis. “In the morning session we ran through a number of aero programs and then switched to comparing setup options on a variety of the tyre compounds. I think we found a good direction in the last run in the afternoon so now the team can keep making progress in the next two days,” he commented.

And 12th and last was Luiz Razia, who jumped straight into the Marussia MR02 after the Anglo-Russian team confirmed earlier today the Brazilian had joined the team. Unfortunately he still needs some time to get used to the car, as he was 5.319 seconds slower than pace-setter Grosjean.

Jerez testing times – Day 2 – February 6

Pos  Driver                Team          Time                 Laps
 1.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus         1m18.218              95
 2.  Paul di Resta         Force India   1m19.003   + 0.785    95
 3.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso    1m19.134   + 0.916    83
 4.  Mark Webber           Red Bull      1m19.338   + 1.120   101
 5.  Nico Hulkenberg       Sauber        1m19.502   + 1.284    99
 6.  Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes      1m19.519   + 1.301    15
 7.  Sergio Perez          McLaren       1m19.572   + 1.354    81
 8.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari       1m19.914   + 1.696    78
 9.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams      1m20.693   + 2.475    71
10.  James Rossiter        Force India   1m21.273   + 3.055    19
11.  Giedo van der Garde   Caterham      1m21.311   + 3.093    88
12.  Luiz Razia            Marussia      1m23.537   + 5.319    31

Button tops time sheets for McLaren after first day of testing at Jerez

By Berthold Bouman

Button tops time sheets for McLaren after first day of testing at JerezAlthough plagued by technical problems, McLaren set the pace today at the Circuito de Jerez in Spain during the first day of pre-season testing, as Jenson Button took the fastest time overall with a lap of 1m18.861. Second was Mark Webber in the Red Bull, while Romain Grosjean was third fastest for Lotus.

The new McLaren MP4-28 suffered from a fuel pump failure this morning, limiting the 2009 World Champion’s number of laps, but he nevertheless scored the fastest time of the day during the final minutes of the first day.

Button fastest today for McLaren - Photo: McLaren

Button fastest today for McLaren – Photo: McLaren

Button commented, “To be fair, I was surprised when I saw it on the dash, but it doesn’t mean anything. The important thing is there’s a nice feeling in the car and lap times mean nothing right now. They don’t even mean anything at the last test, it’s when you get to the first race that we’ll have a very different car, as every team will, and that’s when we need to really show how quick we are.”

Australian Webber was the first to drive the Red Bull RB9, he completed 73 laps. He said about the new car, “It was pretty good. As Adrian said at the launch, there haven’t been big changes to the regulations this year and the car is an evolution of the one we finished with last season, so there were no big surprises.”

He also tried the new Pirellis, “We started understanding the tyres and there were a lot of positives. The car feels similar to last year’s, so the main difference is the tyres.” And he added, “With these tyres you’re always on your toes.”

Mark Webber happy with new RB9 - Photo: Red Bull Racing

Mark Webber happy with new RB9 – Photo: Red Bull Racing

Grosjean tested the Lotus E21, and he was satisfied with his findings, “The feeling is good from the E21; it feels very similar to the E20 from behind the wheel, even if it does look different from the outside. Once again Enstone has produced a car that is quick from the very first lap.”

Also Lotus’ Technical Director James Allison reckoned it had been a good day, “Everything has looked positive so far. The feedback from Romain has been encouraging and on the engineering side there have been no particular dramas of note. Overall it was a promising first day for this car and we hope to continue in this vein for the next days of testing.”

The Force India piloted by Paul di Resta was quick and the Scot took fourth fastest time in the VJM06. He was satisfied with his first day of testing, “A positive first day and we managed to cover lots of laps — so that’s the most important thing. I felt very comfortable all day and we managed to get through the programme as we focussed on collecting aero data and understanding how well the car correlates with our simulation tools at the factory.”

Force India of course also had their first taste of the new Pirellis, and asked how they compared to last year’s compounds he said, “The new compounds are quite different with the new construction and I’ve already felt a difference with the balance of the car in the low and high-speed parts of the lap.”

Felipe Massa on a different planet - Photo: Ferrari

Felipe Massa: New car is on a different planet – Photo: Ferrari

Felipe Massa will be doing most of the test work at Jerez this week, and the Brazilian completed the usual installation laps before he started the important job of data acquisition, he completed 64 laps and finished the day in sixth place, some one and a half second off the fastest time set by Button.

Massa commented about the new Ferrari, “If you compare to last year it’s on a completely different planet. Last year I remember we were struggling a lot to drive the car; it was difficult to keep the car on the track. So this year the base on the car is completely different to last year. The car is much more balanced, I felt a good direction at the rear of the car as well in terms of traction.”

Also problems for Nico Rosberg who was eighth fastest today, as his Mercedes ground to a halt due to an electrical problem, there was a small fire and, after a thorough investigation, Mercedes later stated the fire originated from a faulty wiring loom. Rosberg, however, remained optimistic and said, “These hiccups are just part of the game. During the laps I completed this morning, I had a good feeling with the car and it felt solid.”

Nico Rosberg in the new Mercedes FW03 - Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Nico Rosberg in the new Mercedes FW03 – Photo: Mercedes-Benz

Pastor Maldonado completed 84 laps today at Jerez in the old FW34 car, today Williams basically tested the new systems for the FW35 and also tested the new Pirellis to gather data for the FW35 development program. Technical Director Mike Coughlan commented, “We concentrated on running some new systems in preparation for the FW35, as well as some planned set-up changes. It was also interesting to see the new Pirelli tyres in action and having the FW34 here helped us to really understand how the tyres are working.”

Two rookies made their debut today, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde. Dutchman van der Garde completed 64 laps in the Caterham and took tenth place. “Day one is all about making sure everything in the car works as it’s supposed to and apart from a couple of minor issues with the floor we didn’t really have to make any changes to the car straight out of the box,” van der Garde commented.

About the new car he said, “It’s obviously far too early to make any judgements on the performance levels we can expect from the 2013 package but compared to the car I drove in Brazil it feels like we’ve made some good progress over the winter.”

Chilton caused a red flag after he went off at the end of the back straight and ended up in the gravel. The culprit seemed to be the right rear suspension, apparently it had broken and Marussia is currently investigating the matter.

“I’m sure the team will get on top of the suspension issue very quickly so we can all pick up where we left off and start putting some more miles on what is obviously a very promising package,” Chilton said.

Team Principal John Booth added, “In terms of the specific issue we encountered this afternoon, we will naturally ensure we conduct a thorough inspection of the component in question and see what solution we can bring to recommence our programme.”

Jerez testing times – Day 1 – February 5

Pos  Driver                Team          Time                Laps
 1.  Jenson Button         McLaren       1m18.861             37
 2.  Mark Webber           Red Bull      1m19.709   + 0.848   73
 3.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus         1m19.796   + 0.935   54
 4.  Paul di Resta         Force India   1m20.343   + 1.482   89
 5.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso    1m20.401   + 1.540   70
 6.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari       1m20.536   + 1.675   64
 7.  Nico Hulkenberg       Sauber        1m20.699   + 1.838   79
 8.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes      1m20.846   + 1.985   11
 9.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams      1m20.864   + 2.003   84
10.  Giedo van der Garde   Caterham      1m21.915   + 3.054   64
11.  Max Chilton           Marussia      1m24.176   + 5.315   29

Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean talk about the Lotus E21

By Berthold Bouman

Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean talk about the Lotus E21 - Photo: Lotus F1Kimi Raikkonen — “2012 was a good start; let’s see what we can do in 2013.”

Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean unveiled the Lotus 2013 contender today at their Enstone headquarters, both Lotus drivers were optimistic ahead of the 2013 season. Raikkonen recently signed up for another year with the Anglo-French outfit, and he feels pretty good after a successful 2012 campaign.

Asked about his second season with Lotus he said, “Last year was my return to Formula One and it went pretty well. This year will be my second with Lotus F1 Team and my eleventh season overall in Formula One so I’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect. I’m sure it will be an exciting season and I’m sure there’ll be lots to talk about.”

Kimi Raikkonen - Photo: Lotus F1Raikkonen is adamant he can still learn as a driver, but he feels he’s not a rookie anymore, “I don’t think you ever stop learning, but there is less to learn than if you’re a rookie. I don’t think I could say I’m a rookie. We had new tracks last year; that’s always something nice to learn and for me best learnt on the tracks themselves. There will be a new car which we’ll want to develop and get working at its best. There are always changes in the sport; some small, some big. Generally everything’s pretty similar, and the feeling of racing on track is pretty familiar.”

Of course the Finn has set some targets for the 2013 season — he will do the best job he can — but he has no idea if the new Lotus E21 is a winner or not. “I’ve not driven the E21 yet so it’s difficult to say what could or could not be possible. We know we had a good car last season, but everyone is working hard to make the best car. I will be working with the team to help get the car as strong as we can, then in Melbourne we’ll have our first taste of results. It’s a long season from there. 2012 was a good start; let’s see what we can do in 2013,” he said.

The 2007 World Champion thinks it is possible to win another title, but does Lotus have what it takes to win a championship? “Yes, I think they do,” he said, and added, “Clear from working with them that they are racers, and you can see in their history that they’ve won championships. Nothing I saw last year made me think that another championship was impossible in the future. Of course, there is some pretty tough competition out there and everyone wants to win. The team have beaten everyone before and there’s nothing to say they can’t do it again.”

What does he think of his team mate, Romain Grosjean? We had a pretty good relationship last year and it’s clear he’s fast and motivated. On track we were pretty close to each other at times but we didn’t have any issues. It’s good when you have a team mate who’s fast and works hard. I think we should be fine in 2013.”

Romain Grosjean — “I want to score a lot of points for the team.”

Romain Grosjean - Photo: Lotus F1After a very eventful 2012 season, Grosjean is looking forward to another year with Lotus. It wasn’t always easy for the Frenchman in 2012 as he was heavily criticized about his controversial first lap accidents, but he thinks 2013 will be different.

“It’s clearly different for me this year. I have much more experience in Formula One and even if I knew the team before, I now know how to work with the engineers much better on the technical side. I also know all the tracks and understand better the various challenges of a season,” he said.

Asked about his objectives for this season he replied, “I can clearly say I want to score a lot of points for the team — everybody knows that — but I think it would be wrong for me to say I want to finish in a particular position in the championship. I really want to jump out of the car as many times as possible thinking that I did a good job.”

About the new E21 Grosjean said, “All through last year, the feedback given about the E20 was interpreted by the development team for the E21. This means there’s a lot of information from me and Kimi which went into this car. It’s difficult to say after the season ‘we would like this or that’ for next year. I think it’s more about the work done during the whole season; discussing this or that, or an idea about this or that. After twenty races you know more-or-less what has been good with the car and what hasn’t. Hopefully we’ve made the right calls for this year.”

And finally, with 2012 in the back of his mind, does Grosjean have something to prove this season? “I think everyone is waiting to see if I’m able to be consistent, which is where I was lacking a little bit last year. I know it and I’ll do everything I can to prove to people that I’m able to achieve this goal!”