Felipe Massa’s pace on the third day of testing in Jerez will have given Ferrari fans every reason to be feeling positive ahead of the new season.
The Brazilian’s time of 1:17.879 was almost a second faster than second placed Nico Rosberg and was four tenths quicker than Romain Grosjean managed on a similar run on Wednesday. The Ferrari also experienced a consistent drop off in performance on the soft tyres on both quick runs Massa did, which will give the Scuderia a huge amount of confidence in the F138’s ability to manage its rubber.
While it is still far too early to proclaim that Ferrari will be at the front when the season starts, they will be delighted to have hit the ground running in testing this week and to have avoided any repeat of last year, when they were hopelessly off the pace in pre-season.
It was a much better day for the Mercedes team. Having had the first two days of testing blighted first by an electrical fire and then a brake failure that caused Lewis Hamilton to crash yesterday, Nico Rosberg managed a staggering 148 laps on Thursday without any trouble. To put it into perspective, that’s further than the distance from London to Paris and well over two full Grand Prix distances.
Red Bull and Lotus continued their solid starts to the testing season, with both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen getting good mileage under their belts. James Rossiter impressed for Force India at his first Formula One test in five years, while Jean-Eric Vergne continued Daniel Ricciardo’s strong showing earlier in the week by putting the Toro Rosso fifth.
Sauber’s rookie driver Esteban Gutierrez also had a highly productive day of running, with the young Mexican managing 110 laps which put him second only to Rosberg in the distance charts on day three.
The only team that has performed below par this week is Williams, who haven’t shown much in terms of pace over the three days of testing so far. However, they are still running a 2012-spec car so it’s impossible to draw any conclusions on the team from Grove until their new machine debuts in Barcelona in a couple of weeks time.
With Friday being the last day of testing at Jerez, you can expect more teams to chase a lap time and we may begin to get the first signs of something resembling a pecking order. The big question is will anyone get into the 1:16s, a time that was predicted by many (well by that, I mean me) to be reached by the end of the test?
1) Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari – 1:17.879 (85 laps)
2) Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes – 1:18.766 (148 laps)
3) Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault – 1:19.052 (102 laps)
4) Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus-Renault – 1:19.200 (40 laps)
5) Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:19.247 (85 laps)
6) James Rossiter (GB) Force India-Mercedes – 1:19.303 (42 laps)
7) Jenson Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes – 1:19.603 (83 laps)
8) Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari – 1:19.934 (110 laps)
9) Max Chilton (GB) Marussia-Cosworth – 1:21.269 (78 laps)
10) Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams-Renault – 1:21.575 (86 laps)
11) Charles Pic (Fra) Caterham-Renault – 1:22.352 (57 laps)
12) Paul di Resta (GB) Force India-Mercedes – 1:23.729 (7 laps)