Friday brought the curtain down on four days of running at the first pre-season test in Jerez.
Kimi Raikkonen’s time of 1:18.148 ensured that Lotus topped the timesheets for the second time this week, but Sebastian Vettel’s time of 1:18.565 on the hard tyres this morning was extremely impressive and looks to have sent out an ominous message to the rest of field.
Splitting Raikkonen and Vettel was the still miraculously non-confirmed Jules Bianchi in the Force India, who followed up strong runs from Paul di Resta and James Rossiter earlier on this week with a time less than a tenth of a second slower than the Lotus. All indications at this stage seem to point towards the Silverstone-based outfit having a much stronger car this year than last.
Lewis Hamilton almost matched Nico Rosberg’s impressive lap tally from yesterday by lapping the Jerez circuit 145 times, which signals a good recovery by Mercedes over the last couple of days having seen the first two days of running blighted by mechanical failures.
Ferrari had their first major setback of pre-season after Pedro de la Rosa broke down with a gearbox problem after just two laps. Helped by a delay of almost an hour when a pothole was discovered on the circuit, leading to today’s session being extended by half an hour, the Scuderia recovered and de la Rosa managed to do a respectable 50 laps in the three hours running it had before the end of the day.
Although de la Rosa finished down in eighth in the time sheets, his job was simply to gain an understanding of the car to enable him to carry out his simulator duties with more ease so he was never going to be chasing the lap times.
Now for a quick stab at a pecking order from the first test, which could well be wildly off the mark given there’s only been four days of running but is the best indication there’s been from the action we’ve had.
It looks like Red Bull are looking strongest once again. The RB9 has shown great long run pace so far and according to BBC technical analyst Gary Anderson has “10% more downforce than anything else I’ve seen”. Lotus, Ferrari and McLaren look very closely matched behind them, with Lotus perhaps having a slight edge on their two rivals.
Mercedes look to be in a similar position to last year, but Force India and Toro Rosso have shown good pace and look like they may well have leapfrogged Sauber in the pecking order, although a lot can change before the first race. Marussia and Caterham predictably bring up the rear, with Marussia perhaps having a slight advantage. Williams haven’t been included due to them not running their new car in Jerez.
With Barcelona being a better indicator of all-round car performance and coming off the back of four strong days of running in Jerez, we will have a much clearer idea of the pecking order in a couple of weeks.
The Pecking Order (My – probably wrong – prediction)
1) Red Bull
3) McLaren and Ferrari
6) Force India
7) Sauber and Toro Rosso
* Williams not included
1) Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus-Renault – 1m18.148s (83 laps)
2) Jules Bianchi (Fra) Force India-Mercedes – 1m18.175s (56 laps)
3) Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault – 1m18.565s (96 laps)
4) Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari – 1m18.669s (142 laps)
5) Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1m18.760s (92 laps)
6) Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes – 1m18.905s (145 laps)
7) Sergio Perez (Mex) McLaren-Mercedes – 1m18.944s (98 laps)
8) Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams-Renault – 1m19.851s (91 laps)
9) Pedro de la Rosa (Esp) Ferrari – 1m20.316s (50 laps)
10) Charles Pic (Fra) Caterham-Renault – 1m21.105s (109 laps)
11) Luiz Razia (Bra) Marussia-Cosworth – 1m21.226s (82 laps)
12) Paul di Resta (GB) Force India-Mercedes – 1m23.435s (49 laps)