With the chequered flag having waved to signify the end of the Thursday’s running at the Circuit de Catalunya, there is no doubt that Fernando Alonso and Ferrari will be incredibly happy with their day’s work.
Alonso was undoubtedly the stand-out performer in the morning, with the Spaniard setting a series of impressive and consistent times on the soft tyre and his best time of 1:21.875 remaining unbeaten throughout the day.
Although Alonso’s time was just shy of Sergio Perez’s benchmark from yesterday, Ferrari can draw confidence from the fact that they appear to have fixed their problems over one lap and are now able to challenge their rivals in this department, a weakness that almost certainly played a part in costing them the championship last year.
Nico Hulkenberg also showed Sauber’s hand over a single lap with an impressive time that was around a quarter of a second off Alonso’s pace. Having spent the first two days of the test concentrating on long runs, the Swiss team will be confident they have a car that can challenge for Q3 on a regular basis this season.
Romain Grosjean was undoubtedly the busiest driver on track on Thursday, with the Frenchman completing 119 laps which included a full race distance simulation in the afternoon. Grosjean set the third quickest time and continued Lotus’ relentless appearances near the front end of the timesheets in pre-season.
Williams continued their strong start to testing with their new car, with Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas sharing driving duties and finishing up fifth and sixth respectively. It has been a positive start to life with the FW35, but those question marks over the legality of the team’s exhaust will linger on over the coming weeks.
Elsewhere, McLaren and Red Bull had low-key days as they focused on long runs rather than going for the outright pace they’d shown on the first two days. Adrian Sutil had a good first day’s running on his return to Force India as he completed 75 laps and ended the day in eighth place. It remains to be seen whether the German lands the team’s remaining race seat as he fights it out with Jules Bianchi for that honour. Jean-Eric Vergne, Max Chilton and Giedo van der Garde completed the times.
With Friday’s running looking likely to be a washout, we could well have seen the last meaningful action of the second pre-season test.
1) Fernando Alonso (Esp) Ferrari – 1:21.875 (97 laps)
2) Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari – 1:22.160 (91 laps)
3) Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus-Renault – 1:22.188 (119 laps)
4) Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes – 1:22.611 (106 laps)
5) Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams-Renault – 1:22.675 (79 laps)
6) Valtteri Bottas (Ven) Williams-Renault – 1:22.826 (66 laps)
7) Jenson Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes – 1:22.840 (71 laps)
8) Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes – 1:22.877 (78 laps)
9) Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault – 1:23.024 (107 laps)
10) Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:23.366 (106 laps)
11) Max Chilton (GB) Marussia-Cosworth – 1:25.690 (56 laps)
12) Giedo van der Garde (Ned) Caterham-Renault – 1:26.177 (93 laps)