Romain Grosjean became the first man to top two sessions in pre-season testing by clocking the fastest time around the Circuit de Catalunya on Friday.
The Frenchman’s time of 1:22.716 was half a second quicker than Jenson Button, with Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top five.
Track conditions were once again far from ideal in the morning session as overnight rain made the circuit wet. As a result, the best times were not seen until the track dried in the afternoon, although running was once again compromised in the latter stages of the day as showers hit the circuit.
Lotus will be happy with their day’s work. Having regularly troubled the top of the timesheets during testing, they have clearly made a step forward from 2012 and look in much better shape. Grosjean’s times in the afternoon were consistent and as one of the better teams in terms of managing tyre degradation last year, they will be confident as the first race approaches.
Button also had a strong day in the McLaren, but despite looking one of the strongest teams throughout testing, the car appears to be lacking speed on long runs compared to that of the Red Bull and Ferrari.
Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso propped up the rear, although that will not be a concern to either them or their teams as they were concentrating on long runs when the track conditions were at their peak.
One team that will be having strong concerns is Caterham. The car appears to have gone backwards from last year and they are struggling with reliability issues, a fact further reinforced when Giedo van der Garde’s car ground to a halt in the final hour of running. With the battle for tenth place in the constructors’ championship with Marussia expected to rumble through the season, it is not the start to the new season they would have wished for.
The weather forecast looks much better for the weekend than it has been for the first two days, so with just Saturday and Sunday left to test their cars, we should expect a frantic weekend as the teams look to extract every last bit of performance from their 2013 packages as the first race approaches.
1) Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus-Renault – 1:22.716 (88 laps)
2) Jenson Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes – 1:23.181 (72 laps)
3) Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams-Renault – 1:23.628 (75 laps)
4) Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault – 1:23.743 (65 laps)
5) Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari – 1:23.744 (79 laps)
6) Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes – 1:24.215 (62 laps)
7) Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:25.483 (61 laps)
8) Max Chilton (GB) Marussia-Cosworth – 1:25.598 (75 laps)
9) Giedo van der Garde (Ned) Caterham-Renault – 1:26.316 (48 laps)
10) Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes – 1:26.655 (120 laps)
11) Fernando Alonso (Esp) Ferrari – 1:27.878 (102 laps)