Testing resumed at Jerez today under predominantly sunny skies. The lap times in general provided no surprises, although a late low-fuel run by Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber was impressive. He was the only driver to record a lap in the 1:19’s. The Sauber was also the runner up all three days in the recent Valencia test. Whether or not these are nothing more than low-fuel glory runs, or are indicative of the Sauber’s relative performance, remains to be seen.
Also impressive was Sebastian Buemi, in the Toro Rosso, who was at the top of the time sheets for most of the day, until Kobayashi made his hot lap at the closing moments of the afternoon session. He was one of four drivers to set times in the 1:20’s.
Jenson Button seemed to be settling into the McLaren, finally. The Briton was third quickest on the day. “For me today was a better day,” Button told Autosport, “because we could go out in the dry and it’s the first time I’ve felt good in the car, good enough within the car to actually do set-up work and find a balance with the car and also work with different components. Today was a positive day.”
Likewise, Nico Hulkenberg seemed to be picking up speed in the Williams. He and Tonio Liuzi, in the Force India, were the only other drivers to set lap times in the 1:20’s.
It must be said, however, that there was a limit as to what could be deduced from lap times regarding relative performance, as the teams were running different test programs. Both Mercedes and Alonso, for example, with Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso at the wheel, respectively, completed long runs with heavy-fuel loads, and as a result their times were only sixth and seventh quickest, respectively.
Red Bull, with Mark Webber at the wheel, was on the bottom third of the roster again, although no one at Red Bull seemed terribly concerned about this, and Webber indicated that he was satisfied with the performance of the RB6 thus far. “If feels good,” Webber told Autosport. “We will be somewhere in the hunt. There are a few other people that might be a bit quicker or a bit slower, it’s hard to say, but we feel that we are going okay at the moment.”
Robert Kubica, in the Renault, was actually a shade quicker than Webber, although he and the Aussie were both in the low 1:22’s. And bringing up the rear again was Timo Glock in the Virgin Racing VR-01. The German was a full ten seconds adrift of Kubayashi’s quickest lap, although it must be said that the German lost his front wing after only 11 laps, and the team, who had insufficient spare parts to remount the lost component, were unable to run any additional laps. Technical director Nick Wirth said, “We’re missing one or two spare parts which will hopefully arrive this evening.
The afternoon session ended five minutes early when Button’s McLaren stopped on the track with an undisclosed problem, bringing out a red flag.