Sebastian Vettel assumed his familiar position at the top of the time sheets on Friday. He was more than a second clear of the day’s runner-up, Fernando Alonso. It was difficult to read much significance into the wide array of lap times recorded during the day. While Vettel put down some quali-style hot laps, other drivers seemed to be focusing on longer runs with heavier fuel loads.
Another factor which skewed overall times was the weather. The track was damp in the morning from rain. Many drivers laid down their quickest laps as the track was drying, late in the morning session, then made longer runs in the afternoon. Michael Schumacher ran a race distance simulation, complete with pit stops, which meant that he was running with a heavy fuel load much of the time. Mercedes was testing more for reliability than pace.
In a change plans, Vitaly Petrov was forced to share the Renault with Nick Heidfeld, although the Russian had initially been slated to have the car to himself for the day. Heidfeld, recently confirmed as Robert Kubica’s pinch-hitter, worked on installation laps and pit stops. His quickest lap was a full 20 seconds off of Vettel’s pace. Once Petrov took over, the car began to suffer from software glitches.
All in all, there were no conclusions to be drawn from Friday’s tests, beyond the fact that both Red Bull and Ferrari can be quick when they want to be, while the other teams continue to work in different areas prior to the season opener in Bahrain. In fact, it was the worried prospects for Bahrain’s actually being staged this year that dominated paddock talk on Friday. With the political situation in the Middle Eastern country looking increasingly unstable, speculation is becoming more prevalent that the FIA will cancel the event.
Friday test times:
1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:24.374, 37 laps
2. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:25.485, 101
3. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso, 1:25.638, 57
4. Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, 1:25.641, 78
5. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:26.365, 77
6. Paul di Resta, Force India, 1:26.575, 26
7. Rubens Barrichello, Williams, 1:26.912, 52
8. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:27.512, 90
9. Narain Karthikeyan, HRT, 1:28.393, 116
10. Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, 1:30.065, 54
11. Jerome d’Ambrosio, Virgin, 1:30.950, 116
12. Vitaly Petrov, Renault, 1:35.174, 20
13. Nick Heidfeld, Renault, 1:44.324, 27