On the final day of the penultimate group test before the Australian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso has placed his Renault at the top of the timing sheets after completing 129 laps of the Jerez circuit. Alonso was the only driver to post a sub-80s lap time and led Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari and Nick Heidfeld’s BMW. It wasn’t a perfect test day for the teams though, as high winds hampered efforts to refine set ups and make comparisons between runs.
Fernando Alonso was pleased with his day though and his efforts put team mate Nelson Piquet Jr in the shadows. Although it should be noted that it is unclear what the pair have been concentrating on during their two days each of running, and Alonso may have been running significantly lighter than Piquet.
Kimi Raikkonen posted the second fastest lap of the day, just 0.3s shy of Alonso, while Nick Heidfeld slotted his BMW into third, less than 0.2s further back. Jarno Trulli completed another hefty load of miles for Toyota and was placed fourth as the circuit closed. The strong and reliable runs from the TF109 indicate, funnily enough, a strong and reliable car. Compared to previous seasons, Toyota actually look to be quite good thus far. The real test will come in Australia at the end of the month, but the Japanese team could be sitting on a very handy car.
Mark Webber continued testing the Red Bull RB5 and completed 107 laps on his way to fifth, the Australian finishing 0.1s ahead of Williams pilot Kazuki Nakajima. Lewis Hamilton could only manage seventh in the MP4-24. Once again it looked as though the Woking team were running a 2008 style rear wing, and Hamilton lost a fair amount of track time while the mechanics worked on the rear suspension.
Adrian Sutil wrapped up the Force India VJM02’s first test, completing 79 laps and returning to the garage 0.1s shy of Hamilton, and 1.5s slower than Alonso’s fastest lap. Although the test has gone very well for the Force India team, Sutil complained of tyre graining, which may also explain why the FIA have asked Bridgestone to change the tyre configuration for 2010. It is likely too late for 2009, but after receiving feedback from the drivers, it would appear that the rear tyres are struggling.
We tried the soft, supersoft and medium compounds. On the long runs they behaved quite differently and the biggest problem was with the graining. It happens very quickly, then gets worse and the grip never comes back.
We are talking big differences in lap times – I have never had such a big graining issue, but I can see nearly everyone is struggling with a similar problem. Adrian Sutil.
Although Lewis Hamilton is yet to speak of the tyres, he might be one driver to watch closely in Australia, the Briton well-known for burning through his rubber like it was going out of fashion.
Today marks the end of the Jerez test, and the teams are now packing everything away and heading up the coast to Barcelona and Circuit de Catalunya. The final group test of the pre-season will commence on Monday 9th March.
|1.||Fernando Alonso Renault||1m19.945s||129 Laps|
|2.||Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari||1m20.250s||104 Laps|
|3.||Nick Heidfeld BMW||1m20.250s||98 Laps|
|4.||Jarno Trulli Toyota||1m20.540s||131 Laps|
|5.||Mark Webber Red Bull Racing||1m20.894s||107 Laps|
|6.||Kazuki Nakajima Williams||1m20.948s||83 Laps|
|7.||Lewis Hamilton McLaren||1m21.302s||70 Laps|
|8.||Adrian Sutil Force India||1m21.411s||79 Laps|