Barcelona: Romain Grosjean fastest on a more productive Day Two for the teams
McLaren enjoy "best day of testing" so far this winter, Mercedes and Ferrari run race simulations, Red Bull trial new Passive DRS
By James Galloway and Pete Gill. Last Updated: 02/03/13 7:35am
A late burst from Romain Grosjean saw the Lotus driver finish on top at the end of Day Two of the second Barcelona test as the teams maximised the welcome dry conditions to hone their preparations for the upcoming Australian GP.
Heavy overnight rain and gusty winds had lingered well into the morning at the Circuit de Catalunya on Friday but conditions gradually improved as session progressed and cars were finally able to complete some sustained slick-tyre running from the final hour before lunch onwards.
The improved weather was a welcome sight for the whole field, but Grosjean in particular given the Frenchman had expressed frustration at the end of a similarly rain-hit Day One that he appeared unlikely to get any more dry running in the E21 before the opening race of the new season.
While neither track nor temperature never improved sufficiently for drivers to rival the fastest times set here last week, Grosjean's 1:22.716 on soft tyres was nonetheless eye-catching given it was half a second clear of the field and at the start of a ten-lap run.
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Asked if Lotus had been seeking a qualy-style fast time when he set his table-topping lap, Grosjean told Sky Sports: "No, we were just trying to optimise the little amount of time we had in the dry to try the medium tyres and then the soft to see the difference between them and how the car reacted."
Jenson Button had made much of the earlier running on slicks and his best lap of 1:23.181 time came on a slightly shorter run on the medium tyres.
"For us, it's been the best day of the testing," the 2009 World Champion told The F1 Show afterwards. "We have a bit more of an understanding of the car, although we're still not quite there in terms of pace, and the next two days need to be 100-lap days."
Pastor Maldonado, who brought the day to a slightly premature end when hi FW35 stopped at the end of the pitstraight, was third, a further half a second back.
World Champions Red Bull caught the eye by trialling their version of the passive double DRS for the first time in the morning, before Sebastian Vettel later clocked a best time of 1:23.743 when the device was taken off the RB9.
"Not much to say, I didn't do that many laps," reported Vettel. "It's a shame, it's too cold and the tyres are not working properly. So it's difficult to compare what you are testing.
"It's very difficult to tell exactly where we are right now, but we have a rough idea and it's fine - we're happy with the balance and how the car the behaves. Whether that is enough, we don't know."
Nonetheless, the World Champions' rivals remain in no doubt about their competitiveness. "Red Bull are still the team to beat," declared Lotus boss Eric Boullier despite Grosjean's headline-grabbing time and the Red Bull is expected to feature a suite of new upgrades over the final two days.
For the second day in a row, Mercedes completed the most laps with Nico Rosberg completing 120 laps and running a race simulation in the afternoon.
Somewhat incongruously, a Ferrari propped up the timesheets as a result of Fernando Alonso forsaking low-fuel times in order to undergo a race simulation in the F138.
Nonetheless, the secret is out that Ferrari - at least at this very early stage in the year - are off the pace.
"I think we are a little bit behind the top teams, which is where we expected to be," confirmed Alonso during the lunchtime break. "In Brazil we were seven or eight tenths behind the Red Bull and McLarens and no one can recover that amount of time in a couple of months."
Day Two Timesheet
1) Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1:22.716, 88 laps, Super Soft tyres.
2) Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:23.181, 72 laps, Medium Tyres.
3) Pastor Maldonado, Williams, 1:23.628, 75 laps, Soft Tyres.
4) Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:23.743, 65 laps, Medium Tyres.
5) Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, 1:23.744, 79 laps, Medium Tyres.
6) Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:24.215, 62 laps, Medium Tyres.
7) Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, 1:25.483, 61 laps, Medium Tyres.
8) Max Chilton, Marussia, 1:25.598, 75 laps, Soft tyres.
9) Giedo van der Garde, Caterham, 1:26.316, 48 laps, Medium Tyres.
10) Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:26.655, 120 laps, Medium Tyres.
11) Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:27.878, 102 laps, Hard Tyres.