• Jerez Test Report - Day Three

Alguersuari posts fastest time before heavy rain

Dan Knutson at Jerez
February 12, 2010 « Button and Brawn nominated for prestigious gongs | »
Jaime Alguersuari took advantage of a dry track to post the fastest time of the day so far at Jerez © Getty Images

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For the second time in three days of testing at Jerez it rained virtually throughout. The track was fairly dry for less than an hour early in the morning, and that's when 19-year-old Jaime Alguersuari posted the fastest lap of the session in his Toro Rosso STR5, with a time of 1:19.919.

Adrian Sutil was the first to head out as he began his two days of testing in the Force India VJM03. With rain forecast, all the teams were anxious to get as much running as possible before the track got too wet. But when Pedro le la Rosa's Sauber C29 stopped with a mechanical problem the session was stopped after just 10 minutes.

It started to rain lightly after an hour and the drizzle persisted throughout morning. At 2pm the rain got heavier and 2mm fell in the following hour. It got worse later, with an additional 8mm falling in the final two hours of the session.

All 10 teams changed their driver line-ups from Thursday. Lewis Hamilton replaced Jenson Button for the final two days in the McLaren MP4-25, and Felipe Massa took over the F10 from Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso. The other driver-team combinations for today were: Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull RB6; Vitaly Petrov - Renault R30; Nico Rosberg - Mercedes W01; Rubens Barrichello - Williams FW32; and Lucas di Grassi - Virgin VR-01.

All the cars needed mileage, but the damp track caused a dilemma for the teams. For much of the day it was too wet to use slicks but there was not enough water on the track to use the "full wet" weather tyre. Thus the only option was to run on the intermediate wet-weather tyre.

"We will still run in the wet, but the problem is that there is a very high wear rate particularly on the intermediate tyres," explained Williams technical director Sam Michael. "And because you are limited to the amount of tyres, you potentially can run out before you can do your mileage."

The other issue is that the teams have an allocation of Bridgestone tyres that they can use for the entire year of testing and are therefore limited to how many sets they use per test.

"The problem is the changeable conditions," Michael said. "If the conditions stay full wet or full inter, that is fine, the problem is when it dries out and gets wet again, then you have a high wear-rate on the tyre and it effectively becomes like a slick. This circuit is very abrasive on tyres, so a wet race here would be quite interesting."

What made the situation even more frustrating for the Williams team was that it lost three hours of testing in dry conditions on Thursday with Nico Hulkenberg. "We had a few reliability problems, a hydraulic problem, that cost us the whole morning in the dry," Michael said. "So that was a bit annoying. We saw straightaway what the problem was, but it just took a long time to fix because it showered the clutch with oil, and we had to change the clutch and a few other bits and pieces as well."

The good news when it began to rain heavily was that the teams had the viable option of fitting extreme wets to their cars without worrying about excessive tyre wear.

Just before the midpoint of the session Force India made a series of pit stops, with Sutil coming in on every lap to have only the right rear-tyre changed. He later triggered the fourth red flag stoppage of the day at 2.45pm when his car suffered electrical problems. Still, he was pleased with the VJM03, saying: "The car's responding pretty well to changes."

Massa completed 72 laps. "The track is wet but not really enough to do proper runs, at least for us," Ferrari stated halfway through the day. "We've already done a lot of mileage." As the rain got heavier Massa's speed increased. He was the fastest of all the drivers when the track was wettest, sliding his Ferrari up on the kerbs and getting down to the 1:27s range.

Rubens Barrichello completed 120 laps on Friday © Getty Images

Barrichello caused the second red flag when he lost control on the slippery track and slid into a gravel trap. "We were running a lot as we need the mileage," he said. A grand prix distance at Jerez is 69 laps, and Barrichello's total for the day was 120.

At 11.45am Vettel brought the Red Bull back in, parked it on the pit apron, and held the engine at high revs. It certainly didn't sound very healthy, and he eventually shut it off and the mechanics pushed the car into the garage. After watching Mark Webber shakedown the new car for the first two days of the test, Vettel completed just 33 laps in the wet. The problem clearly wasn't too serious as he was soon back on the track.

"It has been a long winter, a long time without driving, so it's not nice to have to wait another two days," Vettel said when Red Bull unveiled the RB6 on Wednesday, "but in the end it's nice to be here, to listen to the cars, to see them running again."

Red flag No. 3 came out at 12.40pm when Rosberg's Mercedes stopped because the onboard computers called for a systems check. Michael Schumacher will drive the car again on the fourth and final day of the test.

Hamilton put 66 laps on the McLaren. "We worked mostly on brakes and did some set-up work," a McLaren spokesperson told ESPNF1. "There is not a lot we can do in weather like this."

Di Grassi did not get out on the track until there were only 80 minutes remaining in the session. The Virgin team was waiting for new parts from England to strengthen the front wing, which failed on the VR-01 after just 11 laps on Thursday. Di Grassi did eight laps in the wet and that was that.

The final half-hour was virtually washed out, and the teams called it a day. Rosberg did go out for a couple practice starts, followed by slow laps with 12 minutes remaining. Earlier, Barrichello had radioed the Williams crew to tell them the track was like a river and undrivable.

Much of what happens with the teams during testing takes place behind closed garage doors to hide their activities from the rest of the world. The work goes on long into the night, well after the cars have stopped running on the track.

ESPNF1 asked Williams technical director Sam Michael to give some insight to what his team did on Thursday night.

"Lots of things," he replied. "We did a few more modifications to some bits and pieces on the car, and lots of systems checks overnight. We basically strip the whole car down, strip the gearbox and the ancillaries on the engine, and check for parts that are rubbing on each other, check for leaks, replace any parts we think are marginal, and check the mileage on everything. On some parts we are purposely running up the mileage as much as possible."

Final results from Jerez

Pos. Driver Car Best Time Laps 
1. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso STR5 1:19.919 76
2. Pedro de la Rosa Sauber C29 1:20.736 58
3. Adrian Sutil Force India VJM03 1:21.428 48
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari F10 1: 21.603 72
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull RB6 1:21.783 59
6. Vitaly Petrov Renault R30 1:22.000 68
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes W01 1:22.820 53
8. Rubens Barrichello Williams FW32 1:23.217 120
9. Lewis Hamilton McLaren MP4-25 1:23.985 68
10. Lucas di Grassi Virgin VR-01 1:27.107 8