Vitaly Petrov enjoyed some unanticipated running in Lotus Renault GP's R31 on the opening day of the final pre-season F1 2011 group test in Barcelona this week, after stand-in team-mate Nick Heidfeld curtailed his own track time early due to suffering from a cold.
The experienced German – replacing the injured Robert Kubica at the Enstone-based outfit until the Pole is fit-and-well enough to return to the fray – took to the Circuit de Catalunya in the morning, initially setting the pace and winding up second-quickest to Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber come the lunchtime break following the completion of 20 laps.
“I have a cold at the moment, so the team said I could try the car in the morning and stop in the afternoon,” the 33-year-old explained. “The priority of the day was to assess some new aero parts – that's why we did a lot of 'in' and 'out' laps for the aero mapping. We are still analysing the data, but the feeling was positive. Then, we used the rest of the morning to do a few starts and system checks and looked at some development items.”
Petrov's work in the afternoon focussed upon much the same, validating the performance of several key elements of the aerodynamic package that will be taken to the Melbourne curtain-raiser at the end of the month to make sure that the track data matched with the wind tunnel figures, and similarly making upbeat noises about the car's new rear wing and new floor.
“We didn't do a massive number of laps in the afternoon, but we managed to check the balance and did some set-up work ready for [Wednesday],” revealed the Russian, who lapped 1.8 seconds quicker than Heidfeld as the track improved and wound up two spots higher on the end-of-day timesheets in third position. “The new aero parts are another step forward and have given us some more downforce.”
“Nick wasn't feeling too well so we didn't do anything too strenuous in the morning,” summarised Lotus Renault GP chief race engineer Alan Permane. “We wanted him to get a feel for the new aero parts, and his initial feedback was very useful.
“Vitaly took over in the afternoon and ran the same parts. Again, the focus was on gathering data for the aero package, so he did some constant speed runs. He also began a set-up programme, and ran on both the hard and soft tyres.”
To see Tuesday's testing times, click here