Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel reckons that the true pecking order in F1 2011 may not become apparent until the second race of the season in Malaysia or even the third in China – although on the basis of Red Bull Racing's dominant testing form in Barcelona again today, it seems safe to assume the young German will once more be firmly in the fight for glory.
After team-mate Mark Webber had left his rivals trailing on day one of the final pre-season group outing around the Circuit de Catalunya [see separate story – click here
], Vettel similarly ruled the roost on day two, completing 112 laps as he conducted both long and short runs in the Adrian Newey-designed, Renault-powered RB7 as well as pit-stop practices, winding up just over four tenths of a second clear of his nearest challenger.
“It was a good day and a good time,” reflected the German, “although to be honest, it's difficult to say where we are as the lap times of the teams are all over the place. We've done a lot of laps again today, though, which is good. We have had no major problems with reliability throughout testing and the speed looks good as far as we can judge, but I think we have to wait until after Melbourne – maybe in Malaysia or China – to really see where we are.”
“It was good to have the race team here yesterday and today, to go through pit-stop practices,” added the energy drinks-backed outfit's Head of Race Engineering, Ian Morgan. “Normally, we would do that once in pre-season testing but, as we lost a little time with the weather at the last test, this extra test was a good opportunity to get some more practice in ahead of Melbourne.
“As for the rest of today's programme, it was much the same as yesterday. Seb did 112 laps without any real problems all day, which is gratifying. It's always difficult to tell what your true position is until you start the season, but our pace looks good at the moment, which is promising.”
Just over a second down on Vettel's fastest effort was fellow world champion Lewis Hamilton for McLaren-Mercedes, with the British star managing only 57 laps in the troubled MP4-26. A minor hydraulics leak curtailed morning pit-stop practice, whilst an exhaust failure before lunch brought an early end to a planned race simulation, too.
The 26-year-old subsequently moved onto shorter runs and set-up evaluations in the afternoon, declaring himself pleased with the new components brought to the test ahead of changeover day for the Woking-based outfit on Thursday and team-mate Jenson Button's return to the cockpit on Friday.
Meanwhile, at Ferrari – the last of the anticipated title contenders this year – Felipe Massa placed fifth, just over half-a-second further in arrears of Hamilton, with the recently re-baptised 150° Italia sporting new upgrade elements tried for the first time last Sunday at Vairano and the order of the day being to evaluate them, most notably a revised rear wing and different exhaust configuration. The Brazilian covered 101 laps in total and will resume testing tomorrow (Thursday).
To see Wednesday's testing times in full, click here