With the accent placed firmly on tyre strategy preparation ahead of the opening grand prix of the year, pre-season F1 testing finished in Barcelona with Pirelli estimating that nearly 50,000km had been completed across the three sessions.
With the season poised to begin in Melbourne next weekend, the twelve teams racked up 48,987km on all six 2012 compounds, although not every outfit could call on its latest-spec car for the twelve days of testing in Jerez and Barcelona. The rain that fell on the third day of the Circuit de Catalunya test meant that the teams were able to try out the intermediate full wet specification tyres for the first time, while times set on the final day of the pre-season were marginally quicker than those being set in 2011, as Lotus F1's Kimi Raikkonen posted a 1min 22.030secs best, using the yellow-banded soft P Zero tyres
Several different parameters were assessed during testing, making it hard to draw a direct comparison, but the emphasis over the last four days in Barcelona was firmly on race preparation. In all, the ten teams present - both Marussia and HRT opted not to attend to concentrate on readying their 2012 machines - covered a total of 16,775km, or 3674 laps, as they focused on fully understanding how the latest tyres behaved with their new cars.
A car that is kind to its tyres has more flexibility when it comes to race strategy, which can give a decisive advantage. With the cars heading to Australia straight after the Barcelona test, the teams concentrated on longer runs and race simulations, particularly during the warmer and more stable conditions of the afternoon. The teams also took the opportunity to practice pit-stops, which can win or lose a race.
“The teams and ourselves focused on gathering as much information as possible for the first race of the season at this final test in Barcelona," Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said, "We saw long runs and race simulations over all four days, concentrating mostly on the soft and medium compounds, although it was good that we were finally able to get some running on the wet weather tyres as well.
"The teams are rapidly extending and refining their knowledge of our 2012 tyres, seeing how long they can make them last over the course of race simulations, both on full and lighter fuel tanks. This is going to be key to the strategy in Australia. The feedback we've had remains very positive: the drivers like the grip that our new tyres generate, which is improved from last year, and they are also pleased by the way that the tyre's behaviour has become more linear and predictable. However much you test though, there is no substitute for actual racing, which is why we're all now looking forward to seeing the real picture emerge in Australia.”
The soft compound tyre set the fastest time during all four days of the test. Along with the medium, this is the nominated tyre for the first race of the year in Australia, and some 100 sets were consumed during the four days in Barcelona, along with 111 sets of the medium compound.
Lotus drivers Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean are the only drivers to have gone fastest on two days of testing during the 2012 pre-season, while Mercedes pair Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, Williams' Pastor Maldonado, and Sauber team-mates Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez each topped the times once. Rosberg also completed the most laps across the three tests, racking up 2996km in total and leading the way in Barcelona with 1196km at the Circuit de Catalunya. Force India reserve Jules Bianchi, meanwhile, enjoyed the least track time, completing just 213km after crashing on the morning of his second day in Jerez.