Fernando Alonso had set the pace for much of the morning, but an off while running with the new Ferrari rear-end treatment not only cut short the Scuderia's data collection, but also allowed both Vettel and Grosjean to steal a march on him.
The Spaniard's programme centred on experimenting with the new aerodynamic components introduced on the F2012, as well as a study of the behaviour of the Pirelli tyres, but the mid-morning off-track excursion damaged the front wing and the left front corner, which took two-and-a-half hours to repair. Alonso returned to the track just before lunch, and went on to complete 98 laps by the end of the day, although his quickest time of 1min 21.363secs remained only good enough for third spot.
Daniel Ricciardo hovered around the top five for much of the day, before a late improvement in his time cemented fourth spot and allowed the Australian to become the final to lap under 1min 22secs. Having only driven for a short time on day two, to allow team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne to complete his rain-delayed programme, Ricciardo was in the cockpit all day, evaluating new components and general development of the car.
“A good day with a high mileage, getting through all our programme, which is always your first target at a test,” he reported, “Certainly, from the cockpit, I was happy with the feeling I had from the car and I really enjoyed driving this beautiful circuit again but, with new parts, you always hope they will deliver a big improvement, and the reality is that we must now look at the data to see where we really are.”
The top five was rounded out by Sauber's Sergio Perez, who continued the team's focus on evaluating new aero parts and testing the package for the forthcoming Spanish Grand Prix. After the usual installation laps in the morning, the Mexican started his programme with some baseline running and basic set-up work, before continuing with aero measurements. While struggling with the car's balance, he also went off twice before the lunch break, albeit without any major damage to the car, and was able to return to continue the evaluation on longer, high-fuel, runs after lunch.
Sahara Force India fielded both Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg on the final day, and it was the German who came out on top on the timesheets, recording a 1min 22.325secs best to di Resta's 1min 23.002secs. After a tricky start to the week, however, the team was relieved to finally complete a full day of running, allowing it to focus on aero work and data collection before lunch and then switch to set-up work - running new sets of the medium and hard tyres – in the afternoon.
“I think we have learned quite a lot today and it's a good way to end the test with a busy afternoon,” Hulkenberg admitted, “There was a lot to get through, but the main priority was on understanding the car we have here and making sure we feel ready for Barcelona. There's a lot of data to go through before we get there and we also have to look at how the different tyre compounds behaved, but overall I'm pleased with the day's work.”
Pastor Maldonado and Williams endured a fraught morning, with the Venezuelan left to cool his heels in the pit garage as the engineers stripped his car in search of an electrical fault. After propping up the timesheets for much of the day, however, Maldonado bounced back into seventh spot, with 63 laps to his credit.
That was enough to put the Williams ahead of Nico Rosberg's Mercedes, as the Brackley team's programme kept it in the bottom half of the times, although a late flying lap from the German was enough to move him above McLaren test driver Oliver Turvey, who enjoyed a full day at the wheel of the MP4-27, running through some detailed evaluative work with front wing and exhaust iterations, including some rake tests for improved data gathering.
Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock brought up the rear for Caterham and Marussia respectively, but neither team went home disheartened. The Finn's 1min 23.169secs best came amidst a session-high 139 laps, and kept him above some more illustrious combinations for much of the day as he worked through the assessment of a number of new parts, including bodywork, floor, exhausts and brakes, some of which the team expects to see on the race cars next week in Barcelona.