Kimi Raikkonen returned Lotus to the top of the timesheets on the final day of the opening F1 group test at Jerez, while Lewis Hamilton
underlined the inherent reliability of his new Mercedes by posting the greatest number of laps.
While no-one came close to matching the scintillating softer-compound time posted by Ferrari's Felipe Massa
on Thursday – Raikkonen's best effort remained three-tenths shy of the Brazilian's 1min 17.879secs mark – the leading group remained close throughout what turned into an eight and a half
hour session, following a 50-minute hiatus to repair a small pot-hole that appeared at turn nine around lunch-time.
Raikkonen led the way after a couple of hours and was always there or thereabouts in terms of pace, but appeared in line for another low lap tally until ramping up his work in the final phase of the day, eventually accumulating 82 tours to add to the clutch-afflicted 40 he managed on day three. The Finn ran through a continued programme of aerodynamic assessments and exhaust exit evaluations, but was typically unimpressed with his position at the head of the times.
“We continued our work from yesterday and made some good progress,” he reported, “We're at the top of the timing monitors, but that means nothing in testing. Our focus has been testing parts on the car, but I've been able to get the set-up more to my liking.
“For sure, there's more work to be done in this area, but that's what we're here for. The car feels strong and we seem to have a good idea of where we're going with improvements. Let's see what happens in Barcelona.”
Raikkonen's closest rival only completed 56 laps in two-thirds of a day before handing back to the man whom he could partner in this year's Force India
line-up but, as an audition, it could hardly have gone better for Jules Bianchi.
"My first experience of the new car was very positive and it's clearly an improvement over last year's car,” the Frenchman opined, “I spent most of the time on the medium tyres, but I got a chance to run the softs as well and they offered a lot of grip. It was also nice to do some long runs, so I've felt the car on heavy fuel, which is good for my experience. I'm pleased the team asked me to help out this week and I'm happy with how things went today."
World champion Sebastian Vettel
again had to settle for third spot, as he had on Thursday, but racked up another 96 laps as the Red Bull
RB9 proved reliable once more.
“I think, for the whole team, it's been quite a good test,” he said, “No problems in terms of reliability and we did a lot of laps, so I'm quite pleased with the results. I feel a bit better than last year. I think we had some issues with reliability then, so it seems we have done our homework well.