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Grosjean ends Mugello test on top

3 May 2012

As he had on day two, Romain Grosjean emerged as the pacesetter at Mugello but, this time, the Frenchman had no equal after heading the field by a couple of tenths.

Having missed out on top spot by the smallest of margins, Grosjean was determined to reclaim the position by the time the chequered flag dropped over the Tuscan circuit, and had the chance to up his pace after lunch.

The morning had seen the F1 returnee complete a series of short stints as the team evaluated aerodynamic and set-up options on the medium compound Pirelli, but that did not deter him from appearing at the top end of the timesheets and, after an early lunch, a raft of set-up changes dominated the afternoon session as Lotus attempted to gain as much data as possible from the final hours of the only in-season test of 2012.

Despite numerous red flags and two lengthy periods in the garage while the alterations were made, Grosjean still managed to post the fastest time of the afternoon, day and test as a whole as he lapped in 1min 21.035secs, fully two-tenths clear of second placed Sebastian Vettel.

“We spent the first hour this morning gathering further information for the aerodynamic department with a series of very short runs before starting our planned programme,” race engineer Simon Rennie told the team's official website, “Our focus was on set-up work to help us get the most out of the tyres and we found some good solutions [before] we stopped early for lunch, as we had another suspension change to carry out which takes about two hours.

“[Since then] we have been working on set-up tests since then to establish how to get the best from [the suspension change]. We also trialled some aerodynamic parts which had already been looked at over the last two days to confirm the findings we had attained previously which produced some promising results.

“After a baseline run, we had another long intermission while a third variation of the suspension was fitted, which again looked positive. Romain went through two sets of hard compound tyres and two sets of mediums, running on scrubbed rubber towards the end to give us data relevant to a race weekend scenario. It's been an extremely useful session with a lot of quality mileage preferred to a huge quantity.”

Vettel had the full attention of Red Bull for the final day, and rounded out the team's test with 106 trouble-free laps. Over the course of the day, RBR managed to get through its full planned programme, which, like yesterday, focused largely on aerodynamic testing. Having amassed a vast amount of data over the past three days, the team will now return to Milton Keynes to analyse the numbers in the run-up to next week's Spanish Grand Prix.

“It's been a useful couple of days and I've enjoyed the track a lot,” Vettel said, “As usual, we now have a lot of data to get through and that will take some time. We tried a few things and the results look encouraging - it's always difficult to tell whether we improved and by how much, but we got some good laps and some good information.”

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.


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