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Coletti finishes on top in final pre-season test

The sun finally came out in Barcelona, making it possible for the teams to put in some dry running in the final day of pre-season testing before the first race of 2013.
After two mainly wet days at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, all the GP2 teams were fervently hoping for some dry conditions on Thursday, the third and final day of pre-season testing in Barcelona and the last opportunity that any of the teams will get for track time before they turn out for Friday morning practice at the season opener in Malaysia in a little over two weeks' time.

Even though the track started off damp from the previous day's rain, the signs were very positive as the sun made an early bold appearance overhead. The initial runs were made on wet tyres, but by the midpoint of the morning the two drivers on the harder compound slick tyres - ART's James Calado and Hilmer Motorsports' Riccardo Agostini - were performing better than their wet-shod counterparts by more than seven seconds a lap on the 2.892-mile, 16-turn circuit.

While there had been a minor reshuffle of the driver line-up, there were no new faces for this final day of pre-season testing. Pal Varhaug returned to Hilmer Motorports after sitting out Wednesday, with Agostini staying on in the other Hilmer as Conor Daly had only been scheduled to spend two days with the team. Meanwhile Sauber F1 test and reserve driver Robin Frijns, having spent all five of the previous tests at Trident Racing, opted to try out a Russian Time car for comparison on the final day at Barcelona.

That left Trident planning on running just one car on Thursday with Rodolfo Gonzalez in the seat, but their plans were complicated by the Venezuelan initially phoning in sick first thing. The team also revealed that French driver Nathanaël Berthon remained a front-runner for the second seat with them, but was having problems securing his sponsorship funding for the year.

In the meantime, Trident were missing out on what were already the best track conditions of the week so far, with times improving rapidly once a dry line started to become established. With one hour left in the morning session, Frijns topped the timesheets with his teammate for the day Tom Dillmann in second place ahead of DAMS's Marcus Ericsson and Venezuela GP Lazarus' Kevin Giovesi, but within minutes Giovesi's team mate Rene Binder pushed the times into new territory with the first sub-1:31s lap of the day.

Binder was then also the cause of the first red flag of the day ten minutes later when he spun at turn 5, by which point the times had continued to tumble to such an extent that the Swiss driver had already been pushed back into sixth place. Caterham Racing's Sergio Canamasas had been the first driver to go under the 90-second mark with his lap of 1:29.611s, and by the time of the stoppage Ericsson's 1:29.606s had just managed to push Canamasas back down into second. Ericsson's DAMS team mate Stéphane Richelmi was in third place, ahead of ART duo James Calado and Daniel Abt. The 24 drivers had also now been joined by the still-poorly Rodolfo Gonzalez, meaning that Trident were finally back in action on Thursday after all, albeit with just the one car.

Once the track reopened after the brief stoppage, Rapax's Stefano Coletti promptly pruned another half a second off the top time, and with half an hour remaining it was time for the all teams to seriously consider the final step-up in performance by switching to the soft compound Pirellis: Coletti, Giovesi, Canamasas, Arden's Mitch Evans and MP Motorsports pair Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and Daniël de Jong were all quick to follow the DAMS duo and make the switch. The rest quickly followed suit, with the exception of Frijns and Carlin's Felipe Nasr who saw out the remainder of the session on the hard tyres.

As the chequered flag came out and the drivers headed in for their one-hour lunch break, Coletti held on to the top time with a lap of 1:29.055s ahead of DAMS' pair Ericsson and Richelmi, while Carlin's Jolyon Palmer pipped Sergio Canamasas for fourth spot ahead of James Calado. All 25 drivers - even the sickly Gonzalez - had successfully set lap times in the three-hour session and were looking forward to still-better conditions for the afternoon stint.

Mitch Evans was first out on track after lunch, and there was an unexpected development at Hilmer when Conor Daly returned to the #22 in place of Agostini, perhaps suggesting that the final pieces in the 2013 driver line-up might be coming together behind the scenes.




Related Pictures

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Stefano Coletti (MON, Rapax) during the third day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. Thursday 7th March. (Photo Credit: Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service)
Marcus Ericsson (SWE, Dams) during the third day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. Thursday 7th March. (Photo Credit: Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Pal Varhaug (NOR, Hilmer Motorsport) during the third day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. Thursday 7th March. (Photo Credit: Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Robin Frijns (NED, Russian Time) during the third day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. Thursday 7th March. (Photo Credit: Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Tom Dillmann (FRA, Russian Time) during the third day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. Thursday 7th March. (Photo Credit: Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Stefano Coletti (MON, Rapax) during the third day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. Thursday 7th March. (Photo Credit: Alastair Staley/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Jolyon Palmer (GBR, DAMS) in action at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Raffaele Marciello (ITA, Racing Engineering) in pit lane at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Raffaele Marciello (ITA, Racing Engineering) in action at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Stefano Coletti (MON, Racing Engineering) in action at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Stefano Coletti (MON, Racing Engineering) in action at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Pierre Gasly (FRA, EQ8 Caterham Racing) in pit lane at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.)
The car of Pierre Gasly (FRA, EQ8 Caterham Racing) is retrieved after a first lap accident at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Rio Haryanto (INA, EQ8 Caterham Racing) in action at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Rio Haryanto (INA, EQ8 Caterham Racing) in action at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Jolyon Palmer (GBR, DAMS) crosses the line at the end of race 2 at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Jolyon Palmer (GBR, DAMS) celebrates in parc ferme after race 2 at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.)
Jolyon Palmer (GBR, DAMS) celebrates in parc ferme after race 2 at the Autodromo di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 7 September 2014. (Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.)

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