Jerez Day four: A pecking order emerging?

With the first test wrapping up today in Jerez, many will be wondering whether they can finally make predictions about the upcoming season. This would be a mistake.

Red Bull:

Vettel was at the sharp end of the timesheets for most of the day, running at the very top for most of the early running. He has been impressed with the reliability of his Red Bull, and by the looks of it, the Red Bull is looking strong for the season. The German wasn’t one of the three to pass the 100 lap mark at the end of the day, but 96 laps of uninterrupted progress was more important than any laptime he could have posted.

Ferrari:

Test driver Pedro de la Rosa got his first, and probably only, track experience in the new F138. While gearbox problems hampered him for most of the morning, he was eventually able to complete 51 laps of the Spanish circuit. Pedro wasn’t after any fast times, but more for experience so he can have something to compare to when he works in the Ferrari simulator, where he will be spending most of his time.

Mclaren:

Sergio Perez completed his first preseason test with Mclaren today, ending the day on 7th place with a solid 98 laps under his belt. throughout the test, Sergio has been very pleased with his new car, no doubt impressed with all the new downforce compared to his old Sauber. If Perez can keep up the good work before the season starts, he should start the season strongly.

Lotus:

Today was all about Kimi Raikkonen as he set the fastest lap of the day (2nd fastest of the whole test) and completed 83 reliable laps. Raikkonen was much happier with the handling of his E21 but admits that their apparent progress doesn’t guarantee that they will be fighting for the championship. Regardless of some Finnish reservation, Lotus look set for another good season.

Mercedes:

Like Nico Rosberg yesterday, Lewis Hamilton went all out today to learn as much as he could about his new car after his wasted day on Wednesday. 145 laps completed meant he nearly surpassed Nico’s record from yesterday. There were no mechanical glitches of note for the second day in a row. This will surely give the team a boost heading into the second test in Barcelona.

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Sauber:

I was personally impressed with how Gutierrez performed today. He was very reliable and was one of the three to surpass 100 laps (142 to be precise). He also spent his fare share at the top of the timesheets, eventually ending up 4th. The Sauber of 2012 was lauded for its performance in high-speed corners. The same seems to be happening this year. Both drivers are very pleased with the progress made so far on the C32.

Force India:

Jules Bianchi finally got a go in the new Force India, and while his chances of a race seat this year are seemingly increasing, what is obvious is that the new car is an improvement over 2012’s car. Jules, like many today, enjoyed his time with fastest lap (just losing out to Raikkonen late in the day). Whether this was a glory run, or whether the car has true world-beating pace is yet to be determined.

Williams:

A trend I noticed over the course of the last four days was that the 2012 Williams is not fast. Not once over the last four days has the FW34 gone to the top of the timesheets or really threatened to. This is strange because what is guaranteed is that all the teams did at least one qualifying simulation, and if memory serves me, the Williams wasn’t a slow car. Whether this means that they didn’t do a single qualifying run or whether the 2013 cars are just that much faster will be determined when Williams launch the FW35 on the 19th of February.

Toro Rosso:

Jean-Eric Vergne ran rather unspectacularly today, though sometimes, that is the best way to go about things in testing. The Toro Rosso is a clear improvement over its predecessor and the drivers seem to be able to push the car more confidently than before. JEV completed 92 laps today and seemed to run without problems.

Caterham:

Charles Pic completed his second day driving for his new team today, lauding the KERS system on the Caterham. The difference in performance between a KERS-powered car and a non-KERS-powered car must be significant if you read Charles’s comments from today. Also impressive was the Frenchman’s number of laps today. 109 trips around the circuit went issue-free.

Marussia:

Luiz Razia settled further into his role as a race driver today in Jerez. He completed 82 laps but admits that this year will be tough as the learning curve in F1 is more of a hair-pin than a curve. Nevertheless, Razia is upbeat about Marussia’s prospects of closing the gap to not only Caterham, but the midfield as a whole.

TODAY’S TIMES

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m18.148s 83
2. Jules Bianchi Force India 1m18.175s + 0.027 56
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m18.565s + 0.417 96
4. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m18.669s + 0.521 142
5. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m18.760s + 0.612 92
6. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.905s + 0.757 145
7. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m18.944s + 0.796 98
8. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m19.851s + 1.703 92
9. Pedro de la Rosa Ferrari 1m20.316s + 2.168 51
10. Charles Pic Caterham 1m21.105s + 2.957 109
11. Luiz Razia Marussia 1m21.226s + 3.078 82
12. Paul di Resta Force India 1m23.435s + 5.287 49

Image courtesy of Autosport

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