Pastor Maldonado storms ahead at test

Pastor Maldonado


Williams cast aside a low-key start to testing to storm to the top of the timesheet with Pastor Maldonado on day three at Barcelona.

The Grove-based squad’s new Renault-powered FW34 had proved impressively reliable during the previous six 2012 test days but the team had yet to show much in the way of outright pace, with their hitherto best lap heading into Thursday at the Circuit de Catalunya some three seconds off the pace.

But that all changed on the morning of day three as Maldonado, making his first appearance of the week, dislodged early pacesetter Michael Schumacher from the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:23.338 on the medium compound, before a subsequent second short qualifying-style simulation, this time on the softs, took him into the 1:22s.

The Venezuelan wasn’t finished yet, though, and returned for another short run, this time on the super-softs, to set a new outright benchmark of 1:22.391, which comfortably remained unsurpassed over the remainder of the day.

Unlike on Wednesday, no other driver dipped below 1:23 and so next up on the timesheet was Schumacher, the seven-time champion setting the best time of the week for the Mercedes W03 but still a second away from Maldonado.

But after some early reliability glitches across the first two days of testing with the W03, the Brackley-based squad enjoyed a trouble-free day which allowed Schumacher to rack up a mighty total of 127 laps.

Kamui Kobayashi was two tenths adrift of Schumacher in third for Sauber, although unlike team-mate Sergio Perez on Wednesday, the Japanese didn’t complete any laps on the faster super-soft compound as the team spent the day largely completing stints of between five and 10 laps focusing on set-up and aero work, including a comparison between two different rear wings.

Thursday’s running saw changes behind the wheel for each of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari with Mark Webber, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa getting their first run-outs since Jerez, and it was Button who proved the quickest of the trio in fourth place.

The 2009 World Champion spent the morning focusing on set-up work on the MP4-27 before switching to some slightly longer stints in the afternoon intercepted by trips back to the pit lane., his best time of 1:23.918 coming on soft tyres late on in the morning.

With Toro Rosso again running strongly, this time with French rookie Jean-Eric Vergne at the wheel, in fifth, Webber and Massa set identical times of 1:24.771 – the former’s lap coming in the afternoon on soft tyres – after both spent sustained spells in the garage mid-way through the morning.

After lunch Webber set about some longer runs and was heading towards a century of laps when with 30 minutes to go his RB8 stopped out on track at turn eight, meaning his day came to a premature halt.

Ferrari continued to strive to learn as much as possible about their very different 2012 car but Massa, after a strong start to the day in mileage terms, lost some track time mid-way through the morning as the team worked to resolve an unspecified mechanical problem.

The Brazilian duly returned just before the lunch break and ended up putting over 80 laps on the F2012, although didn’t trouble the top of the timesheet at any point of the day.

Day two pacesetters Force India, meanwhile, went from first to eighth on the times with Paul di Resta appearing to concentrate on data gathering work and aero assessments as he failed to set a truly representative time.

At the back of the pack, Marussia team leader Timo Glock appeared on track for the first time in 2012 and registered 108 laps as Caterham overcame morning suspension troubles on their CT01 to eventually move onto 70 laps with new signing Vitaly Petrov.

Day three times:1) Maldonado 1:22.391 106 laps

2) Schumacher 1:23.384 127
3) Kobayashi 1:23.582 99
4) Button 1:23.918 114
5) Vergne 1:24.433 78
6) Webber 1:24.771 97
7) Massa 1:24.771 84
8) Di Resta 1:25.646 83
9) Glock 1:26.173 108
10) Petrov 1:26.448 70