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Jerez day three - Rosberg top, Grosjean leads 2012 runners 09 Feb 2012

Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 E20.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8 leaves the pits.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/27.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C31.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012 in the pits.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams FW34.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham Third Driver.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Force India VJM05 is recovered to the pits after crashing.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Fans watch Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 E20.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams FW34.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Caterham CT01.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain, Thursday, 9 February 2012

Mercedes remained on top of the Jerez timesheets on Thursday, courtesy of driver Nico Rosberg, but it was Lotus’s Romain Grosjean who was the fastest of those running in 2012 machinery. Grosjean set a best time of 1m 18.419s in the E20, as this week’s multi-team test continued in Spain.

Rosberg continued with his team’s tyre-focused programme in the MGP W02. He covered 118 laps which also allowed the team to put more mileage on several development items. Although the other teams will continue to test on Friday, Mercedes will leave the Spanish track and continue work in the factory on their new car.

“It seems that the tyres are closer performance-wise this year, with the rear tyres also looking a bit stronger,” said Rosberg. “Pirelli have done a good job so far. You can’t really compare the lap times with other teams, but it was interesting to learn a lot with our 2011 car. Now I’m really looking forward to the two Barcelona tests with our new Silver Arrow.”

Grosjean was thrilled to finally get his hands on the new Lotus after two days watching team mate Kimi Raikkonen in action. “I am one of the happiest guys in the world right now,” said the Frenchman. “It’s been a really good day for me. Working so well with all the mechanics and the engineers made it such a memorable first day in the E20. The car feels good on different fuel loads and tyre compounds we used. For sure there’s margin for improvement in the tests ahead, but it’s a great start to the year.”

Defending 2011 world champion Sebastian Vettel was third quickest in the Red Bull ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne. Vettel, Hamilton and Vergne were all behind the wheels of their respective teams' 2012 cars for the very first time.

Vettel completed 96 laps in the RB8 and declared himself happy to be back on track after Christmas. “It’s been two months since we were in the car, so it does take a couple of laps to get back in the rhythm, but the car feels fine and as we expected,” said the German. “There’s quite a loss of grip due to the regulation changes, but you get used to it quickly and then start to explore how the new car feels. So far we can be happy, we had a couple of issues, but it’s normal when the car is new.”

Hamilton, meanwhile, covered 80 laps in the MP4-27. “My initial feelings are pretty positive, despite going through a long, tough programme of initial tests - there were no nasty surprises, which is pleasing,” said the Briton. “This year’s car feels a bit different from last year’s: in 2011, we had so much stability from the rear-end, particularly in the high-speed corners - but we’re now having to find that grip elsewhere, or, at least, take grip off the front and somehow offload it at the rear.

“This car’s baseline is something we can really work with. I know the men and women back at the factory will take a lot from this test and translate it into something new and even better for the next test. The car feels reasonably quick - and that’s a nice feeling.”

As well as acclimatizing to his new charge, Vergne carried out an extensive aero test in Toro Rosso's STR7. “My first feeling when I got in the cockpit was a positive one,” said the Frenchman. “Was it a special feeling knowing this is ‘my’ Formula One car for the season? I preferred to concentrate on the work side of things and put the extraordinary aspects of the job to the back of my mind.”

Sauber’s Sergio Perez took the sixth slot after a second day in the C31. The Mexican managed to complete just 48 laps after the team were forced to change a gearbox oil filter. Team mate Kamui Kobayashi will be back behind the wheel on Friday. “It was a difficult day for us but the important thing is that we are improving,” said Perez. “Every step we took went in the right direction. Kamui has another day of testing here tomorrow. Obviously he will have an intense programme and I hope we can finish the Jerez test with a productive day.”

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was seventh on his first day in the Scuderia’s F2012. Alonso continued where team mate Felipe Massa had left off on Wednesday, gathering data. He covered 67 laps, despite an interrupted morning caused by a hydraulic problem.

Bruno Senna was eighth on his first outing for new team Williams. “It was very satisfying to finally get behind the wheel,” said the Brazilian. “We have had a very productive day and managed to cover all of the things we needed to. We found some interesting things out about the tyres in particular. I feel that there is a lot of potential in the FW34 and also in myself driving the car. The team has done a great job and I’m happy we have had a trouble-free day.”

Caterham’s new third driver Giedo van der Garde occupied the ninth slot after 74 laps in the CT01. “The plan today was to acclimatise Giedo in the car this morning and then start running through more systems tests and KERS evaluation and he did a very solid job for us, making sure we could get through the whole programme,” explained chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. “Reliability was again good for us today and tomorrow we will give Jarno (Trulli) his first taste of KERS, run through tyre evaluations and start exploring more of the car’s performance potential.”

Completing the day’s line-up was Force India reserve Jules Bianchi, who had run just two laps when a off into the tyres brought his day to a premature end. With the team now waiting for a small brake component to arrive from the factory, the accident meant race driver Nico Hulkenberg’s first taste of the VJM05 was postponed until Friday.

“I made a small mistake on my second run,” explained the young Frenchman. “The tyres were a bit cold and I spun into the gravel and touched the wall with the right rear wheel. It was not a very big impact, but it caused some damage. I’m very sorry because my mistake has cost the team a lot of time and effort. Going away from here I want to focus on the positives because we had a very good day yesterday and I’ve really enjoyed working with the team this week.”

Testing concludes at Jerez on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday test times from Jerez:
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes*, 1:17.613, 118 Laps
2. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1:18.419, 117 Laps
3. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:19.297, 96 Laps
4. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:19.464, 80 Laps
5. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:19.734, 79 Laps
6. Sergio Perez, Sauber, 1:19.770, 48 Laps
7. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:20.412, 67 Laps
8. Bruno Senna, Williams, 1:21.293, 125 Laps
9. Giedo van der Garde, Caterham, 1:23.324, 74 Laps
10. Jules Bianchi, Force India, no time, 2 Laps
* 2011 car

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