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Barcelona day one - Grosjean ahead as Lotus bounce back 01 Mar 2012

Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 E20.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 1 March 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/27.

Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 1 March 2012 
Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C31.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 1 March 2012 
Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 1 March 2012 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.

Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 1 March 2012 
Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 1 March 2012 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Caterham CT01.

Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 1 March 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34.

Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 1 March 2012 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8 and Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C31 leaves the pits. Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday 1 March 2012.

Lotus’ Romain Grosjean topped the timesheets as the final pre-season test began at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday. Grosjean’s best, a 1m 23.252s set late in the day, was a quarter of a second faster than that of the second-placed McLaren of Jenson Button.

With the weather dry and sunny, the 10 teams in action enjoyed a productive first day, with fastest runner Grosjean completing 71 laps in the E20. It was a welcome result for his team, who had to abandon last week’s session at the Spanish track after a chassis problem forced them back to their UK factory.

“The car was feeling very good and it’s great to bounce back from our dramas to set the fastest time of the day,” said Grosjean. “It’s clear we have solved the problem we encountered and now we have to complete a very full test programme this week. The feeling in the team is fantastic and it’s like last week’s issues never happened. My crew told me that the problems would make us stronger, and this is true. The chassis is stronger, and all the team is stronger. We gathered good data today and we have a few interesting things that we would like to confirm tomorrow which should help us make a good step forwards.”

McLaren’s focus was primarily pit-stop practice with a full race crew and further race prove-outs, including some more time-consuming set-up work. The team plan on gradually introducing a suite of new components to the MP4-27 during this test.

Sauber’s Sergio Perez was third after covering 118 laps in the C31. “We are quite happy with how the day went,” said the Swiss team's head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara. “We ticked off everything that had been on today’s job list without any noteworthy issues. It was also good for Sergio to cover a good amount of mileage. Test conditions here in Barcelona have been ideal.”

Red Bull’s Mark Webber was fourth after a faultless day in the RB8, ahead of Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes. Rosberg covered 128 laps, the German working on set-up in the morning before tackling longer runs in the afternoon.

Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne posted the sixth-quickest time, with Force India’s Paul di Resta and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa just behind the Frenchman. Vergne completed 113 laps as he focused on set-up work in the STR7, split between long and short runs. The team also practiced pit stops.

“It was a good day and I completed more laps than on any of my other times in the car so far,” said Vergne. “I am feeling more confident and comfortable and I think we are also making steady progress on car development. The pit stops are also getting better and were an improvement on last week here.”

Di Resta was charged with shaking down the team’s second VJM05 chassis and completed 98 laps. “Another busy day and we managed to tick off all the objectives once again,” said the Scot. “The final test is all about adding new parts to the car, seeing how they perform, and getting our set-up sorted for Melbourne. I think we have a good idea of where we need to be based on the performance of the car today.”

Massa focused on improving the F2012’s set-up and covered 105 laps. Team mate Fernando Alonso will take to the track on Friday, before Massa returns to the cockpit on Saturday.

With Heikki Kovalainen succumbing to food poisoning overnight, Caterham were forced to hastily rearrange their schedule and draft in team mate Vitaly Petrov. Petrov completed 123 laps and finished ninth.

“That was an excellent day for us, despite the very late change of driver we had to make this morning,” said chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. “We completed the whole programme and even though we will not have Vitaly’s race seat ready until he is back in the car on Sunday, he was much more comfortable in the car and improved his times and his feedback throughout the day.

“This morning we were focusing on further tyre evaluation and setup work, and in the afternoon session we completed a number of long runs which has helped us take a step forward with the set-up options for this car. Taking into account the number of laps we ran today, and the fact Vitaly is feeling ever more comfortable with the team and in the car I think we can say that this has been the perfect start to the test for the whole team.”

The day’s final runner was Pastor Maldonado in the Williams, the British team working on aero correlation and set-up with the FW34. “We tested part of our first race update package today, and in particular the new front wing,” explained Mark Gillan, chief operations engineer. “We then tested a number of interesting exploratory mechanical set-ups to investigate potential development directions for the forthcoming races. During the day, we encountered a couple of issues which limited our running and which we are currently investigating.”

Testing continues at Barcelona on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday test times from Barcelona:
1. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1:23.252, 73 Laps
2. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:23.510, 64 Laps
3. Sergio Perez, Sauber, 1:23.820, 118 Laps
4. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:23.830, 102 Laps
5. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:23.992, 128 Laps
6. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:24.216, 113 Laps
7. Paul di Resta, Force India, 1:24.305, 98 Laps
8. Felipe Masssa, Ferrari, 1:24.318, 105 Laps
9. Vitaly Petrov, Caterham, 1:24.876, 123 Laps
10. Pastor Maldonado, Williams, 1:25.587, 58 Laps

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