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Massa fastest for Williams as first test ends in Spain

31 Jan 2014

Williams' Felipe Massa set the pace at Jerez on Friday, as the opening pre-season test of 2014 drew to an intriguing close.

The Brazilian was one of seven drivers - six of them using Mercedes or Ferrari power - to complete more than 50 laps of the Spanish circuit, but once again all three Renault-powered teams were forced to cut their running short because of technical issues.

The morning session got underway in wet conditions, but that didn’t deter all of the runners from going out on track. Nico Rosberg quickly worked his way up to a 74-lap race simulation run (which included two pit stops) in Mercedes’ F1 W05 and by lunchtime the German had accumulated 91 laps.

The pace ramped up in the dry afternoon session, with morning pacesetter Fernando Alonso initially keeping Ferrari at the top of the timesheets. The Spaniard’s time was soon eclipsed by his former team mate Massa, who appeared more than comfortable at the wheel of Williams’ Mercedes-powered FW36, improving several times before the chequered flag appeared.

“It wasn't a great day because it was raining, but we completed some laps in the wet conditions which was interesting to understand how the car behaves in wet, with the tyres and new power unit,” Massa explained.

“We managed to do many more laps today than we have in the last three days which is important. Today we didn't have any issues with the car which I think is also another step forward. We now need to concentrate and prepare with an aim to do more laps per day in Bahrain.

“Overall, I'm happy with my first days with Williams and I'm pleased with what I have seen in the team this week. For sure it is important to be competitive, but testing is testing, and we now need to look to prepare for Bahrain and then towards the first race, which is the most important thing.”

Massa and Alonso finished the day with impressive lap tallies (86 and 115 respectively), as well as first and second places on the timesheets. Just behind the leading duo was new Force India test driver Daniel Juncadella, who had an impressive maiden run in the VJM07.

“It was my first day working with the team and it was a big challenge because of the tricky conditions,” said Juncadella. “I took things very cautiously because I had never driven a Formula One car in the wet and for the whole day the track still had damp patches. It was a case of building up my confidence and learning how the team operates. It was a great experience and I made sure to make the most of it.”

McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen, who was fourth fastest overall, completed five fewer laps than mileage leader Alonso and was responsible for two red flag stoppages during the day. The Dane spun at the chicane, and then just before the end of the session crashed without serious damage to his MP4-29 at Turn 10.

The fifth and sixth fastest times were clocked by Lewis Hamilton, who’d taken over the Mercedes from Rosberg at lunch, and Jules Bianchi who enjoyed his maiden outing in Marussia’s MR03.

“The car feels great to drive and I’m pleased that I was able to achieve some good mileage,” the Frenchman said.

“You always want more, of course, but there is a lot to work through and understand, so we have to be patient and go through the programme in the right way, especially as we have had damp conditions to contend with also.

“At the end, once we were happy with the systems work, it was nice to put the slicks on and start putting some laps together. It is early days but we were quite happy with the pace in the conditions and for our programme. Not a bad start.”

Elsewhere, Adrian Sutil followed up his Thursday spin with a Friday one, bringing out the red flags when he lost the rear end of his Sauber C33 at the chicane and became beached in the gravel. He ended up seventh on the timesheets, just ahead of compatriot Rosberg.

The final three times on the board were taken Renault-powered runners - Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

“We were working through a number of different engine maps and were definitely making progress but just after lunch we had another engine problem which meant we had to stop,” explained Kobayashi.

Joining the Japanese driver in the pits prematurely was Toro Rosso newcomer Daniil Kvyat. The Russian, whose Wednesday session had come to nothing thanks to electrical problems, at least managed some mileage in the STR9, albeit only nine laps.

“As a rookie with so much to learn, this week in Jerez has not been the start I would have wanted,” said Kvyat. “However, I trust my team and I trust Renault, so with some hard work, I am sure we can be in better shape and start to catch up at the next test. There have been a few positives, because we have acquired some useful data, even with limited running. Some questions have therefore already been answered and I was able to get a feel for the car in wet conditions.”

There was a similar mood of frustration at sister team Red Bull, with Ricciardo completing just seven laps before pulling in for the day.

“It's been a very difficult test,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner as his squad packed up early, having completed just 21 laps in four days in the new RB10.

“We have had numerous Renault issues as well as chassis cooling issues, which have affected our progress. However, despite the lack of mileage, what we have managed to learn shows that the problems should be solvable for the next test in Bahrain.

“Part of the purpose of this early test was to learn about any issues ahead of the start of the season and there will now be a lot of focus on the dyno over the next few weeks.”

From Jerez, the teams will now head back to their respective factories to consolidate their findings and prepare for the second pre-season test, which takes place in Bahrain on February 19-22.

Unofficial Friday test times from Jerez:

1. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1m 28.229s, 86 laps

2. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1m 29.145s, 115 laps

3. Daniel Juncadella, Force India, 1m 29.457s, 81 laps

4. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1m 30.806s, 110 laps

5. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1m 30.822s, 41 laps

6. Jules Bianchi, Marussia, 1m 32.222s, 25 laps

7. Adrian Sutil, Sauber, 1m 36.571s, 69 laps

8. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m 36.951s 91 laps

9. Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham, 1m 43.193s, 54 laps

10. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1m 44.016s, 9 laps

11. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1m 45.374s, 7 laps