Schumacher sets the pace after day four at Barcelona


The much vaulted upgrades aboard the Mercedes have shown that the team has indeed made significant progress this week in Barcelona. Michael Schumacher topped the timesheets after setting a blistering pace on series of short stints in the morning session before handing the driving duties to his teammate, Nico Rosberg, who ended the day third fastest.

The German duo sandwiched the every impressive Fernando Alonso with Nick Heidfeld and Rubens Barrichello the only other drivers within a second of Schumacher’s pace. Kamui Kobayashi, Jamie Alguersuari, Sebastian Vettel, a very impressive Heikki Kovalainen and Paul di Resta rounded out the top ten.

Mercedes have gradually added their upgraded parts throughout the week, a front wing one day, a new exhaust the next but today was the first day that they had the de facto Melbourne contender on track. It was most certainly worth the wait for fans of the Stuttgart manufacturer with Schumacher clearly revelling in having a car capable of giving him the feedback that he needs.

The seven times world champion focussed a lot of time on short, qualifying style stints but his performance drop off when during longer runs has been impressive throughout the week so it clear that tyre wear is not as big an issue for the team as had earlier been the case. This could prove crucial throughout the early races as teams struggle to adapt to the high tyre wear of the Pirelli’s in a race. If Mercedes has found a balance in terms of tyre usage they could be very well placed to spring a surprise in the opening races.

Alonso had another strong day and showed once more why he is being looked at as the biggest competitor to the Red Bulls. Ferrari once more enjoyed bulletproof reliability and completed 141 laps with the team spending most of the day working on medium length stints. Alonso’s fastest lap came on a single lap stint.

It was in this manner that the majority of the faster runners set their times with Sebastian Vettel the exception. The reigning world champion had a low key day, completing just 63 laps, and focussed on five to ten lap stints. The Red Bull team have shown indications of their true speed this week so there was little reason for Vettel to run qualifying simulations today.

Heikki Kovalainen completed 137 laps for Lotus and was particularly impressive. The Finnish driver showed once again why Lotus is so confident about their progress for the upcoming year with a solid qualifying simulation that was just two seconds adrift of Schumacher.

Force India split driving duties with Adrian Sutil and di Resta with Williams also giving Pastor Maldonado time in the car but the Venezuelan needed an engine change and was limited to just a handful of laps.

McLaren also had engine woes with Jenson Button limited to 57 laps. The team has suffered from terrible reliability throughout the winter and Button was only able to complete short stints, on a relatively high fuel load, as the team continue to try and find a solution to their woes.

Pos  Driver                      Team/Car              Time       Gap       Laps
1.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1m21.249s            67
2.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari                       1m21.614s  + 0.365s  141
3.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes                     1m21.788s  + 0.539s  22
4.  Nick Heidfeld       Renault                          1m22.073s  + 0.824s  67
5.  Rubens Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth     1m22.233s  + 0.984s  89
6.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari         1m22.315s  + 1.066s  98
7.  Jaime Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m22.675s  + 1.426s  72
8.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault       1m22.933s  + 1.684s  64
9.  Heikki Kovalainen   Lotus-Renault          1m23.437s  + 2.188s  138
10.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  1m23.653s  + 2.404s  42
11.  Adrian Sutil        Force India-Mercedes   1m23.921s  + 2.672s  26
12.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth   1m24.108s  + 2.859s  11
13.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1m25.837s  + 4.588s  57
14.  Jerome D’Ambrosio   Virgin-Cosworth       1m27.375s  + 6.126s  46

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