Tuesday March 5, 2013
Rosberg seals Mercedes double as testing ends
BARCELONA: Nico Rosberg set the fastest time on the final day of Formula One testing on Sunday, sealing impressive back-to-back performances by Mercedes after team-mate Lewis Hamilton had been quickest 24 hours earlier.
Rosberg’s time of 1:20.130 was also the best of any driver in the four-day session and also eclipsed the fastest times set in February’s first week of testing at the same Catalunya circuit.
Hamilton had clocked 1:20.558 in the other Mercedes, nicknamed the Silver Arrows, on Saturday.
Former double world champion Fernando Alonso, in a Ferrari, was the only other driver to break the 1:21:00 mark on Sunday, timing 1:20.494 while 2009 champion Jenson Button was third best in the McLaren in 1:21.444.
“I’m pleased with our pre-season testing programme.
“We have achieved a lot of mileage and I can feel that the balance of the car is good,” said Rosberg, who put in 131 laps during testing.
“I have the general feeling that we are in a better position than in the second half of last year but this is testing not racing, of course.”
The new F1 season starts in Melbourne on March 17 and Rosberg was keen to play down the performance of Mercedes in winter testing, pointing to the dramatically different conditions that await the teams in Australia.
“The conditions in the first race will be completely different to here as it will be much hotter in Melbourne and Sepang (the venue of the Malaysian Grand Prix) so we need to wait and see.”
In fact, Rosberg was happier to talk about his link-up with Hamilton in Mercedes again.
Hamilton, the 2008 world champion has linked up with Rosberg again — 13 years on from when they were first team-mates during their karting days.
Back then, the two pulled tricks on each other, with Rosberg once smearing Tiger Balm into Hamilton’s underpants. And the German prankster has warned that there could be more to come as Hamilton settles into his new team.
He said: “There have been no practical jokes yet, but I am sure there will be time for that.
“It’s been good working with Lewis again. The memories have all come flooding back from when we were together before. It’s such a long time ago now. It is like 13 years ago — but the memories come back and it feels like being back then.
“It will be a great challenge to compete against him but that’s what I am here for. He is one of the best drivers in the pit lane but I think we can work well together and push the team forward.”
Mercedes team chief Ross Brawn believes the hard yards put in by Rosberg, who drove 2,640km in testing in Barcelona and Jerez, and Hamilton, who racked up 2,584km, will be crucial in the season ahead.
“I am pleased with the progress that the team have made over the last month and the steps forward that have been made with the car,” said Brawn, who helped mastermind Michael Schumacher’s title dominance in his Ferrari days.
“Lewis has settled into the team extremely well and everyone has enjoyed working with both him and Nico throughout the three tests.
“We’re realistic about our performance here and our position once we get to Melbourne, and we look forward to the challenges ahead.”
Meanwhile, triple world champion Sebastian Vettel was down in eighth in the Red Bull with a time of 1:22.514. — Agencies