Jerez, Day Four: Kimi Raikkonen finishes on top as unreliability arrives at Ferrari
Fires, potholes and more Mercedes miles story of final day
By James Galloway at Jerez
Last Updated: 09/02/13 8:35am
On a dramatic Friday in southern Spain which saw Ferrari's F138 catch fire, the action suspended for nearly an hour due to the emergence of a gaping pothole and Mercedes continue their reliability fightback, Lotus's 'Iceman' hit the top of the timesheets mid-way through the extended afternoon in a short run on the soft tyre.
His pacesetting time of 1:18.148 was the second fastest seen across all four days of the test and just slightly out of reach of Force India's Jules Bianchi, who had earlier lapped a mere 0.027 slower in a similar run to do his chances of finally landing the second seat at the team no harm at all.
World Champion Sebastian Vettel finished the day four tenths back on Raikkonen but his fastest lap was arguably in reality the most impressive of the entire test given it came on the hardest of Pirellis tyres, two steps up from the compound Raikkonen used to go fastest.
"I think for the whole team it's been quite a good test," commented Vettel. "No problems in terms of reliability and we did a lot of laps, so I'm quite pleased with the results. I feel a bit better than last year. I think we had some issues with reliability then, so it seems we have done our homework well."
Elsewhere, Sauber and the recovering Mercedes team vied for the honour of completing the highest number of laps - and for the second straight day it went to the latter, Lewis Hamilton putting his Day Two brake failure firmly behind him by registering 145 laps.
That tally was just three shy of team-mate Nico Rosberg's total from the previous day and meant that the W04 has now clocked up the equivalent of four race distances in two days. Quite the recovery.
"I am learning something with every lap I do and every change I make to the set-up," said Hamilton. "Overall, I think we are probably at the level we would have hoped to be. The team has done a great job to add downforce to the car over the winter and they now need Nico and me to tell them where we can improve and the direction we need to go."
However, the day's biggest story centered around Ferrari after new development driver Pedro de la Rosa's debut for the team stalled almost before it had begun when Day Three's pacesetting car broke down for the first time - and spectacularly so.
The Spanish veteran was halfway through his second installation lap when the car started billowing smoke from its rear which grounded it to a halt, the team later tracing the small fire and resultant smoke to a gearbox problem.
The failure cost Ferrari several hours of track time as they replaced the gearbox and repaired the charred bodywork - although nearly an hour of that proved dead track time in any case as officials red flagged the session to repair a pothole on the exit kerb at turn nine.
The hole emerged after a car had run over the kerb and into the adjacent concrete, knocking off a manhole cover. After suspending the session, officials and team delegates from Red Bull - who had alerted circuit representatives to the problem originally - examined the problem before the hole was eventually filled with quick-drying cement.
Despite the delays, officials soon announced that the test would be extended by 30 minutes, ensuring teams could complete their scheduled Day Four programmes.
That was particularly good news for Sauber rookie Esteban Gutierrez, who ended his second day in the C32 with a 55-lap race distance across four stints. The 21-year-old Mexican fourth-fastest time however had come in the morning during a shorter run on soft tyres.
With a late improvement from Jean-Eric Vergne on the soft tyres pushing Hamilton down to sixth, Day One pacesetter's McLaren's low-key end to the test saw Sergio Perez complete 98 laps. The Mexican, who picked up a puncture in the afternoon, did however set his 1:18.9 on the hard tyres.
Ferrari managed to salvage 51 laps from the day in wake of their troubled morning, de la Rosa's best time coming with two hours to go on a shorter run.
Jerez Day Four Timesheet:
1. Kimi Raikkonen, 1:18.148, 83 laps
2. Jules Bianchi, 1:18.175, 56 laps
3. Sebastian Vettel, 1:18.565, 96 laps
4. Esteban Gutierrez, 1:18.669, 142 laps
5. Jean-Eric Vergne 1:18.760, 92 laps
6. Lewis Hamilton, 1:18.905, 145 laps
7. Sergio Perez, 1:18.944, 98 laps
8. Valtteri Bottas, 1:19.851, 92 laps
9. Pedro de la Rosa, 1:20.316, 51 laps
10. Charles Pic, 1:21.105, 109 laps
11. Luiz Razia, 1:21.226, 82 laps
12. Paul di Resta, 1:23.435, 49 laps