Grosjean leaves it late at Barca
Romain Grosjean capped another strong day for Lotus at Barcelona by storming to the top of the timesheet late on the second day.
Last Updated: 02/03/12 5:36pm
Romain Grosjean usurped fellow Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne from the head of the timesheet in the closing seconds of day two at Barcelona, as Lotus continued to lay down an impressive marker on their return to action.
The GP2 champion used the soft tyres to beat the day's long-time pacesetter with an impressive lap of 1:22.614, vaulting him a commanding half a second clear of the Toro Rosso rookie who was forced to sit out the majority of the afternoon following a late morning engine failure.
Vergne had suffered the contrasting emotions of topping the timesheet, and then having his STR7 grind to a halt on the track, all inside the final 30 minutes of running of a heavily disjointed morning session that had initially been delayed by half an hour as the Circuit de Catalunya was shrouded in fog, and then by no less than six red flag periods.
Completing what were clearly qualifying simulations ahead of his debut grand prix in a fortnight's time, Vergne took the soft tyres for a single flying lap and clocked 1:23.126 which was enough to relegate early pacesetter Fernando Alonso into second place, the Spaniard having earlier lapped in 1:23.447 on the hard compound.
After returning to the pits, Vergne was soon back on the circuit on the super-soft rubber but, after setting an even faster first sector, spluttered to a halt approaching turn eight with smoke seen emanating from the back of the car - Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz later confirming the issue as having been a failure with his car's Ferrari engine.
The young Frenchman did return for the final 30 minutes of running - which was only made possible by officials deciding to lengthen the session in order to make up for the early morning fog-induced delays - but Grosjean's late burst pushed him down to second place.
Grosjean's latest of late interventions capped another highly promising day for Lotus with the E20, their second back on the circuit following the chassis problems of last week.
Prior to his late flying run, Grosjean, appearing in the car for the last time before Melbourne, had successfully completed a 66-lap race simulation, which saw him set consistent times on Pirelli's soft and hard compound. A subsequent run on the medium tyres consolidated what had been fourth place before his final run on the softs saw him shatter the day's hitherto benchmark time.
It meant Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso slipped to third and fourth, Red Bull and Ferrari having opted to run very different programmes for their respective star drivers on Friday.
While Vettel completed no more than nine flying laps in one stint across the day, Alonso notched up a full race distance in the F2012. The Red Bull driver though had earlier been slightly delayed when his RB8 stopped out on the circuit shortly after Vergne - although this appears likely to have been simply a dry fuel run.
Taking fifth place against the odds was Heikki Kovalainen in the Caterham CT01, although the Finn was the only driver to set his best time on the quickest tyres in Pirelli's range, the super-softs.
Nonetheless to get within 0.7s of the fastest time, and clear 100 laps for the day, will no doubt boost the Norfolk-based outfit's morale.
Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenberg were close behind in sixth and seventh for Sauber and Force India respectively, although the latter was forced to sit out most of the afternoon after a gearbox problem on his VJM05 caused yet another track stoppage just as the grid was getting going again after lunch.
Another German to run into problems was the most famous of the lot - Michael Schumacher - who twice brought out the red flag in the morning when his W03 stopped on circuit, the second time when he took a trip through the gravel.
The seven-time champion still ended up ahead of Lewis Hamilton in eighth, as McLaren appeared to spend most of the day fitting new Melbourne-spec parts to the MP4-27 between short runs which totalled just 65 laps.
Williams, meanwhile, brought up the rear as they split their programme between Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna - the former having been the day's first red flag culprit.
Day two times:
1) Grosjean Lotus 1:22.614 124 laps
2) Vergne Toro Rosso 1:23.126 45
3) Vettel Red Bull 1:23.361 85
4) Alonso Ferrari 1:23.447 125
5) Kovalainen Caterham 1:23.828 104
6) Kobayashi Sauber 1:23.836 76
7) Hulkenberg Force India 1:23.893 33
8) Schumacher Mercedes 1:23.978 79
9) Hamilton McLaren 1:24.111 65
10) Senna Williams 1:24.925 48
11) Maldonado Williams 1:25.801 20