Jérôme D’Ambrosio was back at the wheel of Marussia Virgin Racing’s MVR-02 race car today for the first of four days of testing in Barcelona, Spain. This is the fourth and final test of the pre-season programme, taking place when the teams had expected to be heading to the Middle East for the season-opening round of the 2011 Championship. Instead, the re-scheduled programme means that the teams find themselves back at the Circuit de Catalunya, making use of extremely valuable track time on familiar asphalt to conduct final race preparation ahead of the new season curtain-raiser in Melbourne, Australia, in just over two weeks’ time.
Timo Glock will not be taking part in the test following an appendectomy last week after a sudden bout of appendicitis. Although he has recovered well, the team wishes to avoid the potential for aggravating an area which is typically subjected to intense pressure from the seat belts. Instead, Timo will attend the test later in the week to review on-track progress with the team and Jérôme.
The characteristics of the Barcelona circuit are ideally suited to the crucial set-up and race preparation work that is the focus of this final testing opportunity, thanks to its combination of fast, medium and low-speed corners.
With the full four day programme resting on Jérôme’s ‘rookie’ shoulders, the team took advantage of a cold, damp start to the test to commence the running with some systems checks and gear shift strategy tuning, followed by a full afternoon of pitstop practice ready for his racing debut in Melbourne. This also provided the pitstop crew with the opportunity to ensure they are fully rehearsed for the season ahead as the likelihood is that the Pirelli tyres will call for two to three pitstops per car in each race.
The team concluded its running after 57 laps and will now switch focus to a detailed programme of evaluation work with the PZero tyres, commencing tomorrow following some initial systems checks in the morning.
“On the one hand it is a shame that Timo can’t take part in the test this week as the combined inputs of two drivers provides more detailed feedback for the engineers. On the other hand, four days of running will give me a lot of beneficial time in the car to prepare for my first race, so I’m looking forward to a very busy week for me and the team. With the track being so ‘green’ today and the conditions quite cold, our focus has been on pitstop practice, which has been extremely valuable for myself and the crew. With more pitstops in the races this year, perfecting our execution is even more critical as the stops can be crucial in making up ground to other teams during a race. It’s been quite a start-stop day however, so I’m looking forward to some longer runs starting tomorrow to work with the hard and soft compounds that we will use in the first three races.”
John Booth, Team Principal
“None of the teams expected to be running here at the Circuit de Catalunya this week and it feels a little strange to be back in Barcelona when we would ordinarily have been in Bahrain. Nonetheless, what we can look forward to is a week of highly representative running at a track where the characteristics really lend themselves to honing our car for the first ‘few’ races rather than just the season-opener. It’s been a cold start to the week here so we’ve tailored our programme accordingly and as the temperature comes up over the next few days we’ll really start to feel the benefit of working with the specific tyre compounds in race representative conditions. It’s a big week for Jérôme as we’ve handed him the baton for four full days, but there can be no better situation for him to ensure he is fully prepared for his racing debut in Melbourne. Timo’s feedback would obviously have been extremely beneficial here, but it’s more important that having recovered well from his operation we don’t take any risks as we need him to be fighting fit for the opening race. He will be here later in the week though to ensure he is across all of the data and as close to the action as we can get him for now. It will be good to have him back.”