Romain Grosjean quickest in Silverstone
2011 GP2 Asia Series Champion starts European Series on top at first pre-season tests
The first 2011 pre-season testing opened today at Silverstone in cold, wet and windy conditions. While Christian Vietoris rejoined Racing Engineering for the European season, Ocean Racing welcomed a new line up consisting of Johnny Cecotto and rookie Kevin Mirocha. Davide Rigon returned to GP2 at Scuderia Coloni and Oliver Turvey assisted Carlin in the absence of Mikhail Aleshin.
The twenty-six drivers braved the tricky track conditions as soon as the pitlane opened this morning, all of them eager to get as much mileage as possible in the GP2/11 car on Pirelli wet weather tyres. GP2 Asia Series Champion Romain Grosjean was the early pacesetter ahead of Davide Valsecchi and Esteban Gutierrez. But at mid-session, it was iSport’s Marcus Ericsson who went top, five hundredths quicker than the Dams’ man. As the clock kept ticking, GP3 Series Champion Gutierrez became the first man to break the 1:58 barrier setting a laptime of 1:57.400 – six tenths quicker than Ericsson. Grosjean later matched the young Mexican’s performance, but Gutierrez stayed in control of the timing sheets. Lotus ART’s Jules Bianchi then went quickest, going under 1:57 and improving his teammate’s laptime by seven tenths. Carlin’s Max Chilton and Cecotto also improved to edge Gutierrez out.
With fifteen minutes left on the clock, Bianchi bettered and broke the 1:56 barrier while Gutierrez moved up to P2 and Addax’s Charles Pic made his way to P3. But in the dying seconds, Arden’s rookie Jolyon Palmer moved up to P2. A third and final red flag closed the morning session.
The afternoon session started on a slightly dryer track and with Grosjean as the early pacesetter, four hundredths quicker than Coloni’s Rigon. The Italian later lapped the British circuit in 1:52.243 which put him at the top of the timing sheet, and three seconds ahead of his closest rival. While some teams were hard at work with pitstop practice, Addax’s duo Giedo van der Garde and Pic improved their laptimes and moved up to P2 and P3 respectively.
On a drying track, Grosjean got back on top, but Trident’s Stefano Coletti decided to put on slick tyres before everyone else and immediately bettered the Dams’ driver’s laptime, setting a fastest laptime of 1:44.085. Ericsson and Fairuz Fauzy also chose to go out on slick tyres and the two men played catch up with Coletti, but the Monegasque driver kept on improving his personal best to stay at the top.
However, thirty minutes before the end of session, iSport’s Ericsson went top, two tenths quicker than Coletti. The rest of the field then decided that it was time to go out on slick tyres as well. Valsecchi, Filippi, Roldolfo Gonzalez, Julian Leal, Luiz Razia and Palmer entered in the top ten, just as Fabio Leimer at Rapax climbed at the top of the timesheets, with Vietoris and Filippi in tow. It was then Arden’s Josef Kral took control of the timing sheet just fifteen minutes before the end of the session and while Bianchi pushed his way to P3. Just as Grosjean set the quickest laptime in 1:40.725, the proceedings were interrupted by a red flag caused by Fauzy losing control of his car on the Astroturf, eight minutes before the chequered flag. The session did not restart and the Frenchman finished on top ahead of Kral, Leimer, Sam Bird, Bianchi, Vietoris, Filippi, Leal, Herck and van der Garde..