Davide Valsecchi leads the way in Jerez
The GP2 Series paddock gathered in Jerez de la Frontera this week for the first of two official pre-season test sessions. After the winter break, the thirteen teams were eager to hit the track and get back to action. The field welcomed newcomers Venezuela GP Lazarus as the thirteenth team in 2012 and 2013.
Amidst many familiar faces and some reshuffle of the grid, nine rookies made their first appearance today: British F3 Champion Felipe Nasr, 2011 GP3 Series runner-up James Calado, GP3 graduates Vittorio Ghirelli, Simon Trummer, Tom Dillmann, Nigel Melker and Rio Haryanto (although, some of them took part in the 2011 GP2 Finals last November), Fabio Onidi and Daniel de Jong.
The Series sole tyre supplier Pirelli has provided P Zero slick Hard (Prime) and Medium (Option) compounds for this three-day session.
The day opened in cold temperatures, but in sunny conditions. The twenty-six drivers took to the track quickly for installation laps in order to get to grips with their machine. Carlin’s Haryanto topped the timesheets after one hour gone in the session, but it wasn’t long until Melker at Ocean bettered the Indonesian’s laptime by four tenths. Rodolfo Gonzalez now with Caterham Racing went momentarily top until Lotus GP’s Esteban Gutierrez took control of the timesheets, one tenth quicker than Marcus Ericsson at iSport in P2. As the track warmed up, the Swedish ace went top, but in the final hour, Davide Valsecchi who has moved to DAMS this season improved with every lap until he clocked a laptime of 1:26.014 and remained on top until the chequered flag. His closest rival, newcomer Onidi at Scuderia Coloni finished two tenths behind the Italian. GP2 returnee Jolyon Palmer now with Barwa Addax ended P3 ahead of Ericsson, Gutierrez, Calado, Stéphane Richelmi, Stefano Coletti, Dani Clos and Melker.
The session was briefly red flagged after Dillmann ran a bit wide and clipped the barrier damaging his Ocean car and ending his morning session prematurely.
The temperature rose again and when the afternoon session began, Fabio Leimer was the first one to set the pace. Valsecchi however continued on his good form and topped the timesheets and his laptime remained unbeaten until a quick red flag brought a halt to proceedings after Ghirelli stopped on the track. At the restart, Ericsson was rapidly on the pace and set the quickest laptime. Halfway through the session, Richelmi went top, but the iSport man reclaimed P1 going 5 hundredths faster than the Trident driver. He remained undefeated until the chequered flag. In a last minute effort, both Lotus GP drivers moved P2 and P3, Gutierrez ahead of Calado. Leimer, Richelmi, Johnny Cecotto, Valsecchi, Berthon, Josef Kral and Max Chilton rounded up the Top 10.