F1 testing is showing good progress for all teams at the Catalunya circuit in Barcelona as they get down to the fine-tuning stage ahead of the new season.
Despite initial complaints by Felipe Massa and being branded as "ugly" by the company boss, the Ferrari F2012 has shown to have no obvious problems with set-up or design. The luminous paint seen at the start of testing has not been used since, suggesting that aero data gained from on the track matches predictions made by the computer simulators in the factory.
Meanwhile, the McLaren team and its British drivers Lewuis Hamilton and Jenson Button are happy with the MP4-26, stating that testing has been much better than last year, when drastic changes were needed for the car. Button said on Thursday that the performance gap between McLaren and Red Bull Racing is much smaller than it was at this stage last year, when the Red Bull car dominated for many races.
Button said: "Seb [Vettel] is obviously the favourite, as he should be as he has won the last two world championships.There have been regulation changes, and I think still Red Bull will be strong this year from the word go, but I don't think they will have the advantage they had at the start of last year."
The 2009 World Champion added: "I just hope we are going in the right direction. The wind tunnel says we are. I am looking to the update next week, and then we can start balancing the car and finding a direction for the first race."
Lewis Hamilton, who will be looking for a strong 2012 after problems on and off the track made last season difficult for him, said: "Last year I think I struggled to do 30 laps. I think we struggled to do 10 laps without the exhaust failing. "So to do a whole day and to do 120 laps, I can't remember last time I did that many laps. Definitely we feel in a much more comfortable place and confident that we can be at the front fighting with the guys at the top."
Australian driver Mark Webber suffered a gearbox failure on Thursday morning as he was attempting to run for an entire race length (around 300km), but he remains confident that reliability issues will be fixed before the first race on 18 March. After getting the car fixed and completeing a race distance in the afternoon, Webber said: "In Jerez I felt comfortable in the car. Today, we didn't have the smoothest of days but there are still loads of positives to look at. Obviously we are a very ambitious team, and we want to keep improving."
After Friday's afternoon session is complete, testing begins again at Catalunya on 1 March and runs for four days, however Red Bull Racing and Ferrari will be testing between the second and fifth of March. Lotus will not be attending the second Catalunya test as the team wad forced to return home after problems were found with the chassis. The team will run its own private test after the other teams have finished.