• Nico Rosberg’s 2011 Mercedes fastest in Jerez testing
• Romain Grosjean’s Lotus best of teams’ 2012 models
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel produced almost identical times on the third day of testing in Jerez on Thursday but they were trumped by the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, even though he was driving last year’s car.
Romain Grosjean’s Lotus was the fastest of the 2012-spec cars, just ahead of Hamilton’s McLaren and Vettel’s Red Bull. But it was a disappointing day for Fernando Alonso, whose Ferrari looked off the pace, and the team’s technical director, Pat Fry, said: “I am not happy with where we are at the moment.”
Hamilton, though, looked just as cheerful as Button had been the day before as McLaren continued to transform their miserable testing performances of a year ago.
The 2008 champion said: “I’m happy to be back and thankful to have a day without any troubles. We did quite a laps compared to last year, so it is all positive so far.
“We have not yet figured out the right setup of the car. There are still lots of test items that we have to go through. I would not say the car is more predictable than last year but I would generally say that it feels like an evolution of last year’s car, although we have lost the downforce through the corners, but I am sure we will get that back.”
At the end of last year McLaren were almost as quick as the Red Bulls of Vettel and Mark Webber but they had been playing catch-up all season and it was a particularly disappointing year for Hamilton, who finished fifth in the championship.
On Thursday he explained why he had decided to add Didier Coton, the double world champion Mika Hakkinen’s manager, to his own management team.
“I thought it was a good idea to have,” he said. “Me and Simon [Fuller, Hamilton’s manager] were looking at ways to strengthen the team a little bit and we wanted to find someone who has more racing experience.
“Didier has been a good friend of mine for many years. He has great experience, not just with my team but also in the F1 paddock. It will be strong to have him at the grand prix when I need him. That’s what he is there for.”
But Hamilton did not make any comment about Adrian Sutil, even though he may be forced to go to court as a witness following the German driver’s decision to appeal against a conviction following a fight in a Shanghai nightclub last year.
Vettel was his usual methodical self, speaking for more than 11 minutes after his run. The double world champion said: “The target is to improve so you have to be open to learn. The idea is to get away in the winter time, take time to reflect and hopefully come back stronger, more prepared and more organised.
“We have sat down together and talked through last year and all the things we can improve. Looking from outside it looked almost perfect but there were quite a lot of things on the list, so we will see how we get on. It’s quite special this year, with six world champions.”