MARCH 8, 2011
Webber tops first day of final Barcelona test
Mark Webber (1:22.544) set the fastest 2011 time yet seen at Barcelona with Red Bull's RB7 on the first day of the final pre-season F1 test ahead of the season-opening race in Melbourne on March 27.
Webber's time was the result of a qualifying-type simulation run early in the day and was a few hundredths faster than Ferrari managed at the recent test at the Spanish track, although Felipe Massa was understood not to be in full qualifying trim when he set that time.
"We got some good laps in today," the Australian said. "We don't have unlimited sets of tyres these days, so the mileage is a bit controlled by how many you have at your disposal. But, all in all, we got some good information." Head of race engineering, Ian Morgan, added: "Today was the first proper test for chassis 02 and I'm happy to say everything went according to plan. We concentrated on some short runs in the morning and then longer race-distance type runs in the afternoon."
Jenson Button (1:22.910) was a more encouraging second with the new McLaren MP4-26, the day notable for the appearance of what the team labeled a "distinctive piece of porpoise-shaped measuring equipment" fitted to the nose of the car. It was for testing purposes only and will not be raced.
"Testing has not been great for us," Button admitted, "but today I think we made positive progress with the balance. I know there's not much testing left - I only have one more day in the car - but, after today, I feel we can make further progress over the next few days. I feel we now have a good base upon which to build -- and that's nice to see."
Renault's drivers were third and fifth - Vitaly Petrov (1:22.937) taking over from Nick Heidfeld (1:24.735) with the German afflicted by a heavy cold.
The team concentrated on validating key elements of the race one aero package to make sure the track data matched wind tunnel figures. Both drivers tried the new rear wing and new floor, and the initial data confirms that the updated package is a step forward.
"Nick wasn't feeling too well so we didn't do anything too strenuous in the morning," explained Renault's Alan Permane. "We wanted him to get a feel for the new aero parts and his initial feedback was very useful. Vitaly took over in the afternoon and did some constant speed runs, trying both the hard and soft tyres.
Renault's men were split by Sergio Perez (1:24.117) with the Sauber C30 and then just three tenths adrift of Heidfeld was Paul di Resta (1:25.039) with the Force India VJM04, in which he shared testing duties with Nico Hulkenberg (1:25.039), who had his first run in the car that he will drive in free practice on Friday in Melbourne. Di Resta ran for the first time with the KERS system live.
Davide Valsecchi (1:25.406) and Luiz Razia (1:26.723), AirAsia's GP2 drivers, shared a day in Tony Fernandes's F1 car. Valsecchi ran well in the morning before bringing out a red flag when he put the car in the gravel. Razia also brought out a red when he stopped out on circuit in the closing moments of the session but chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne was impressed with both.
Sebastien Buemi's Toro Rosso (1:26.004) also caused a red when it stopped on the straight early in the day, the Swiss getting out again after lunch. There will be fuller representation tomorrow when Ferrari, Mercedes and Williams also join the action.