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FEBRUARY 2, 2011

Alonso tops second test day in Valencia

Fernando Alonso put another 100 plus laps on Ferrari's new F150 in Valencia, his 1:13.307s best lap proving 0.31s quicker than reigning champion Sebastian Vettel (1:13.614) in the new Red Bull RB7 on the second day of testing at the Spanish track.

Vettel did another morning in the RB7 before handing over to Mark Webber (1:17.365), who only managed a handful of laps after experiencing installation problems with the pedals. "It wasn't the smoothest of days but we'll be back tomorrow," he said.

Third quickest was Paul Di Resta (1:13.844) with last year's Force India as the team gears up for the launch of the VJM04 next week. "We're not going for times, just trying to get representative data with the Pirelli tyres," the young Briton explained.

Lewis Hamilton (1:14.352) was fourth quickest with an interim McLaren MP4-25 as the team attempts to simulate 2011 downforce levels. The new car is launched in Berlin on Friday and there is speculation that it may have a Renault-style trick front-exiting exhaust system aimed at optimizing aerodynamic performance from the floor.

"The new Pirelli tyres are easy to get a feel for," Hamilton said, "but there's not as much grip as we had last year. They drop off quite a bit too, and are a little harder to control over a longer stint, but it's the same for everybody." Others also reported that tyre drop-off was dramatic, as much as 6-7s by the end of a stint.

Robert Kubica (1:14.412) was fifth fastest with the new Lotus Renault GP R31 but the surprise of the day was a 1:14.472s best from Narain Karthikeyan with last year's HRT, sandwiching himself between the Pole and Nico Rosberg's 1:14.645 with the new Mercedes.

Kubica ran with a new steering wheel design and felt happy with the button layout, which made it easier to manage the workload associated with KERS and the adjustable rear wing. Flow Viz paint was used on the car in the morning to allow the team to confirm that the new aero package was working as expected.

"It's always difficult to judge things after just one day in the car, especially with so many changes compared to last year," Kubica said. "The main factor is definitely the new Pirelli tyres, which have a big influence on how the car behaves. We ran on some of the different compounds to start getting a feeling for them. We did have a couple of mechanical issues with the car and we couldn't complete the entire programme, but we still did lots of laps."

"It was a much more satisfying day than yesterday," Renault's James Allison confirmed. We did over a hundred laps, the KERS system and the DRS wing worked flawlessly and we managed some set-up work alongside the routine task list of pre-season checks."

While tempting to believe that Karthikeyan, returning to the F1 paddock for the first time since 2005, had found a short cut on the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, it was a pukka time. The world's fastest Indian was running low fuel, was on the supersoft Pirelli compound, reckoned to be worth the best part of a second, and it's worth remembering too, that last year's cars are 20kgs lighter. Even so, it added up to a decent effort.

Timo Glock (1:15.408) was eighth quickest in the Virgin, with their new car due to be launched next Monday in London. Rubens Barrichello (1:16.023) was ninth with the new Williams before handing over to rookie team mate Pastor Maldonado (1:16.266), the reigning GP2 champion, who finished the day just a couple of tenths down on F1's most experienced man.

Seven hundredths quicker than Maldonado was fellow rookie Sergio Perez (1:16.198). The first Mexican in F1 since Hector Rebaque in 1981 managed 42 laps in the new Sauber C30 before his activity was cut short by a power train issue early in the afternoon. The test concludes with its third day, tomorrow.