Sauber’s Sergio Perez has ended Red Bull’s two-day reign at the top of the timesheets after setting Thursday’s quickest time in testing at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. Perez posted a best lap of 1m 21.761s as this week’s final pre-season session continued at the Spanish track.
With McLaren and HRT not in action, ten of Formula One racing’s 12 teams were out on track. Perez's fastest time was over three-tenths of a second quicker than the best from Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in second. The Mexican carried out set-up work in the morning, followed by a qualifying simulation before lunch and almost a complete race simulation in the afternoon. He covered 95 laps.
"We have had an interesting day as we carried out qualifying practice and race simulation," explained Sauber technical director James Key. "In the morning we started off with some general set up work, and then went into a qualifying practice, which was the first time we had run the car on low fuel. This was also the first time for Sergio to go through all those procedures from Q1 to Q3.
"He did a good and controlled set of laps, setting a time of 1:22.042 minutes on soft tyres and 1:21.761 on the super soft compound. In the afternoon we started a race simulation, but unfortunately this was stopped early due to a KERS problem, which meant we could not complete the laps we wanted."
Massa, on his final day of testing before the Australian Grand Prix, completed 132 laps in the 150° Italia. He carried out a comparison of aero elements before completing a race simulation. Fernando Alonso will be on track for the Italian team on Friday.
Red Bull's Mark Webber took third slot, ahead of Williams’ Rubens Barrichello and Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher. Schumacher was in the heavily-upgraded MGP-W02 for the first time and completed 89 laps.
"We've had a very productive day and completed a reasonable amount of mileage," the German said. "We were able to check and confirm a lot of things on the set-up of the car with the new upgrade package, and my initial impressions are certainly positive. We've worked hard on reliability at the previous tests and our priority now is to develop and fine-tune the car which we have done quite successfully today."
Renault fielded both their race drivers over the course of the day, with Nick Heidfeld finishing sixth and team mate Vitaly Petrov eighth.
Lotus also split the day’s duties between their two drivers. Heikki Kovalainen ended a spirited seventh to separate the Renault duo, whilst Jarno Trulli was in the final slot in 12th after technical issues prevented him from carrying out any meaningful running.
"A difficult morning for Jarno with the gearbox change,” said Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. “We had put a new 'box on overnight but saw a problem with it this morning so had to change it during the session. Unfortunately, a water leak then meant that Jarno was not able to complete any real running, but this afternoon we made some real progress with Heikki. He was able to work through a program on the tyre options and the blown diffuser so after a tricky morning it was a very positive end to the day."
Adrian Sutil was back at the wheel for Force India and finished ninth, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari and Virgin’s Jerome D’Ambrosio in 10th and 11th respectively. Alguersuari completed 107 laps as he carried out aero component comparisons, a half-race simulation and pit-stop practice.
"The warmer track temperature was definitely useful for the teams and for Pirelli, in terms of preparing for Melbourne," said Toro Ross chief engineer, Laurent Mekies. "Also bearing in mind that the season gets underway soon, we have carried out a lot of pit stop practice runs, as clearly this will be a key element during races this season. In fact, over the past two days, we have completed a total of sixty pit stops."
Testing continues in Barcelona on Friday. McLaren will rejoin the action, whilst HRT are expected to give their new car - the F111 - its debut outing.
Unofficial Thursday test times from Barcelona:
|3.||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:22.466|
|5.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||1:22.892|
|9.||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:24.334|
|10.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||1:24.779|