The third test of the year concluded at Barcelona today. Felipe Massa topped the times on a day overshadowed by the news that the Bahrain Grand Prix has been cancelled.
Setting his fastest time on a two lap qualifying style run, Massa showed that he has reason to feel confident for the upcoming season. He has spoken confidently about the new Pirelli tyres and it was clear today that they suit him better than last year’s Bridgestone tyres. If that is the case a return to his 2008 form could be likely. The Ferrari driver had a busy day and completed 121 laps, matching Pastor Maldonado as the day’s mileage setter.
The new Ferrari looked very capable in longer race simulations, with excellent tyre wear, but over the course of testing so far it is clear that it is not a match for Red Bull in terms of out-and-out qualifying pace just yet. The pace of development in Maranello was outstanding last year so while their Milton Keynes based rivals have the advantage at present, a lot could change in the coming months.
Mark Webber concluded another strong test for Red Bull. The Australian ended the day second fastest after a two lap stint in the afternoon.
Sebastian Buemi, and Toro Rosso, continued to impress today. The squad have been fast throughout the week and the Swiss driver ended the day within a second of Massa. Reliability seems to be of little concern to the squad with Buemi completing 90 laps of the Catalan venue.
At McLaren on the other hand reliability has been a major cause of concern thus far. The team have struggled to get any significant mileage aboard their radical new car. But today Lewis Hamilton completed 107 laps to finish the day fifth, just behind Nick Heidfeld. The German had KERS issues in the morning but overcame those problems to complete 95 laps. The Renault system has been troublesome thus far in testing so while the new car seems to be offering terrific stability reliability is still far from bulletproof.
Maldonado, Sutil and Perez had relatively trouble free days but Jerome D’Ambrosio lost a lot of track time in the morning.
Michael Schumacher ended the day tenth fastest, four seconds off the pace. The German seemed pleased afterwards having proven the reliability of the new Mercedes with 114 laps. The team concentrated on longer stints through the day, still unwilling to truly show their ultimate pace. New updates had been planned for use in the Bahrain test so it will be interesting to see how the updates compare, if the team decides to use them, when Formula 1 reconvenes in Barcelona on March 8 for testing.
It was a short day for Jarno Trulli with the Italian ending his test with a crash. Lotus did not release the cause of the accident but did say that it was not the drivers fault. He completed just 18 laps before the accident.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Massa Ferrari 1m22.625s 121
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m23.442s + 0.817 69
3. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m23.550s + 0.925 90
4. Heidfeld Renault 1m23.657s + 1.032 95
5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m24.003s + 1.378 107
6. Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m24.057s + 1.432 121
7. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m24.177s + 1.552 64
8. Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m24.515s + 1.890 74
9. D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m26.501s + 3.876 50
10. Schumacher Mercedes 1m27.079s + 4.454 114
11. Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m29.992s + 7.367 18