McLarens Lewis Hamilton set the pace in Spain on Friday as a three-day test session got underway in Barcelona. Hamilton was over half a second quicker than former team mate, Renaults Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton worked with McLaren tester Gary Paffett, sixth fastest, on Bridgestone tyre evaluation, with the Circuit de Catalunya providing a more high speed and abrasive surface compared to the previous test sessions of late.
It was Paffetts first run in the new MP4-23, and it was also his first test without driver aids. As a result the Briton spent some time during the day familiarising himself with the teams 2008 package and during this process had a couple of minor spins.
Renault had two R28s in action, fresh from the cars official launch in Paris on Thursday. Alonso ran 61 laps, with team mate Nelson Piquet Jr adding a further 46 after a few disruptions to his session. The Brazilian ended the day seventh fastest.
Both drivers had reasonable programmes, but to start with the balance of the car was poor so we had to spend the day working on that, explained Renaults chief test engineer, Christian Silk. By the end of the day we had found a reason balance and we were quite happy with the performance of the car. Fernando completed most of his programme, but Nelson had a few delays, so we can hopefully make some more progress in the next couple of days.
Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld were third and fifth respectively for BMW Sauber, both working on set-up of the F1.08 using some new mechanical parts. Although low temperatures and a number of red flag interruptions meant neither driver could do as many laps as originally planned, the changes showed promising results.
Splitting the BMWs was the sole Force India car of Giancarlo Fisichella. It was a good day today and I think we made a lot of progress, reported the Italian after 100 laps. We did some runs to work on set-up and looked at some parts to improve reliability and had no big problems over the day. I felt more comfortable in the car too - we are definitely going in the right direction and the times were pretty good. I'm very happy as we're showing the potential we have now.
At Toro Rosso, Sebastien Bourdais worked on evaluating a new front suspension set-up, while also running through a race weekend scenario, practising pit-stops and other elements of Formula One racing that will be new to the Frenchman this season. He finished 12th, four places down on team mate Sebastian Vettel, who focused on development of brake materials.
Williams session ended early after a morning off for Kazuki Nakajima in the new FW30. Nakajima was unhurt, but with the incident thought to be related to an issue with the cars front wing mounting, the team elected to halt their programme for the day. It left the Japanese driver 13th in the timesheets and team mate Nico Rosberg ninth, the German having completed only a dozen laps.
Mark Webber was the focus of much attention as Red Bull evaluated a radical looking new engine cover on their RB4. The Australian was 11th quickest, one place and just a tenth of a second behind team mate David Coulthard, the Scot running a more conventional aero package.
Honda completed the timesheets, as their RA108 got its first track outing in its 2008 race livery. Rubens Barrichello was 14th with tester Alexander Wurz, shaking down a brand new chassis, 15th.
Testing continues at Barcelona on Saturday.
Unofficial Friday times from Barcelona:
1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:22.263
2. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 1:22.889
3. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:22.983
4. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, 1:23.015
5. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:23.270
6. Gary Paffett, McLaren, 1:23.349
7. Nelson Piquet Jr, Renault, 1:23.367
8. Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:23.387
9. Nico Rosberg, Williams, 1:23.453
10. David Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:23.491
11. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:23.547
12. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:23.836
13. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, 1:23.955
14. Rubens Barrichello, Honda, 1:24.125
15. Alexander Wurz, Honda, 1:26.975