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01 Feb 2010

Valencia day one - Massa leads the way for Ferrari

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F10. Formula One Testing, Day One, Valencia, Spain, Monday 1 February 2010. Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) BMW Sauber C29. Formula One Testing, Day One, Valencia, Spain, Monday 1 February 2010. Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01. Formula One Testing, Day One, Valencia, Spain, Monday 1 February 2010. Gary Paffett (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 Test Driver. Formula One Testing, Day One, Valencia, Spain, Monday 1 February 2010. Robert Kubica (POL) Renault R30. Formula One Testing, Day One, Valencia, Spain, Monday 1 February 2010.

If Ferrari’s Felipe Massa wanted to prove he hasn’t changed since his life-threatening accident last July, he did a very good job on Monday in Valencia, topping the timesheets as this year’s opening test got underway at the Spanish track. Massa covered 102 laps in the new F10, making its track debut, clocking a best time of 1m 12.574s. The Brazilian worked mainly on defining a baseline set-up for the new car and on analysing the behaviour of the new Bridgestone tyres. He will continue testing on Tuesday.

Second quickest was Pedro de la Rosa for BMW Sauber. De la Rosa, who has opted to forsake his long-held test role at McLaren for a chance to race at the Swiss team, will no doubt be pleased with the maiden showing of his C29, after he ended the day just over two-tenths down on Massa’s Ferrari.

"For me it was a very positive day,” said De la Rosa, who hands over to team mate Kamui Kobayashi on Tuesday. “The car was reliable right from the beginning, which meant we could follow our programme perfectly without wasting any time. Also the car reacted to our changes very well. For me it was a day to get used to not only the new car but also to the team with all the people. And, of course, driving-wise there's more to come from me as this was only my first day after a long break."

BMW Sauber technical director Willy Rampf added: "Overall, we are quite happy with what we achieved today. We started with an installation lap in the morning, checking the mechanical systems, followed by a baseline run in order to stabilise temperatures and pressures. We checked the hydraulic system, the fuel system and the gearshift, and everything worked well. In the afternoon we started with some basic set-up work, also to collect various data. It was a positive day without any noteworthy problems."

The third slot on the timesheets was taken up by returning seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, who made his debut outing for new team Mercedes. Covering 40 laps during the course of the afternoon, Schumacher took over the W01 from team mate Nico Rosberg, who posted the day’s fourth-fastest time during the morning session.

The main focus of Rosberg’s programme was to work through the initial set-up of the car and to ensure that he was comfortable with his seat and position. Getting out on track just after 15:30, Schumacher was comfortably on the pace after his first run and spent the remaining track time familiarising himself with the new car in his first run in a current Formula One machine since April 2008

"We have had a very useful first day of testing here in Valencia,” said team principal Ross Brawn. “Our priority was to ensure that the new car was functioning properly and allow both drivers to use their short window of track time to get acclimatised to the car and its operations. Today's work has provided a good basis for the next couple of days and it was rewarding to see that the car ran reliably.”

Fifth quickest was McLaren tester Gary Paffett, who was charged with giving the MP4-25 its maiden run and completed 86 laps. The principal focus for the day was putting mileage on the new car. McLaren’s programme started with a number of shorter five-lap runs to establish a benchmark for the day. Into the afternoon, the team were increasingly confident with the car’s reliability and conducted some longer runs, looking at a greater variety of set-up configurations. Paffett, who hands over to Lewis Hamilton on Tuesday, declared himself happy with the car’s balance and handling.

Paffett was the last runner to make it under the 1m 13s mark, with Rubens Barrichello ending the day in sixth following his first day in the new Williams FW32. Barrichello covered 75 laps for his new team, concentrating on initial systems, performance and reliability checks.

“I enjoyed today, it was like a first day at school!” said Barrichello. “You can’t predict anything from the times today; and probably won’t be able to for the remainder of the tests because of the fuel loads people will run with such big tanks. It probably won’t be until Bahrain qualifying that we will see where everyone is. We are working on improving the balance of the car, but it’s running reliably, despite the small issue with the throttle. As everything is new, it was a good day.”

Technical director Sam Michael added: “Considering everything is new, in particular the Cosworth engine installation, it was good to get through the day without any major problems. We did have a minor software issue with the throttle control towards the end of the session, but that is easily sorted out for tomorrow. We are well underway with set-up work now and tuning the FW32 around the new Bridgestone tyres.”

Despite only managing to complete 18 laps after his STR5 suffered a gearbox issue, Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi finished seventh.

“This morning we had a problem with one of the gearbox actuators, which we managed to improve, but not fix completely,” explained technical director Giorgio Ascanelli. “It is too early to make any comment on the actual performance characteristics of the new car. In the short term, we will be trying to fix the actuator problem overnight, in the hope of having a better day tomorrow.”

The final runner was Robert Kubica for Renault. Kubica finished eighth after clocking a best time of 1m 15.000 over his 69 laps in the R30. The team's programme focused on getting the car settled and getting Kubica familiar with the new systems. This was also the team's first opportunity to experience the narrower 2010-spec Bridgestone tyres. For the afternoon the team experimented with weight distribution.

"My first day of testing the R30 went well,” said Kubica. “We had a lot of things to check on the car to make sure they were reliable and all that went smoothly with no big problems to report. Tomorrow we will start working on the balance and trying to understand the car a bit more. The narrower front tyres certainly had an impact on the car, but it's difficult for me to judge as this is the first time I've driven the R30. Generally I think they will make the car understeer more in the quick corners."

Alan Permane, chief race engineer, added: "A fairly positive first day of running with the R30 with Robert in the car. We concentrated on putting mileage on the car and spent time getting Robert comfortable in the car. We also started learning about the behaviour of the R30 - what it likes, and how it responds to the narrower front Bridgestone tyres. Then we looked at the brake wear, which will be a key performance factor this year with the cars running heavy fuel at the start of the race. Overall it has been a productive day."

Testing continues at Valencia until Wednesday.

Unofficial Monday test times from Valencia:
1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:12.574, 102 Laps
2. Pedro de la Rosa, BMW Sauber, 1:12.784, 74 Laps
3. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:12.947, 40 Laps
4. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP, 1:13.543, 39 Laps
5. Gary Paffett, McLaren, 1:13.846, 86 Laps
6. Rubens Barrichello, Williams, 1:14.449, 75 Laps
7. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:14.762, 18 Laps
8. Robert Kubica, Renault, 1:15.000, 69 Laps