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03 Feb 2010

Valencia day three - Ferrari stay top as Alonso debuts

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F10. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 3 February 2010. Fans flock into the grandstands to see Fernando Alonso (ESP) test the Ferrari for the first time. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 3 February 2010. Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 3 February 2010. Jaime Alguersuari (ESP) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR5. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 3 February 2010. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 3 February 2010.

If the crowd of thousands that descended on the Valencia track on Wednesday made the trip to the Spanish circuit to watch local hero Fernando Alonso in action in a Ferrari for the first time, then they’ll leave well satisfied.

Not only did Alonso cover 127 laps over the course of the day, but he also topped the timesheets. Clocking a best time of 1m 11.470s, he finished over six tenths of a second ahead of the BMW Sauber of fellow Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa, as this week’s three-day test drew to a close.

Alonso focused on finding the best set-up in the F10 and assessing its handling with various fuel loads. De la Rosa, meanwhile, focused on tyre and set-up work in the C29 and completed 80 laps.

"We are quite satisfied with the first test,” explained BMW Sauber’s technical director, Willy Rampf. “As well as being reliable, it was important to see that the car responded to changes in the way we expected. The drivers' comments on the car basically were in line with that, which also helps the team to work in the right direction."

Mercedes GP took up the third-fastest slot, as Michael Schumacher completed his first full day behind the wheel of the MGP W01. Schumacher spent the morning working on set-up and balance, before switching to long runs in the afternoon. Although a hydraulic problem on the car brought the German’s day to a close one hour early, he covered a total of 82 laps.

"I'm very happy to have been back in a Formula One car this week,” he said. “We had a short run on Monday and then almost a full day today which has been good. The experience has been very positive and the car is running smoothly with just a small hydraulic leak which stopped us slightly early. The main focus is on reliability and doing as many laps as we can so we're not too worried about looking at the lap times right now.

“It's a new challenge and a new experience for me this year but knowing (team principal) Ross (Brawn) so well and working with him again has made it very easy and I feel at home in the team already. I'm feeling fresh and motivated and very positive about the season ahead. I can't wait to be back in the car to continue the programme in Jerez next week."

Just over a tenth slower than Schumacher was Jaime Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso. Alguersuari, who was enjoying his first taste of the STR5 after taking over the cockpit from team mate Sebastien Buemi, completed 97 laps.

“It felt good to complete my first-ever Formula one test session, as last season I was never able to do any testing,” said the Spaniard. “I was able to concentrate on understanding the car, without having to think about it in terms of a race weekend. Personally, I felt much stronger in the car, as I have been training hard in the three months since I last drove in Abu Dhabi. Today was a positive experience and I’m looking forward now to next week in Jerez. It’s too early to say much about the car’s performance, but it felt competitive.”

Also in their 2010 cockpit for the first time was Jenson Button in McLaren’s new MP4-25. Button covered 82 laps as he made his way to fifth in the times. Although his best was a full 1.5 seconds down on Alonso’s quickest time, the British team were well satisfied with how the day progressed, as Button ran a series of longer runs to find the right balance and set-up.

Sixth fastest was Formula One racing’s first-ever Russian driver, Vitaly Petrov, who made his debut for Renault and completed 75 laps in the French team’s R30.

“I really enjoyed my first day in the car and everything went well,” said the 25 year-old. “The car is very impressive compared with a GP2 car and I enjoyed experiencing the power and braking performance. After about 30 laps I was starting to feel comfortable and understanding the limits of the car. It was also my first chance to work with my engineers and so far everything is going really well so I'm happy with the day."

Wednesday’s final runner was fellow newcomer Nico Hulkenberg, who finished in seventh for Williams. Hulkenberg enjoyed a busy session, covering 126 laps.

“We worked on putting as much mileage as we could on the FW32 and achieved over 500 kilometres at the end of the day, bringing us to a test total of 1,213.5 kms,” said Williams’ technical director, Sam Michael. “We spent the three days working on set-up and long runs; the main systems on the car are proving reliable and are cooling sufficiently. There are the inevitable minor teething problems to resolve between now and Jerez, but it's been good to get out on track and start work with our new engine partner, Cosworth.”

The teams will be back in action from 10 February as next week’s four-day session gets underway at the Spanish circuit of Jerez.

Unofficial Wednesday test times from Valencia:
1. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:11.470, 127 Laps
2. Pedro de la Rosa, BMW Sauber, 1:12.094, 80 Laps
3. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:12.438, 82 Laps
4. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso, 1:12.576, 97 Laps
5. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:12.951, 82 Laps
6. Vitaly Petrov, Renault, 1:13.097, 75 Laps
7. Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, 1:13.669, 126 Laps