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19 Feb 2010

Jerez day three - advantage Webber and Red Bull in Spain

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, Friday 19 February 2010. Jenson Button (GBR), McLaren Mercedes MP4-25. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, Friday 19 February 2010. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Williams FW32 and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F10 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, Friday 19 February 2010. Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, Friday 19 February 2010. Robert Kubica (POL) Renault. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, Friday 19 February 2010.

The sun finally shone at Jerez on Friday, and the 11 teams in action at this week’s test took full advantage of the calmer conditions at the Spanish circuit to rack up mileage in their 2010 cars. Mark Webber ended the day as the fastest runner for Red Bull, clocking a best time of 1m 19.299s in the RB6.

Although a small mechanical issue early in the afternoon cost the Australian around two hours, he completed 115 laps, as he evaluated various chassis set-ups and analysed tyre degredation rates.

“We’re certainly showing some good form in terms of reliability, but we always need to work on performance; you never know that the other teams are doing,” said Webber. “We’re in a good position at the moment to build up to the first race - it’s close, but there’s also quite a way to go, as other teams have no doubt planned developments for Bahrain. We’re doing the work we need to do, in order to understand the car more.”

Second quickest was Fernando Alonso, who covered 132 laps in Ferrari’s F10. Alonso carried out set-up work with a variety of fuel loads and tyres and will continue to test for the Italian team on Saturday.

McLaren’s Jenson Button finished in third after a fruitful day in the MP4-25, during which he completed 101 laps. Button focused on mechanical set-up development and will continue to test for the British team on Saturday, when some newly-arrived minor components will be evaluated.

Williams’ Nico Hulkenberg took fourth for the British team, after setting a time that was just four-thousandths of second faster than the best Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher managed. Hulkenberg carried out pit-stop practice, a race simulation and finally some set-up work. Schumacher, meanwhile, focused on completing long runs in the MGP W01 and will hand over the car to team mate Nico Rosberg for the test’s final day on Saturday.

"Today was a nice end to my testing days in Jerez this week and it was great to finally have some consistent dry running,” said the seven-time champion. “We are on schedule with our programme but at the same time, we are well aware that there is still a lot of work ahead of us. The final test in Barcelona next week will be an important test in this respect and will give us valuable information about the performance of the car."

Robert Kubica was in action for Renault and completed 100 laps in the R30 on his way to sixth in the times.

“Finally the weather improved and we managed to complete a productive day of work,” said Renault’s chief engineer Alan Permane. “Early on the track was still damp, but it dried out quite quickly and we got some useful set-up work done with Robert, which has taken us in a good direction. We also spent some time doing procedural work and practice starts with a heavy car. Robert also ran a couple of different dry tyre compounds to compare them, which was useful."

Adrian Sutil finished seventh for Force India, after working through a programme of long and short runs, weight distribution and race preparation in the VJM03. Sutil covered 69 laps and was reasonably pleased with his progress.

“Today was our first proper shot at dry running this test and it went pretty well,” said the German driver. “In the morning we did a few short runs and some set-up work and then in the afternoon moved on to longer runs and getting more information on the new tyres. The tyres at the moment are quite difficult to handle as the soft compound grains up very quickly in the low temperatures. The mediums last a bit longer but still grain after 10 or 12 laps. There's no way to avoid it at the moment but I'm not too concerned as I am sure they will handle better in the higher temperatures we'll see in the races.”

Kamui Kobayashi took eighth in the timesheets for BMW Sauber. Kobayashi endured a frustrating day after a fuel system problem ruled him out of the running for much of the session. He covered just 28 laps.

"It was obviously not a perfect day, but I prefer to have a technical problem now rather than in the first race,” said Kobayashi. “Although I could only complete a limited number of laps, we learned a few things on which we can build tomorrow."

Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari, who had taken over from team mate Sebastien Buemi, was ninth and covered 120 laps in the STR5. Alguersuari, running on the same tyre compound for the entire day, assessed aero components and ran through a brake evaluation. He will continue in the cockpit on Saturday.

Almost a second down on the Spaniard was Virgin’s Lucas di Grassi in tenth. After an earlier hydraulic problem resurfaced, the team were forced to spend much of the day troubleshooting the problem in the garage. Di Grassi completed just 34 laps in the VR-01 as a result.

“We were again frustrated by a reoccurrence of one of our known hydraulic issues,” explained Virgin’s technical driector, Nick Wirth. “This stopped Lucas from doing more than a handful of flying laps and then finally prevented any more meaningful running, so he didn't get up to speed today. We'll try and put some more fixes in place tonight to allow us to get some more laps in tomorrow. We're very aware that Lucas has had very little running so far and we hope to improve things so he can get more seat time at the Barcelona test next week.”

The day’s final runner was Heikki Kovalainen in the Lotus. Kovalainen’s programme was delayed in the morning whilst the team waited for spare parts to arrive at the circuit. With a clutch sensor failure and a cracked exhaust further interrupting proceedings in the afternoon, the Finn was only able to cover 68 laps in the T127.

“A reasonably good day today and the best thing was getting our first dry running in,” said chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. “We had a small problem this morning with a clutch sensor but as we wanted to wait until conditions had dried up that suited us well. We concentrated on long runs and started to work with the two tyre types, which we obviously haven’t been able to do before, so overall good progress.”

Testing will conclude at Jerez on Saturday.

Unofficial Friday times from Jerez:
1. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:19.299, 115 Laps
2. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:20.115, 132 Laps
3. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:20.394, 101 Laps
4. Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, 1:21.432, 138 Laps
5. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:21.437, 79 Laps
6. Robert Kubica, Renault, 1:21.916, 100 Laps
7. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:21.939, 69 Laps
8. Kamui Kobayashi, BMW Sauber, 1:22.228, 28 Laps
9. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso, 1:22.564, 120 Laps
10. Lucas di Grassi, Virgin, 1:23.504, 34 Laps
11. Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, 1:23.521, 68 Laps