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Barcelona test heralds start of 2009 season 17 Nov 2008

Christian Klien (AUT) BMW Sauber F1 2009 Interim Car. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 17 November 2008. Takuma Sato (JPN) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR3 Formula One Testing 17-19 September 2008. Jerez, Spain. Sebastien Loeb (FRA) World Rally Champion tests for Red Bull Racing. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 17 November 2008. Lucas Di Grassi (BRA) testing for Honda Racing. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 17 November 2008.

Preparations for next season take centre stage from Monday, as the majority of Formula One teams kick off their winter test programmes with a three-day session at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.

Although it’s too early for the debut of any 2009 cars, engineers and drivers will be busy tackling the key rule changes for next season in interim machines. Among the more noticeable changes, we can expect slick tyres and revised aero packages - wider, lower wings at the front and taller, narrower ones at the rear. Less obvious will be development work on the Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) which become legal for ’09.

In terms of drivers, there will be a mixture of familiar faces and surprise turns. Five-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb gets an informal run-out for Red Bull, as a reward for his rallying success, working alongside the team’s new driver for 2009, Sebastian Vettel, while reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion Giedo van der Garde will step into the Renault cockpit, his prize for winning the series. With Fernando Alonso taking a well-earned break, team mate Nelson Piquet will join the Dutchman.

McLaren’s programme will be handled by Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett, both experienced testers in action for all three days, while BMW Sauber will field their full 2009 line-up of Robert Kubica, Nick Heidfeld and Christian Klien.

Honda have yet to confirm their 2009 drivers and will use the Barcelona test to evaluate two young stars, Renault’s third driver Lucas di Grassi and GP2’s Bruno Senna. They will be joined by the Japanese team’s 2008 racer Jenson Button and testing counterpart Alexander Wurz.

Toro Rosso will also be ‘auditioning’ a crop of prospective new drivers. Incumbent Sebastien Bourdais, yet to be confirmed for ‘09, will be at the wheel, as will Red Bull tester Sebastien Buemi and former Super Aguri racer Takuma Sato. Buemi will work alongside Sato on Monday and Tuesday morning, while on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday the Swiss driver will partner Bourdais.

Ferrari are also expected on track in Barcelona, fielding testers Marc Gene and Luca Badoer, while from Thursday Moto GP champion Valentino Rossi will step back into the Ferrari cockpit for an informal two-day run at the team’s Mugello circuit in Italy.

As always, Formula1.com will bring you breaking news, daily reports and the latest images from testing, so check back throughout the week for the latest on the teams’ progress. Note - all schedules are provisional and subject to change.