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Barcelona day one - Sato sets test pace for Toro Rosso 17 Nov 2008

Takuma Sato (JPN) Scuderia Toro Rosso. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 17 November 2008. Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1 2009 Interim Car. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 17 November 2008. Bruno Senna (BRA) tests for Honda Racing. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 17 November 2008. Sebastien Loeb (FRA) World Rally Champion tests for Red Bull Racing. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 17 November 2008. Giedo van der Garde (NED) tests for Renault. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 17 November 2008.

Former Super Aguri racer Takuma Sato made a triumphant return to Formula One testing, setting the fastest time for Toro Rosso at a packed Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on Monday. Sato clocked a best of 1m 20.763s to beat Sebastien Buemi, also in action for the Italian squad, to the top slot by over three-tenths of a second.

With sunny and dry conditions at the Spanish track, Sato was able to cover 121 laps in the STR3, while Buemi completed 117. The duo, who are competing for a possible race seat for the 2009 season, will continue to test on Tuesday.

Just behind the two Toro Rossos was the Honda of Alexander Wurz. The Japanese team’s third driver completed 77 laps as he evaluated various aerodynamic components for next season, and tested Bridgestone’s slick tyres. Also in action for Honda were young Brazilian drivers Lucas di Grassi and Bruno Senna.

Di Grassi was the first out, completing his half-day familiarisation programme in the morning. He covered 48 laps and finished 17th on the timesheets. Jenson Button will join Di Grassi on track on Tuesday.

"My first day in the Honda car has been a good experience," said Di Grassi. "One of us had to be the first out on track today and that was me, but this morning the track was really very 'green' and took a while to improve. Tomorrow will be a better test of what I am capable of."

After lunch, Senna took charge of the Honda, sampling a Formula One car for the very first time. The Brazilian completed 39 laps and ended the day 15th quickest. He will test again for the Japanese team on Wednesday.

"The first day of my first Formula One test has been just as big a moment as I expected it to be," said Senna. "I was feeling quite calm but on my first lap out of the garage I realised the significance of the moment. This is a very special opportunity and one which has been a dream my whole life.

"The team were great and left it to me to find my level, but by the end of my second run I was feeling very much at home in the car. I need a few adjustments to be fully comfortable in the car for Wednesday but generally I am feeling good. Obviously my full day is when everything will count but I am very pleased with what I achieved today and the more laps I do, the quicker I'll be hopefully. A great, great day for me."

Pedro de la Rosa was fourth fastest, ahead of fellow McLaren tester Gary Paffett. Both focused on 2009 work, in cars fitted with slick tyres, with De La Rosa also evaluating the team’s KERS system. The Spaniard completed 65 laps, whilst Paffett, who will continue to test for the team on Tuesday, covered 78.

Luca Badoer set the pace for Ferrari in sixth, whilst the Italian outfit’s other test driver, Marc Gene, finished in 14th. Badoer carried out a lengthy engine and gearbox reliability programme, covering 108 laps, whilst Gene concentrated on set-up work. Both will continue to test on Tuesday.

Robert Kubica clocked the seventh-fastest time for BMW Sauber, while third driver Christian Klien finished in 10th. Both Kubica and Klien were tasked with testing interim F1.08B cars, which featured some 2009-compliant bodywork, and covered a total of 108 laps. Klien’s car was also fitted with the German-Swiss team’s KERS device.

Five-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb, meanwhile, wowed during his informal run-out for Red Bull. Loeb covered 82 laps and clocked the eighth-fastest time, after spending the day evaluating the slick tyres.

“I don’t think I’d like to take this much horsepower into the forests!” joked the Frenchman. “It was a great experience and I had fun, although I have to say that driving one of these cars is tougher physically than driving my rally car. Towards the end of the day, I began to get a good feel for the car and enjoyed the sensation of it moving around on the track. I have to say that the level of grip in the high speed corners is very impressive.”

Nelson Piquet was the leading Renault driver in ninth and was joined on track by reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion Giedo van der Garde, who finished in 16th. Piquet clocked up 80 laps during a productive day, while Van der Garde completed a further 32 laps during his afternoon run as he acclimatised to the R28, which he was sampling for the first time.

"It's nice to be back testing again after a break and obviously with new rules coming into force next year, it's going to be an interesting winter test period,” explained Renault’s chief test engineer Christian Silk. “We had a good first day of the programme with no major problems and we learnt what we needed to as we worked on 2009-type set-ups with slick tyres.

"Giedo has had a good first day with us: he has limited experience of Formula One and so it was a learning process, but it was a positive session and he worked well with the engineers. We'll debrief with him tonight and give him another run out tomorrow morning."

Tester Nico Hulkenberg was 11th quickest for Williams, as he carried out development work for 2009 in an interim FW30. Hulkenberg finished just ahead of Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi, 12th, and Adrian Sutil, 13th. Testing continues at the Spanish circuit on Tuesday.

Unofficial Monday times from Barcelona:
1. Takuma Sato, Toro Rosso, 1:20.763
2. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:21.071
3. Alexander Wurz, Honda, 1:21.198
4. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 1:21.417
5. Gary Paffett, McLaren, 1:21.956
6. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:23.264
7. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:22.341
8. Sebastien Loeb, Red Bull, 1:22.503
9. Nelson Piquet, Renault, 1:22.560
10. Christian Klien, BMW Sauber, 1:22.883
11. Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, 1:23.467
12. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India, 1:23.794
13. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:23.832
14. Marc Gene, Ferrari, 1:24.177
15. Bruno Senna, Honda, 1:24.343
16. Giedo van der Garde, Renault, 1:24.908
17. Lucas di Grassi, Honda, 1:25.512