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Barcelona day three - Red Bull remain unbeatable in Spain 19 Nov 2008

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 19 November 2008.  
Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Williams 2009 Interim Car. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 19 November 2008. Bruno Senna (BRA) tests for Honda Racing. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 19 November 2008. Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 19 November 2008.  
Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) Force India F1 Test Driver.
Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 19 November 2008

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel maintained his stranglehold at the top of the timesheets on Wednesday, as this week's multi-team test session at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya drew to a close. Vettel clocked a quickest lap of 1m 19.925s around the Spanish track to finish almost six-tenths ahead of former Toro Rosso team mate Sebastian Bourdais.

His programme focused on testing Bridgestone’s slick tyres and the RB4 was set-up to replicate the levels of downforce that can be expected next season. The young German, who will race for the team in 2009, covered 75 laps.

“It was good to be back in a race car again, for the first time since Brazil,” said Vettel. “Running the 2009 slick tyres was very interesting and very different to what Formula One has been used to for the past few years. It was also a useful couple of days for me from the point of view of getting to know the engineers and the rest of the team. It is important to develop a common understanding between us and winter testing is the ideal opportunity to do just that.”

Bourdais, whose Toro Rosso race seat remains unconfirmed for 2009, covered 122 laps. One of the Frenchman’s rivals for the drive, Sebastien Buemi, took charge of the other STR3 and finished third. Buemi completed 115 laps.

McLaren fielded one driver, Gary Paffett, as they continued to evaluate their KERS system. Paffett, fourth, covered 81 laps in the MP4-23K and the team were happy with progress. Just over two-tenths down on the tester was fellow Briton Jenson Button for Honda, who continued his set-up programme in the RA108.

Bruno Senna, who is being evaluated by Honda as a possible race driver for 2009, joined Button on track. Senna, eighth, spent the morning establishing a good baseline, before tackling an improvement programme in the afternoon on new tyres.

“Today has been a really good day and I'm very pleased,” said the Brazilian. “I've become a lot more comfortable and confident in the car and I think that showed in the lap time, both in the actual time and also the consistency. We found some good set-ups and we were able to make a lot of progress through the day.

“Whether what I did today is good enough is for the team to decide now and I respect that. But for me personally, for my first time in a Formula One car, I have to be happy with what I achieved today. It's very different to anything else you can drive and I just wanted to go faster and faster.”

BMW Sauber tester Christian Klien was sixth fastest, finishing just under six-hundredths of a second ahead of the team’s race driver, Nick Heidfeld. Klien again drove the car equipped with BMW's KERS system, and despite a brief off caused by a hydraulic-related problem in the drivetrain, covered 88 laps. Heidfeld took charge of a KERS-less F1.08B and worked on set-up for 2009.

Nelson Piquet was at the wheel of the sole Renault and finished ninth. Piquet continued his evaluation of slick tyres and carried out some investigative work in the R28, which was set up to simulate 2009 settings. He covered 94 laps.

“It's been a good test for us and we were able to cover the main test items that we had scheduled, which included a few R&D items that gave us some positive results,” explained Renault's chief test engineer Christian Silk. “Working with the car on slick tyres has been very useful and the engineers now have some valuable data to take back to the factory and to look at before the next test in a couple of weeks’ time."

Nico Hulkenberg was back in the car for Williams and clocked the 10th-fastest time. Although Hulkenberg lost a little time on track, he completed 52 laps and technical director Sam Michel was satisfied with the British team’s progress.

“For this week’s Barcelona test, we ran the interim FW30B car in order to continue our preparation work for 2009,” Michael explained. “The car has a lower downforce level to the 30, and more closely represents what the teams expect to run next season. Obviously the aero components being run this week are not the latest specification versions as no one wants to reveal what they've been working on at this stage!

“We’ve covered some useful mileage over the past three days. It’s been a particularly helpful exercise to put the miles on the engine and transmission which will have to last three races next season. We also made progress on various mechanical and aerodynamic components and, although we've used the slick tyres in previous tests, we are now focusing our full attention on them.”

Ferrari also fielded only one driver, Luca Badoer, on the final day. Badoer continued his engine and gearbox reliability programme, whilst testing some new components, and was 11th fastest. He completed 120 laps, bringing Ferrari’s total over the three days to 355.

Completing the timesheets were Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella, 12th, and McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa, who continued to drive the team’s VJM01, and finished in 13th.

The teams will reconvene in Spain in a fortnight for a further three-day test at Jerez from December 9.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Barcelona:
1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:19.295
2. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:19.839
3. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:20.154
4. Gary Paffett, McLaren, 1:21.140
5. Jenson Button, Honda, 1:21.387
6. Christian Klien, BMW Sauber, 1:21.534
7. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:21.592
8. Bruno Senna, Honda, 1:21.676
9. Nelson Piquet, Renault, 1:22.148
10. Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, 1:22.410
11. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:22.866
12. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, 1:23.086
13. Pedro de la Rosa, Force India, 1:23.103