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Jerez day two - Buemi stays on top in Spain 10 Dec 2008

Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso Test Driver Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, Wednesday 10 December 2008. Sebastien Bourdais (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR03 Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, Wednesday 10 December 2008. Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) McLaren Mercedes 2009 Interim Car. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, Wednesday 10 December 2008. The car of Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28 is returned to the pits after he crashed. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, Wednesday 10 December 2008. Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, Wednesday 10 December 2008.

Toro Rosso hopeful Sebastien Buemi reinforced his claim to a 2009 race seat with the team on Wednesday, as the Swiss GP2 driver headed the testing times for a second day in succession at Jerez.

Buemi led a Toro Rosso 1-2-3 at the Spanish circuit, with fellow ’09 aspirant Takuma Sato second fastest and the team’s 2008 racer Sebastien Bourdais third, all covered by little over half a second. Buemi was on track all day, while Sato and Bourdais shared the teams second car.

Damp conditions at the start of the day allowed Buemi to complete an assessment of Bridgestone’s 2010 rain tyres. Once the circuit dried he switched to the 2009 slicks, comparing the soft and medium compounds available. After 128 laps his day ended slightly early following a trip across a kerb, but the slight damage is expected to be repaired in time for Thursday’s final day of running.

The mixed track conditions meant Bourdais stayed behind the wheel longer than planned, completing 81 laps, while Sato only got to drive for the closing 90 minutes of the session. Nevertheless, the Japanese driver was soon on the pace, carrying out performance and long run testing, assessing various set-up options on slicks.

At McLaren, Heikki Kovalainen got his first taste of slick tyres, low downforce and KERS when he began his 2009 testing programme in the MP4-23K car. The Finn was sixth fastest after 64 laps, while Pedro de la Rosa was fourth after 78 in the non-KERS MP4-23A. The Spaniard focused on aerodynamic work, with the team’s first attempt at running a 2009-configuration nose going well. The two men will switch chassis on Thursday.

Kimi Raikkonen continued investigating various set-ups on the Ferrari F2008, fitted with slick tyres and reduced downforce levels, as well as experimenting with new components aimed at next season, all this while continuing an engine endurance programme. Raikkonen completed 89 laps, his best putting him fifth in the times. Team mate Felipe Massa arrived mid afternoon and ran 27 laps to go 10th. Both drivers continue on Thursday.

Like Kovalainen, Fernando Alonso was back in the car for the first time since the Brazilian Grand Prix. Despite a brief off, the Renault star completed his programme, finishing seventh fastest after 106 laps.

"It was a good day and I'm happy to be back in the car,” said the former champion. “Unfortunately I damaged the car a little bit in the morning and so we lost some running, but the team did a good job to repair the car quickly and I was able to run almost all of the afternoon without any problems. It was nice to run on the slick tyres as they are more grippy, but when you lose the downforce from the car they don't feel massively different to grooved tyres."

Nico Rosberg was eighth fastest after 122 trouble-free laps in the interim Williams FW30B, the German continuing the team’s programme of set-up work and slick tyre development for 2009.

The final team present was BMW Sauber, who saw Nick Heidfeld go ninth after 87 laps. However, team mate Robert Kubica managed just 38 laps in his KERS-equipped machine before a mechanical problem ruled him out for the rest of the day, leaving the Pole last on the timesheets.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Jerez:
1. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:18.073
2. Takuma Sato, Toro Rosso, 1:18.601
3. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:18.673
4. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 1:19.032
5. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:19.334
6. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:19.631
7. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 1:19.907
8. Nico Rosberg, Williams, 1:20.309
9. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:20.365
10. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:20.490
11. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:20.954