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Barcelona day three - Alonso takes top spot on slicks 17 Apr 2008

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 16 April 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 16 April 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB4. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 16 April 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.08 running slick tyres and 2009 rear wing. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 16 April 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 16 April 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton

Renault’s Fernando Alonso topped the timesheets as this week’s multi-team test at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya continued on Wednesday. Alonso’s best, a 1m 18.483s lap, was set on Bridgestone’s 2009 slick tyres and put the Spaniard almost a second ahead of former sparring partner Michael Schumacher, who returned to the cockpit for Ferrari.

Alonso covered 100 laps as he completed a busy set-up programme for the forthcoming Spanish Grand Prix, alongside his work on the slick tyres. The former world champion will hand over the R28 to his team mate Nelson Piquet on Thursday.

“The day has been good and I was happy with the developments to the car,” Alonso said. “But we still need to keep improving because it seems that our competitors have also improved and so it is still difficult to say how we really compare with them. We have to wait until next week to get a full picture of where we stand. It was fun to try the slick tyres, which gave very good grip.”

Schumacher, meanwhile, took charge of Ferrari’s test programme for the day. The German dedicated his running to evaluating Bridgestone’s slick tyres in an F2008 that had been modified to replicate the levels of aerodynamic downforce expected next season. He covered 83 laps and will hand the car over to Kimi Raikkonen on Thursday.

Adrian Sutil, also running on slicks, set the third-fastest time for Force India on the team’s final test day. Sutil completed 475 km, bringing the squad’s total distance for the week to over 1,200 km.

“A useful day to finish what has been a very productive test,” explained chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. “We had a minor clutch problem in the morning that caused a small delay in running, but we nevertheless completed the day's programme. Overall, the test has been very useful, we've finished our scheduled work and we look in good shape for the Grand Prix.”

Robert Kubica filled fourth slot for BMW Sauber. Alongside preparatory work for the Barcelona race, Kubica also completed early base work for next season, collecting data for the team’s 2009 car and evaluating the slick tyres. With one hour of the session left, the Polish driver went off at Turn 5 following an as-yet unexplained technical problem. The slight damage to the F1.08’s front suspension and front wing, however, is expected to be fixed in time for Thursday’s running.

Fifth fastest was Williams’ Nico Rosberg, who covered 65 laps in the FW30, despite a brief mechanical problem. Just behind Rosberg was Honda’s Rubens Barrichello in sixth. Barrichello completed an impressive 140 laps as he evaluated aero developments and carried out slick tyre work.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton finished the day seventh quickest. Hamilton ran 102 laps of the Spanish circuit, testing aero developments and completing his set-up work. Team mate Heikki Kovalainen will take charge of the MP4-23 on Thursday.

Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Bourdais had the honour of debuting the new STR03 to the public during Wednesday’s session. He covered 71 laps, clocking the eighth-fastest time, before a testing accident put him out of the action. Bourdais was unhurt, but the damage to the car is understood to be so bad that its planned race debut at May’s Turkish Grand Prix could now be in doubt.

Bourdais’ Red Bull stablemate, Mark Webber, enjoyed a much more stress-free day. Webber covered 87 laps as he focused on preparation work for the Spanish Grand Prix. The Australian eventually finished ninth in the times.

Completing the line-up was Toyota’s Jarno Trulli in tenth. Trulli spent most of the day working on the TF108's new aerodynamic parts, along with set-up for next week's Spanish Grand Prix. He completed 89 laps, despite the TF108 suffering a gearbox control issue.

“We started very well this morning and we were producing some very good lap times,” the Italian explained. “Then unfortunately we had a problem late in the morning and we had to stop for a while, so that made it a harder day for us. When we went back out after lunch the track was very windy and dusty so it was hard to make real comparisons with the data. Still, I'm not concerned because our car set-up is good.”

Testing will continue on Thursday, although rain is expected to interrupt proceedings.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Barcelona:
1. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 1:18.483
2. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 1:19.323
3. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:19.424
4. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:19.785
5. Nico Rosberg, Williams, 1:19.841
6. Rubens Barrichello, Honda, 1:19.920
7. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:20.591
8. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:20.715
9. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:20.849
10. Jarno Trulli, Toyota, 1:20.867