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Jerez day two - Kovalainen tops '09 runners as Webber returns 11 Feb 2009

Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR3 Formula One Testing, 9 - 13 February 2009, Jerez, Spain. Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 Formula One Testing, 9 - 13 February 2009, Jerez, Spain.  
  
 
 
Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB5 Formula One Testing, 9 - 13 February 2009, Jerez, Spain.  
  
Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams FW31 Formula One Testing, 9 - 13 February 2009, Jerez, Spain. Nelson Piquet (BRA) Renault R29 Formula One Testing, 9 - 13 February 2009, Jerez, Spain.

Sebastien Buemi maintained his stranglehold on the top of the Jerez timesheets in the interim Toro Rosso on Wednesday, as this week’s multi-team test continued in Spain. But it was McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen who was the fastest of those running in 2009 machinery, setting a best time of 1m 20.799s in the MP4-24.

Buemi spent the day carrying out a simulation of a Grand Prix qualifying session and race, but also managed to fit in tyre and rear suspension evaluations. His recently-confirmed team mate for 2009, Sebastien Bourdais, will be in action on Thursday.

“This has been a useful couple of days for me, running in wet and dry conditions,” said Buemi. “Even though we are still in the ’08 car, I have learned a lot in terms of how we operate over a race weekend, as we simulated a qualifying session and the race. It was good preparation and now, all we need is our new car.”

In a car fitted with a modified 2008 rear wing, Kovalainen completed 110 laps as he continued to put miles on the British team’s KERS device. Team mate Lewis Hamilton will take charge of driving duties on Thursday.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber, meanwhile, made a triumphant return to the Formula One cockpit following the cycling accident which broke his leg back in November. Although Webber had only intended to spend the morning in the RB5, he felt strong enough to test all day and clocked the third fastest time.

“There were a lot of questions going into today and I answered them,” Webber said after covering 83 laps. “From my point of view, it all went better than expected and to do over a race distance on my first day back in the cockpit, with several weeks to go to Melbourne is a good thing.”

Fourth quickest was Williams' Kazuki Nakajima in the FW31, while Renault’s Nelson Piquet took the fifth slot in the R29. Nakajima completed over 550kms as he undertook mechanical set-up tests and a race simulation. Piquet covered 49 laps as he evaluated the French team’s KERS technology and carried out reliability work.

"The circuit was in much better condition today and we made some good progress with the car,” explained chief test engineer, Christian Silk. “We made some set-up changes with the car and found some good avenues to explore later in the week. There were some small reliability issues during the day, but we managed to do a long run in the afternoon which was encouraging."

Testing continues at the Spanish track on Thursday.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Jerez:
1. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:17.591
2. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:20.799
3. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:21.321
4. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, 1:21.451
5. Nelson Piquet, Renault, 1:21.908