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Valencia day three - Renault's Kubica leads field as test ends 03 Feb 2011

Robert Kubica (POL) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 3 February 2011 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 (Interim Car).
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 3 February 2011 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F150 spins and suffers a fire at the rear of the car.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 3 February 2011 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW33.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 3 February 2011 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Team Lotus T128.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Valencia, Spain, Thursday, 3 February 2011

Renault ended 2011's opening pre-season test on a high, with Robert Kubica taking the top slot on the Thursday timesheets at Valencia. Kubica clocked a best of 1m 13.144s around the Spanish circuit, almost two-tenths quicker than Fernando Alonso’s fastest time from Wednesday.

Force India’s Adrian Sutil was second, ahead of the McLaren of Jenson Button. Unlike Kubica in the new R31, both Sutil and Button were behind the wheel of interim 2010 cars, sampling the new Pirelli tyres ahead of the launch of their new cars. Sutil completed 117 laps, Button 105. McLaren will launch their new car in Berlin on Friday.

“It was an interesting day and a new experience for me to try the Pirellis,” said Button. “They obviously work in a different way to last year’s tyres - but most of my runs were reasonably good. I was quite happy with the way the car was working; we did a lot of good work on set-up. We’re moving in the right direction. There’s degradation - but you’ll find that on any tyre - particularly on the super-soft tyre, but that’s to be expected.”

Red Bull’s Mark Webber was the next runner in a 2011-spec car. Webber finished fourth in the reigning world champions' new RB7. Webber focused his attentions on tyre testing.

“Today was the first good long run in the car for me, so we learnt a lot,” said the Australian. “There are some quick cars out there, but it was a good finish to the test for us. We had a good day one and day three, day two wasn’t quite so productive, but overall the team has done an awesome job - to get the car here for the first test and do the work we’ve done straight out of the box, it’s impressive.”

The fifth-fastest driver was Felipe Massa in the new Ferrari F150. In the morning an oil leak started a fire in the car and the resulting damage took the Italian team about four hours to fix. Massa still managed to complete 80 laps.

Timo Glock occupied the sixth slot for Virgin, ahead of Pastor Maldonado in the Williams. Whilst Glock covered 114 laps in the team’s 2010 car, Maldonado enjoyed his first full day of running in the new FW33 and completed 101 laps.

“I am feeling much more confident in the car now using both the KERS and the rear wing,” he explained. “I am also working even better with the team and developing the car over both long and short runs. I am feeling better every time I get in the car.”

Eighth quickest was Sauber’s new signing Sergio Perez, who completed 103 laps in the recently-launched C30. Perez worked through tyre evaluations and some set-up changes.

“I’m very happy with how things went today,” said the Mexican. “It was a busy day and I learnt a lot about the systems and the car, while the team also collected a lot of information. We will keep working hard to improve - me personally from a driver’s perspective and all together, of course, with regards to the car. I’m already very much looking forward to the next test in Jerez and can’t wait to run the C30 again.”

After his brief outing on Tuesday, Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher was back behind the wheel of the MGP W02. Schumacher undertook reliability and mileage accumulation work. He completed 110 laps and finished ninth.

“We were able to achieve a lot of valuable mileage and it was a positive day,” said the German. “I am pleased with that, and with how the car was behaving. Again, of course, this is not our final race car for the season but a lot of elements have already proved to be a significant step forward. I felt totally comfortable in the car immediately and noticed how much I had missed driving since November."

Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi finished tenth, almost two seconds ahead of the 11th-place HRT of Narain Karthikeyan. Buemi was pleased with his day’s work, saying “Another interesting day, my first full one in the new car. I was able to have a good look at all three compounds of tyre from Pirelli, from the medium through to the super-soft. I used KERS all day and we had no issues with the system.”

Thursday’s final runner was Jarno Trulli, who took his first spin in the T128. Without any power steering on the car - following Wednesday’s failure - Trulli only managed to run through installation laps, without setting a meaningful time. Luckily, unlike their rivals, the team have another test day ahead of them on Friday as they did not join the test until Wednesday.

"We had a limited programme today due to the lack of power steering on the car,” explained Lotus’s chief technical officer, Mike Gascoyne. “Under those circumstances 38 laps was the full programme and I want to say well done to Jarno for completing the plan in a car that was clearly hard work to drive.

"On the positive side we have now completed the systems checks on fuel, aerodynamics and cooling and were able to do start simulations, so with the fact we have another full day of testing tomorrow with both race drivers and the power steering we are aiming to step up to focusing on performance on our third day in Valencia."

Aside from Lotus, who will be action at the track on Friday, the rest of the teams will leave Valencia ahead of next week’s session at Jerez from February 10-13.

Unofficial Thursday test times from Valencia:
1. Robert Kubica, Renault, 1:13.144, 95 Laps
2. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:13.201, 117 Laps
3. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:13.553, 105 Laps
4. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:13.936, 105 Laps
5. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:14.017, 80 Laps
6. Timo Glock, Virgin, 1:14.207, 114 Laps
7. Pastor Maldonado, Williams, 1:14.299, 101 Laps
8. Sergio Perez, Sauber, 1:14.458, 103 Laps
9. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:14.537, 110 Laps
10. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:14.801, 73 Laps
11. Narain Karthikeyan, HRT, 1:16.535, 63 Laps
12. Jarno Trulli, Lotus, 1:31.477, 38 Laps

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