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Jerez day three - Heidfeld fastest on Renault debut 12 Feb 2011

Nick Heidfeld (GER) Lotus Renault GP R31 Test Driver.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain,  Saturday, 12 February 2011 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari signs autographs for the fans.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain,  Saturday, 12 February 2011 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7 is followed by Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26 out of the pits.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain,  Saturday, 12 February 2011 Pirelli tyre engineer at work.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain,  Saturday, 12 February 2011 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM04.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain,  Saturday, 12 February 2011

Nick Heidfeld staked his claim for Robert Kubica’s Renault seat on Saturday by topping the times on his debut for the team in testing at Jerez. Heidfeld, who raced for Sauber last season, edged out Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso to go fastest of the 11 drivers in action in Spain. Friday pacesetter Michael Schumacher was third quickest for Mercedes GP, over half a second down on Alonso and less than a tenth ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.

Heidfeld, who is being considered as Renault’s long-term stand-in for the injured Kubica, helped the team appraise a new floor upgrade on the R31, as well as carrying out Pirelli tyre evaluations.

“I really enjoyed the day,” said the German. “It was fun driving the car, although it obviously takes time to get used to things when it’s your first time in a car and working with a new team. We had a good day, without too many problems, and luckily all the changes we made to the car went in the right direction and improved things, so I was able to push harder and harder.

“In terms of the lap times, it’s very difficult for me to compare with the other teams because we don’t know the fuel levels or what the others were doing. My first impressions of the car were positive, although there are always areas where you can improve.”

At the wheel of Ferrari’s new F150th Italia, Alonso went through a similar programme to the one that team mate Felipe Massa completed on Friday. Running with an image of friend Kubica’s helmet on his own, the Spaniard worked on tyre comparisons in the morning and long runs in the afternoon. He will continue in the car on Sunday.

Schumacher’s Mercedes programme included systems checks with the adjustable rear wing, tyre evaluations and development work on the balance of the MGP W02 over longer runs.

"At the end of my two test days in Jerez, I can only be happy with what we have achieved here,” said Schumacher, who hands over to Nico Rosberg for Sunday’s final day at Jerez. “Once again today, we completed a lot of mileage, and with the exception of some smaller issues, we ran very well which enables us to steadily progress with our testing programme. This is exactly what you want at this period of time."

A shortage of spares for McLaren’s new MP4-26 meant Hamilton was only able to record 36 laps. While this hampered the team’s running, on-the-spot repairs were effected, and the relevant new components will be delivered overnight ahead of Sunday’s running with Jenson Button. Despite the lack of mileage, McLaren were pleased with progress in terms of set-up and understanding tyre performance.

Sauber had another productive session, with Kamui Kobayashi fifth fastest. “After not having been at the wheel in Valencia for a long time, today was Kamui’s first day of proper testing with the C30 and the latest Pirelli tyres,” reported technical director James Key. “We have been running on used tyres and did some general set-up work, but actually not a huge amount of performance work.

“In the morning we did general mechanical work and set up changes, checking directions we found when Sergio (Perez) was driving. In the afternoon we also tested some new development items and concentrated on longer runs, which in the end were cut short due to an engine problem. We are also looking forward to a full test programme for tomorrow.”

Sebastian Vettel clocked the sixth-fastest time as he took over Red Bull’s RB7 from team mate Mark Webber. “Testing has gone well today,” said the world champion. “It’s quite tricky with the rear wing; it acts in a similar manner to the F-duct last year, so naturally, as a driver, you want to use it as much as you can. When the tyres go off, it’s not as easy to use as when the tyres are fresh, but you get used to it. KERS is not so easy to use, but again it’s a case of getting used to it - its practice in the end.”

Sebastien Buemi returned to the Toro Rosso cockpit for the first time since last week’s Valencia test and went seventh in the STR6. In the morning, Buemi worked on a tyre comparison, trying Pirelli’s modified medium compound and, for the first time, the hard. His afternoon programme featured aerodynamic testing and a long run, although the latter was compromised by some red flags and the fact that the car stopped with around ten minutes of the session remaining.

Heikki Kovalainen set an encouraging seventh-fastest time for Lotus as he took over the T128 from team mate Jarno Trulli. The Finn also reported positive results from tests with the new moveable rear wing in simulated race conditions.

“Today was very encouraging and I really enjoyed driving the car,” said Kovalainen. “I still have the same feeling that I had in Valencia - it's fundamentally a good car and there's a lot more to come from it. We managed to make very good progress today, even though we had a problem with the exhaust we still managed to get through most of the programme. The guys worked well to fix the problem, and by the end of the day we had made a number of setup changes, run through all the tyre compounds and had run on a variety of fuel loads.

“This morning we tried the DRS (Drag Reduction System) in race mode and even though I had thought the procedure to initiate it might be pretty complicated it actually all worked easily. Once you get used to it the system is pretty simple. I used it in both race and practice mode and it returns to position well so I have no problems under braking and am very happy with how it all works. By the time the day ended we finished right in the mix so we're all pretty happy with the day's work.”

Rubens Barrichello was ninth for Williams after close to 100 laps in the new FW33. “After a couple of setup runs this morning we had a problem with the KERS onboard cooling system,” explained technical director Sam Michael. “We had to stop and remove some components to ensure the car was safe, and that cost us three hours. In the afternoon we made good progress with the aero set-up on long runs, with Rubens generating some good data for the wind tunnel.”

New Force India driver Paul di Resta was tenth as he got his first run in the team’s VJM04. “Today was really about me getting used to the new car, plus getting as much information about the new tyres and set-up options as possible,” said the Scot. “We've still got a bit of work to do, but today was about determining the right way to go.

“We did find that there were a couple of issues with getting temperature in the brakes on some set-ups, and on the final run of the day I locked up into turn nine and went off into the gravel. Overall I think we can be fairly positive with the progress we've made over the past couple of days and have a good idea of where we can go tomorrow.”

Completing the timesheets was rookie Jerome d’Ambrosia, getting his first outing in Virgin’s 2011 car. “I was really looking forward to today and it’s fantastic to finally be driving the new car,” said the Belgian. “I was able to complete many laps and spend a lot of time in the car, which is what testing is all about. I am quickly getting used to driving the MVR-02 and tomorrow I hope we can continue to gather plenty of useful data to help us to continue moving forward.”

Testing will continue at Jerez on Sunday.

Unofficial Saturday test times from Jerez:
1. Nick Heidfeld, Renault, 1:20.361, 86 laps
2. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:20.493, 131
3. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:21.054, 114
4. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:21.099, 36
5. Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, 1:21.242, 84
6. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:21.574, 98
7. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:21.681, 92
8. Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, 1:21.711, 61
9. Rubens Barrichello, Williams, 1:22.227, 99
10. Paul di Resta, Force India, 1:22.945, 64
11. Jerome d’Ambrosio, Virgin, 1:25.471, 72

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