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Final test in Barcelona sets Australia countdown in motion 08 Mar 2011

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 8 March 2011 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C30.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 8 March 2011 Davide Valsecchi (ITA) Team Lotus T128.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 8 March 2011 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 8 March 2011 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 8 March 2011

In little under three weeks’ time everyone will be assembled on the Melbourne grid readying themselves for the start of the Australian Grand Prix. But before the curtain is raised on the 2011 championship, the teams have one last chance to wrap up their development programmes, evaluate new upgrades and improve their cars at this week’s final pre-season test.

Following the cancellation of the Bahrain race and the preceding Sakhir test, the pre-season schedule had to be hastily rearranged. This week’s replacement session is being held at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya from Tuesday to Saturday, with the teams running four-day programmes.

The majority will be in action at the Spanish track from Tuesday. Red Bull, McLaren, Renault, Sauber and Toro Rosso are set to keep their testers on the bench and use their race drivers on all four days. Lotus will also test from Tuesday, although the opening day will see their reserves (and GP2 drivers) Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia spend the morning sampling the T128.

Force India are expected to field their new tester, Nico Hulkenberg, in the VJM04 on Tuesday morning, before racers Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil take over. Jerome d’Ambrosio, meanwhile, will have his work cut out as he takes charge of Virgin’s MVR-02 for the entirety of the test, as team mate Timo Glock continues to recuperate following his appendix operation last week.

Ferrari arrived in Barcelona on Monday to carry out some promotional filming, though the Italian team won’t start their programme for real until Wednesday, with Felipe Massa at the wheel of the newly renamed 150° Italia for the opening two days followed by team mate Fernando Alonso for the final two. Mercedes, Williams and HRT are also expected to start work from Wednesday.

The test will be especially important for HRT, who could finally launch their new car - the F111 - at some point during the session. And after two weeks away from the track and huddled in their factories, expect most if not all the other teams to bring significant upgrades.

It will also be a critical few days for new-for-2011 tyre suppliers Pirelli. The Italian manufacturers plan to bring 35 sets of tyres per team to Spain (1680 sets in total, including intermediates and wets) and after recently announcing that the opening three 2011 rounds will feature their hard and soft compounds, they expect most teams to concentrate test work on those two rubber types.

And with speculation still surrounding the durability of their tyres, Pirelli's Motorsport Director Paul Hembery is hoping for much warmer conditions those seen at the last test towards the end of February.

"Our last test in Barcelona was held in temperatures of just six degrees in the mornings, which didn't help to rubber the track in or gather the information necessary to base strategies on over the course of the season,” Hembery explained. “We're hoping for warmer weather this week, although it's unlikely to be as warm as the temperatures we are expecting for the first race in Australia.

“Having announced our compounds for the start of the year, most of the teams will concentrate on testing the hard and soft PZero tyres. We're expecting them to focus on long runs and race simulations, which should confirm the results we have previously extrapolated from our testing data: two or sometimes three pit stops at every race."

Note that all schedules are provisional and subject to change. Check back throughout the week for updates on the teams’ testing progress and the latest images.

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