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Barcelona day one - Webber sets the standard for Red Bull 08 Mar 2011

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 8 March 2011 Clouds over Barcelona.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 8 March 2011 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India F1.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 8 March 2011 Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 8 March 2011 Jerome d'Ambrosio (BEL) Marussia Virgin Racing VR-02.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Red Bull’s Mark Webber topped the timesheets as the final pre-season test began at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on Tuesday. Webber’s best time, a 1m 22.544s, was almost four-tenths of a second faster than the quickest lap from McLaren's Jenson Button in second.

The weather made life tricky for the eight teams in action, with lower-than-expected temperatures and a blustery wind hampering their programmes at the Spanish circuit. Most, however, enjoyed productive days, with Webber managing to complete almost 100 laps in the RB7.

“I’m happy to say everything went according to plan,” said Red Bull’s head of race engineering, Ian Morgan. “We had a mixture of things to get through today, concentrating on some short runs in the morning and then longer race-distance type runs in the afternoon.

“The only difficulties we encountered were the slightly low ambient temperatures and some windy conditions. It would be nice to get the chance to test in hotter conditions and we hope for a bit of increase as the week goes on. But that was a small problem really on a pretty useful day for us.”

Button was charged with evaluating a number of updates to the MP4-26, including a new-for-2011 front-wing. He also carried out some pit-stop practice and tyre analysis. The Briton’s running garnered much attention in the pit lane after a distinctive piece of bodywork was spotted on the nosecone of his car. McLaren later revealed the equipment was for testing (measuring) purposes only and will not be raced.

“The last couple of tests haven’t been perfect for us, and I think that’s partly due to us lacking set-up work,” said Button. “But today I think we made some positive progress with MP4-26’s balance. This morning, I did a number of short runs and, in the afternoon, we did some long runs, looked at set-up and balance, and spent the rest of the day looking at tyre consistency.

“I know there’s not much testing left - I only have one more day in the car - but, after today, I feel we can make further positive progress over the next few days. Given the limited amount of set-up work we’ve completed this winter, I feel we now have a good base upon which we can build. And that’s nice to see.”

Renault’s Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld ended the day in third and fifth respectively. Cold-stricken Heidfeld only spent the morning in the car, after which Petrov took charge of the R31. The team validated the performance of several key elements of the aero package for Australia to make sure the track data matched with the wind tunnel figures, with both drivers trying a new rear wing and new floor.

“Nick wasn’t feeling too well today so we didn’t do anything too strenuous in the morning,” explained Renault’s chief race engineer Alan Permane. “We wanted him to get a feel for the new aero parts and his initial feedback was very useful. Vitaly took over in the afternoon and ran the same parts. Again the focus was on gathering data for the aero package, so he did some constant speed runs. He also began a set-up programme and ran on both the hard and soft tyres.”

Sauber’s Sergio Perez split the Renault duo in fourth place. Perez covered 90 laps despite an hour’s interruption after lunch courtesy of a hydraulics leak.

“Generally it was a good day of work despite a few problems after the lunch break,” said Sauber technical director James Key. “We had our start of season package on the car with a lot of new parts for both tidying up areas on the car and improving its performance. It is a significant aero package and it generally worked.

“We spent the morning evaluating new parts and carrying out back to back comparisons and aero measurements. In the afternoon we then worked on set up changes to adapt to the new package and tyres. So far we have seen reasonably positive results. Unfortunately for Sergio he had traffic on his fastest lap towards the end of the day, but this is nothing to complain about. Tomorrow with Kamui we will be running a similar programme, doing basic set up work and further evaluations.”

Force India were in sixth place with Paul di Resta at the helm of the VJM04. The team’s tester Nico Hulkenberg was in action before lunch and ended the day in ninth. The duo covered 38 and 31 laps respectively.

“A busy programme today as we shook down a new chassis, plus it was Nico's first opportunity to familiarise himself with the VJM04 before his free practice outing in Australia,” said Force India’s circuit engineering director Dominic Harlow. “There are several new systems from the VJM03, including KERS and the DRS, but he equipped himself well and gave a lot of valuable feedback that we will push back into our programme for the remainder of this test.

“Paul took over for the afternoon, conducting his first-ever test with the live KERS system. Apart from one reliability problem before lunch we had no major issues and we'll continue with race simulations with Paul tomorrow.”

Seventh slot went to GP2 driver Davide Valsecchi in the Lotus. Valsecchi’s AirAsia team mate Luiz Razia also took a turn in the T128 and finished in 10th.

"A pretty good first day of this fourth test,” explained Lotus's chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. “We managed to run through our whole programme with the two drivers and they both did an excellent job. Apart from one small spin for Davide at the end of his session neither of them made any mistakes and Luiz performed very well, despite his time in the car being slightly cut short due to a minor mechanical issue. I'm sure that he would have improved even further with more running and after having completed our plans for the day I want to thank both drivers for the work they have done in the car today."

Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi finished in eighth. After a component failed on the STR6 in the morning, Buemi was confined to the garage as the repair work was carried out. He only made it back out on track after lunch and covered 48 laps. He’ll continue to test on Wednesday.

Virgin’s Jerome D’Ambrosio was the day’s final runner in 11th. With team mate Timo Glock still recovering from his recent appendectomy, D’Ambrosio will be in action on all four days of the test.

“On the one hand it is a shame that Timo can’t take part in the test this week as the combined inputs of two drivers provides more detailed feedback for the engineers,” said the Belgian. “On the other hand, four days of running will give me a lot of beneficial time in the car to prepare for my first race, so I’m looking forward to a very busy week for me and the team. With the track being so ‘green’ today and the conditions quite cold, our focus has been on pit stop practice, which has been extremely valuable for myself and the crew.

“With more pit stops in the races this year, perfecting our execution is even more critical as the stops can be crucial in making up ground to other teams during a race. It’s been quite a start-stop day however, so I’m looking forward to some longer runs starting tomorrow to work with the hard and soft compounds that we will use in the first three races.”

Testing continues at Barcelona on Wednesday, when Mercedes, Williams, Ferrari and HRT are expected to join proceedings.

Unofficial Tuesday test times from Barcelona:
1. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:22.544, 97 laps
2. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:22.910, 74
3. Vitaly Petrov, Renault, 1:22.937, 27
4. Sergio Perez, Sauber, 1:24.117, 90
5. Nick Heidfeld, Renault, 1:24.735, 20
6. Paul di Resta, Force India, 1:25.039, 38
7. Davide Valsecchi, Lotus, 1:25.406, 50
8. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:26.004, 48
9. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:26.030, 31
10. Luiz Razia, Lotus, 1:26.723, 29
11. Jerome D’Ambrosio, Virgin, 1:32.060, 57

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