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Barcelona day three - Sauber's Perez ousts Red Bull 10 Mar 2011

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C30.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 10 March 2011 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 10 March 2011 Vitaly Petrov (RUS) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 10 March 2011 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Williams FW33.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 10 March 2011 Jerome d'Ambrosio (BEL) Marussia Virgin Racing VR-02.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 10 March 2011

Sauber’s Sergio Perez has ended Red Bull’s two-day reign at the top of the timesheets after setting Thursday’s quickest time in testing at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. Perez posted a best lap of 1m 21.761s as this week’s final pre-season session continued at the Spanish track.

With McLaren and HRT not in action, ten of Formula One racing’s 12 teams were out on track. Perez’s fastest time was over three-tenths of a second quicker than the best from Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in second. The Mexican carried out set-up work in the morning, followed by a qualifying simulation before lunch and almost a complete race simulation in the afternoon. He covered 95 laps.

“We have had an interesting day as we carried out qualifying practice and race simulation,” explained Sauber technical director James Key. “In the morning we started off with some general set up work, and then went into a qualifying practice, which was the first time we had run the car on low fuel. This was also the first time for Sergio to go through all those procedures from Q1 to Q3.

“He did a good and controlled set of laps, setting a time of 1:22.042 minutes on soft tyres and 1:21.761 on the super soft compound. In the afternoon we started a race simulation, but unfortunately this was stopped early due to a KERS problem, which meant we could not complete the laps we wanted.”

Massa, on his final day of testing before the Australian Grand Prix, completed 132 laps in the 150° Italia. He carried out a comparison of aero elements before completing a race simulation. Fernando Alonso will be on track for the Italian team on Friday.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber took third slot, ahead of Williams’ Rubens Barrichello. Webber completed 97 laps in the RB7.

“We had a good day again,” said the Australian. “The car was reliable. I feel I’m ready for the first race now and while, of course you want a good run at your home race, I don’t want to jinx with it any forecasts. In terms of team preparation, it’s the best we’ve ever had going into the first part of a season in terms of reliability. All the departments have done a sensational job in getting every aspect ready. Hopefully, we’re not too far from our main rivals to start with and we’ll just go from there.”

Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher, fifth, was in the heavily-upgraded MGP-W02 for the first time and completed 89 laps. "We've had a very productive day and completed a reasonable amount of mileage,” he said. “We were able to check and confirm a lot of things on the set-up of the car with the new upgrade package, and my initial impressions are certainly positive. We've worked hard on reliability at the previous tests and our priority now is to develop and fine-tune the car which we have done quite successfully today."

Renault fielded both their race drivers over the course of the day, with Nick Heidfeld finishing sixth and team mate Vitaly Petrov eighth.

"We ran both drivers again with Vitaly driving this morning and Nick in the afternoon," explained Renault’s chief race engineer Alan Permane. "The plan was for Vitaly to do another race distance, but unfortunately our running was cut short with a KERS problem. For the afternoon with Nick, we concentrated on set-up work and ran the medium and soft tyres."

Lotus also split the day’s duties between their two drivers. Heikki Kovalainen ended a spirited seventh to separate the Renault duo, whilst Jarno Trulli was in the final slot in 12th after technical issues prevented him from carrying out any meaningful running.

"A difficult morning for Jarno with the gearbox change,” said Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. “We had put a new 'box on overnight but saw a problem with it this morning so had to change it during the session. Unfortunately, a water leak then meant that Jarno was not able to complete any real running, but this afternoon we made some real progress with Heikki. He was able to work through a program on the tyre options and the blown diffuser so after a tricky morning it was a very positive end to the day."

Adrian Sutil was back at the wheel for Force India and finished ninth. He worked through a full race weekend simulation, starting with qualifying in the morning and a full race distance in the afternoon. The team also tested some new aerodynamic parts. Sutil completed 108 laps.

“The race simulation worked well in the afternoon including live pit stops and a safety car exercise to cover a few different scenarios that can happen during Grands Prix,” he said. “The balance was generally okay, we identified some areas of performance where we can gain time and I'm looking forward to working on these tomorrow when I'm back in the car for the morning.”

Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari and Virgin’s Jerome D’Ambrosio were 10th and 11th respectively. Alguersuari completed 107 laps as he carried out aero component comparisons, a half-race simulation and pit-stop practice.

“The warmer track temperature was definitely useful for the teams and for Pirelli, in terms of preparing for Melbourne," said Toro Ross chief engineer, Laurent Mekies. "Also bearing in mind that the season gets underway soon, we have carried out a lot of pit stop practice runs, as clearly this will be a key element during races this season. In fact, over the past two days, we have completed a total of 60 pit stops."

D’Ambrosio racked up plenty of mileage whilst evaluating tyres, optimising set-up and proving out new parts for the first race in Melbourne. Apart from a late morning fuel pressure problem, the team had a trouble-free day. D’Ambrosio’s team mate Timo Glock, who is still recovering from an appendix operation and therefore can’t test this week, watched from the sidelines.

“We have had a very productive day of running today, culminating in another positive race simulation programme using the tyre compounds we will run in Australia,” said Virgin team principal John Booth. “As a result we have some excellent data to work with over the next couple of weeks to ensure we are in the best possible shape for the first race. Timo was with us for the day today and is on the mend and in great shape. It was good that he had the opportunity to be as close to the cockpit as possible - both in the garage with the team and observing the action from the pit wall.”

Testing continues in Barcelona on Friday. McLaren will rejoin the action, whilst HRT are expected to give their new car - the F111 - its debut outing in the afternoon.

Unofficial Thursday test times from Barcelona:
1. Sergio Perez, Sauber, 1:21.761, 95 laps
2. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:22.092, 132
3. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:22.466, 97
4. Rubens Barrichello, Williams, 1:22.637, 105
5. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:22.892, 89
6. Nick Heidfeld, Renault, 1:23.541, 32
7. Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, 1:23.990, 40
8. Vitaly Petrov, Renault, 1:24.233, 24
9. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:24.334, 108
10. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso, 1:24.779, 107
11. Jerome D’Ambrosio, Virgin, 1:27.336, 96
12. Jarno Trulli, Lotus, 1:34.485, six

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