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Barcelona day four - Schumacher on top for Mercedes GP 11 Mar 2011

Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 March 2011 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F150 ?.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 March 2011 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Williams FW33.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 March 2011 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 March 2011 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Team Lotus T128.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 March 2011

Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher ended Friday on top of the timesheets as this week’s final pre-season test continued at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. Schumacher’s best at the Spanish circuit, a 1m 21.249s, was over three-tenths of a second quicker than second-placed Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari.

With Schumacher’s team mate Nico Rosberg in third, it was a good day all round for Mercedes GP. Schumacher completed the majority of the team's programme as they added further new aerodynamic parts to their upgrade package, with Rosberg taking over for the final hour of the day.

"Our focus today has been on understanding how to get the best from the car now that it is pretty much in its final configuration for the first time,” said Schumacher. “The car has behaved as we expected and it's been a very productive day.”

Renault’s Nick Heidfeld was fourth after losing track time to a gearbox problem in the afternoon, ahead of Rubens Barrichello, who shared Williams driving duties with team mate Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan was 12th in the times, after completing just 11 laps following engine issues on the FW33.

Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi was sixth, the Japanese driver carrying out a qualifying simulation in the morning followed by a race simulation after lunch. He covered 98 laps, though his day was cut short by a driveshaft issue.

“The morning was very productive with the track conditions for the qualifying practice quite cold and difficult compared to yesterday,” explained Sauber technical director James Key. “In the afternoon we did a race simulation, first using old tyres and then a new set at the end. Unfortunately we suffered a drive shaft problem which stopped us some laps early. The problem still has to be investigated.”

Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari, evaluating new aero components on the STR6, took the seventh slot to finish ahead of reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, who was eighth for Red Bull.

“The preparation has been good,” said Vettel after Red Bull’s final day of pre-season testing. “It was a long winter and we did a lot of kilometres, I think more than we ever have done before during testing, which is positive. Now we are just looking forward to Melbourne. If you ask me about performance, all I can say is I think we are there or thereabouts, and, as I keep saying, it’s impossible to know until we get to Australia. But am I in a positive mood? Yeah, I think I am!”

Lotus’s Heikki Kovalainen finished the day in ninth, outpacing Force India team mates Paul di Resta, 10th, and Adrian Sutil, 11th. Kovalainen completed 138 laps in the T128 and was pleased with how the day progressed.

"That is obviously a fantastic end to the tests,” said the Finn. “Everyone in the team has put in a lot of hard work and days like today are the reward. Completing a double-race distance has given us the chance to make a lot of progress on track and we have accumulated a huge amount of data that will be very helpful in Australia, Malaysia and China.

“I'm not only pleased with the mileage we've done today; I’m also pleased with the pace we've shown. It's too early to make predictions but I think we'll go to Melbourne and have a good chance to taking the step forward we want to. A good day!"

Describing Force India’s day, circuit engineering director Dominic Harlow commented: “We continued to look at some aerodynamic test items as well as further set-up changes. Both proved useful and we head to Australia with over 5,500km covered during the pre-season testing. As ever there is more to do to improve the performance of the car and there will be some further developments for the first race. Our reliability over the race distances here has been good and we've collected a lot of data on the tyre performance that we feel will be useful as we prepare our race strategies at the coming events.”

McLaren’s Jenson Button was a modest 13th in the times. “As today was my final day of testing, it was disappointing not to be able to put more mileage on the car,” he said after 57 laps in the MP4-26. “But I think we learnt some positive things: today was never about pace, as we weren’t running lower fuel-loads, but there is pace in the car - it’s just been masked by reliability issues.”

Virgin’s Jerome D’Ambrosio was the day's final runner in 14th. The Belgian completed 46 laps, bringing the team’s pre-season testing mileage tally to 4,642km, versus last year’s figure of 1,985.

“The difference between our 2010 and 2011 programmes is huge and whilst there is still some way to go in terms of performance, I think we can feel justifiably proud of how we have grown into a professional racing operation,” said Virgin team principal John Booth. The mileage differential in itself speaks to that fact.

“On the whole we have to feel very pleased with what we have achieved this week and we head to Australia in good spirits and eager to see where we stand with the usual barometer of outright performance that Friday Free Practice at the opening race typically provides.”

For the majority of teams, Friday was their last pre-season test day and they now return to their factories to continue preparations before the Australian Grand Prix later this month.

Williams, Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren, however, will stay on for a final day on Saturday, with wet weather forecast. HRT had been expected to join them to give their new F111 - unveiled in the Barcelona pit lane on Friday - its on-track debut, but the team have had to abandon those plans due to dampers for the car being stuck in Spanish customs.

Unofficial Friday test times from Barcelona:
1. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:21.249, 67 laps
2. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:21.614, 141
3. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP, 1:21.788, 22
4. Nick Heidfeld, Renault, 1:22.073, 67
5. Rubens Barrichello, Williams, 1:22.233, 89
6. Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber, 1:22.315, 98
7. Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso, 1:22.675, 72
8. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:22.933, 64
9. Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus, 1:23.437, 138
10. Paul di Resta, Force India, 1:22.653, 42
11. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:23.921, 26
12. Pastor Maldonado, Williams, 1:24.108, 11
13. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:25.837, 57
14. Jerome D’Ambrosio, Virgin, 1:27.375, 46

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