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Barcelona day three - Alonso sets the pace for Ferrari 21 Feb 2013

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 21 February 2013 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sauber C32.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 21 February 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 and Alan Permane (GBR) Lotus F1 Race Engineer.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 21 February 2013 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 21 February 2013 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW35.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 21 February 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28 locks up.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 21 February 2013 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 21 February 2013 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 21 February 2013 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 21 February 2013 Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 21 February 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, 21 February 2013

Local hero Fernando Alonso topped the timesheets on day three of this week's pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on Thursday.

The Spaniard - behind the wheel of Ferrari’s new F138 for a third consecutive day - set his best time on a short run in the morning session with soft-compound tyres.

“Today we concentrated on a comparison of the compounds, starting with the soft and moving on to the hard in the afternoon,” said Alonso, who completed 97 laps. “The track was colder than yesterday, especially in the morning, which made it harder to adapt the car and find the right grip level.

“We tried various aerodynamic configurations and for the first time, we made some set-up changes to get a good understanding of tyre behaviour and degradation. With every change we made, the car reacted as I expected and it was useful to try out the different settings, especially to understand which direction we need to go in next week, when there will be a greater emphasis on performance.

“Once again this year, the tyres will be one of the crucial aspects to manage: they are softer and quicker, but also less consistent and they degrade rapidly with every lap. We will have a lot of work to do to understand how best to balance the car, but that applies to all the teams.”

Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg clocked the second-quickest time of the day and, like Alonso, did it on a short run before lunch when his C32 was fitted with soft tyres.

"Overall it was a very productive day, which is particularly important as the forecast suggests rain is likely tomorrow,” said Tom McCullough, Sauber’s head of track engineering. “As in previous days, we have used the initial running for data gathering of new aerodynamic parts while the temperatures were low.

“For the first time at this test we used the soft Pirelli tyre, which performs well for the first timed lap. The high tyre degradation makes testing difficult, but that is the same for everyone and we have to adapt to it. Nico and the engineers continued to make good progress with the car set-up and he will now hand the car back to Esteban (Gutierrez) for the final day of the test.”

Marginally slower than Hulkenberg was Romain Grosjean in Lotus’s E21. The Frenchman also set his best time in the morning before completing a 66 lap, four-pit-stop race simulation in the afternoon. His total of 119 laps was the most by any driver on Thursday.

“I think I’m ready for a sleep after so many laps in the car!” laughed Grosjean. “It’s good to see reliability today to add to the pace we’ve already seen in the car. We’re still at an early stage of development so it’s really promising to see where we are.

“It was difficult out on track as temperatures were so low, but we’ve gained a lot of useful data. The 2013 tyres certainly feel different from last year’s but already we’re starting to understand them. I hope it’s dry tomorrow so we can get some more laps under our belt.”

Mercedes continued to show promising pace with Nico Rosberg claiming the fourth-quickest time of the day, ahead of Pastor Maldonado in the Williams. The Venezuelan driver was behind the wheel of the FW35 in the morning before handing driving duties over to team mate Valtteri Bottas after lunch. Between them the duo registered 147 laps - the highest tally of any team for the day.

“It’s been a very good day for us,” said Williams’ technical director Mike Coughlan. “We’ve completed two race simulations and both drivers were happy with their individual programmes.

“We’re really pleased with the reliability we have shown this week, having completed 147 laps with the FW35 today, 331 laps in total so far this week. We feel we have got a good car to now start developing and we look forward to continuing tomorrow.”

Jenson Button was seventh fastest for McLaren as the team undertook mechanical set-up work and evaluation of tyres in the morning and concentrated on longer runs with simulated pit stops in the afternoon.

Adrian Sutil clocked the eighth-quickest time of the day on his return to a Formula One cockpit with Force India. The German, who is pushing for the second race seat with the team, completed 78 laps in the VJM06.

“I'm convinced that Sahara Force India will also have a strong and competitive package for this season and my hope, of course, is that I can be with them to prove it,” he said.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and Marussia’s Max Chilton occupied positions nine through 11, with Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde rounding out the runners in 12th.

Marussia later confirmed that Chilton will remain behind the wheel of the MR02 for a fourth consecutive day on Friday. The decision, which the team say was made for consistency after their stop-start running this week, means the test will end without Chilton's team mate Luiz Razia accumulating any mileage in Barcelona.

The second pre-season test of 2013 concludes on Friday, when rain is forecast.

Unofficial Thursday test times from Barcelona:
1. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:21.875, 97 laps
2. Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, 1:22.160, 91 laps
3. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1:22.188, 119 laps
4. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:22.611, 108 laps
5. Pastor Maldonado, Williams, 1:22.675, 79 laps
6. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:22.826, 68 laps
7. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:22.840, 71 laps
8. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:22.877, 78 laps
9. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:23.024, 108 laps
10. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:23.366, 106 laps
11. Max Chilton, Marussia, 1:25.690, 58 laps
12. Giedo van der Garde, Caterham, 1:26.177, 83 laps

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