For a second day running, its first rattles out of the box were quick ones for Brawn GP. The team's Mercedes-powered BGP001 again topped time sheets at Formula One testing near Barcelona, Spain. Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced active driver, put .848 seconds on second-quick Nico Rosberg of Williams F1. Barrichello matched the feat of teammate Jenson Button the day before with the stunning effort in Brawn GP's first test. Other teams have been testing throughout the close season. Like Scuderia Toro Rosso, Brawn GP unveiled its 2009 car in the past week.
Morning fog greeted 10 teams wrapping up a weeklong test. Fog-generated damp and limited visibility cut into track time by 90 minutes or so but once fog cleared, track temperatures rose to above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Barrichello posted a fast lap of 1 minute, 18.926 seconds on the 2.8-mile Circuit de Catalunya. Rosberg put up a 1:19.774 in the Toyota-powered FW31. Sixty-six of Barrichello's 110 laps were devoted to race simulation. He used both tire compounds in the exercise. He later worked on qualifying simulations, which is where his fast lap, quickest of the week, emerged.
The former Honda team will test again next week in Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain.
"I'm very pleased with the mileage that we have achieved today and the completion of another full race distance," Barrichello said. "The qualifying exercises were also very useful in enabling the team and I to get fully up to speed and ready for Melbourne. The car has proved fast and reliable throughout the week so we go to Jerez feeling positive and pleased with the results of our first test outing."
After three days in Jerez, Brawn GP will be the least-tested team to head to Melbourne, Australia, for the first race of the season, a twilight event, on March 29.
"We are extremely pleased with the inaugural test of the BGP 001 car in Barcelona this week," Ross Brawn said. "The team made a very late start to our preseason testing program with only seven days in which to run the car before the first race in Melbourne, therefore, our focus has been on reliability and achieving as much mileage as possible. Both of these aims have been successfully achieved this week.
"That the car has run so reliably 'out of the box' is a tribute to the strong team that we have at our factory in Brackley (England), and they have done a great job during a very difficult period. The car is performing to our expectations, and the feedback from Jenson and Rubens has been positive, with both drivers completing full race distances. We have three further days of testing in Jerez next week to complete our preparations for the first race and I look forward to seeing how the car progresses from here."
Rosberg's pop to the top side of charts gave hope to fans counting on rules changes and budget adjustments to offer a more competitive racing season. Williams finished eighth among 10 teams that completed all 18 races last season.
"After an initial delay due to fog this morning, we spent our last day in Barcelona completing another useful session working mainly on the optimization of setup around the slick tires, something that will be key to this year's championship," Williams technical director Sam Michael said. "We have made progress over the four days and now look forward to our final test in Jerez next week where we will sign off some more parts for Melbourne. The lap times are close at the moment making it difficult to predict the order -- great for the sport!"
Rosberg said rules changes makes for mileage demands. The German completed 120 laps.
"We've put in a lot of laps this week and have definitely made good progress," Rosberg said. "Our schedule has mainly focused on mechanical and aero testing, of which there was lots to learn because there are so many new concepts and designs this year. It's difficult to judge where everyone is because the times are quite close, but we have one more test next week, which will be an advantage."
Toyota's Timo Glock was .3 seconds behind Rosberg in the TF109. His best lap, a 1:20.091, was set among 128 covered. He stopped on track on his last lap, leaving the team a mystery to investigate, but all reactions were upbeat. "Roll on, the first race," Glock said. Test team manager called the TF109's preseason performance "quick and consistent," putting the team in confident frame of mind heading to Melbourne.
Sebastien Vettel brought the Renault-motored Red Bull RB5-03, Adrian Newey's elegant chassis design, to fourth-quick. The German concentrated on setup work and evaluated some development parts. His best lap of 83 clocked in at 1:20.576.
"Overall, this week's test has gone pretty well," race engineering head Ian Morgan said. "We've been pleased with our reliability throughout the winter, but looking to performance, it's hard to know where we stand until we get out on the track in Melbourne. We're looking forward to it and can't wait to start racing again."
Fernando Alonso of Renault posted a 1:20.664 to join the majority of runners in the 1:20s. The Spaniard tested components to improve the R29-01's mechanical balance. An early afternoon problem cost some track time and limited the French team's day to 64 laps. Renault will test again next week in Jerez.
"We had a problem at the beginning of the afternoon and so we lost some track time, but overall I think it was an interesting day and we improved our understanding of the car," Alonso said. "We tried some new development solutions and so today was not about outright performance but simply exploring new ideas for developing the car into the season. We have one more test to go in Jerez, but, overall, I think we are ready for the first race in Melbourne."
Said chief test engineer Christian Silk: "We had quite a lot to get done this week and the program evolved as we went along, just as it always does. As we continue to get to know the car, it becomes apparent what areas we need to look at and what areas we can find performance in. The car ran very well all week, and the team is working well together as we had the entire race team here preparing for the first race. We've got one more test to go when we will introduce some final developments prior to Melbourne."
Felipe Massa ended Ferrari's preseason testing with 92 laps of setup adjustment checks to the F60. His quick lap of 1:20.677 was sixth overall. The Brazilian has cited the level of competitiveness in testing this off season, sending a signal the season ahead could be a cracker.
BMW Sauber, bullish on this year's optional use of a kinetic energy recovery system, also concluded formal off season testing. Robert Kubica ran through a race simulation in the F1.09-04 with starts and pit stops. Beyond that the Pole evaluated setups in covering 134 laps, second-most completed Thursday.
"Our final preseason test was very productive," team technical coordinator Willy Rampf said.. "We worked on the mechanical setup of the car as well as the aero configuration. In addition, we also improved our KERS. Our second goal was to prepare for the season's first grand prix in two weeks in Melbourne. We simulated a proper race day on Tuesday with Nick Heidfeld and today with Robert Kubica, each covering a complete race distance without any technical problems. That tells us a lot about the reliability of the BMW Sauber F1.09."
Lewis Hamilton spent the day focused on mechanical setup of the McLaren Mercedes MP4-214. The Englishman posted a 1:20.869 in 70 laps. The team heads to Jerez next week.
Scuderia Toro Rosso completed its pre-Australia testing with both drivers in the car Thursday. Rookie Sebastien Buemi took the Ferrari-fired STR4-02 through 62 laps of development work. Sebastien Bourdais then stepped in for 27 laps after technical problems earlier in the test week dented the Frenchman's mileage. Buemi posted a 1:21.013 and Bourdais a 1:21.629. The team repairs to Italy now to study data and complete preparations for Australia.
Driving as if he weren't ready for preseason testing to end, Giancarlo Fisichella put a day-high 141 laps on Force India's VJM02, also bearing a Mercedes engine, to close the England-based team's season prep. The Italian did setup checks then qualifying runs in the morning before heading out for long runs and a race distance in the afternoon. Fisichella's quick lap was a 1:21.045.
"It's been a good day with 141 laps," Fisichella said. "We went in the right direction with some setup work, and the car was very reliable so we could really start to work on the balance. It's not so bad; we just could do with some more aero grip. We didn't do the best lap time when the circuit was at its peak in the morning, otherwise we could have improved the time, perhaps a 20.5, but, overall, I feel comfortable. It's quite encouraging; we now know where we need to improve."
Technical director James Key was upbeat.
"It was a very good conclusion to the eight days of testing," Key said. "Over the week, we have completed more than 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) and have a very strong basis to start the season from. We don't have any major concerns and the car is now very reliable so we can really start to look at areas that will improve performance. Giancarlo ran a second race distance without any issues and tried both tire compounds. In more representative temperatures today, they behaved very well and seemed to be good over longer runs. The drivers seem to be happy and, with this in mind, we can concentrate on seeking out the improvements that will move us forward."
Force India moves camp back to Silverstone before shipping out to Australia. Test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi will do a final shakedown of the second chassis Tuesday at the Silverstone track.