Ferrari's Felipe Massa on Monday took his increasingly familiar place out front as Formula One teams returned from their season-opening Asian swing to test at Barcelona, Spain.
The Brazilian's speed was attributed to testing slicks provided by series tire supplier Bridgestone. The grooveless tires return to the sport next season. The Japanese tire maker supplied nine sets each to teams wishing to test the gooey rubber gobs. All but two teams put mileage on the tires, testing of which does not count toward the test mileage cap.
Massa was among drivers from nine teams who posted times in sun, wind and, at day's end, rain. He drove a fast lap of 1 minute, 18.339 seconds. Ferrari tested with a new-look nose cone, its design assessed as "radical" by competitors.
A 1:21.059 from Honda's veteran tester Alex Wurz came second in unofficial times at the 4.655-kilometer Circuit de Catalunya, where teams assemble for the season's next race at the end of the month. Wurz drove the RA08 on slicks.
Another veteran tester, Pedro de la Rosa, drove a McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 to third-best time, 1:21.566, on slicks. Aerodynamic settings on the MP4-23 were set as close to 2009 specifications as team engineers could arrange and involved a new rear wing.
BMW Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld, who drove to a fourth-quick 1:21.679 without slicks, worked on aerodynamical and mechanical setup on the F1.08, stopping once when a dashboard warning light came on. The team also tried various engine mappings as prep work for the grand prix. The team expects to work with '09 specs at a later Barcelona test session.
Renault driver Nelsinho Piquet worked on several improvements to the R28 that the former world constructor titlists hope will let Piquet and double world driving champion teammate Fernando Alonso race at the front instead of in midfield in the upcoming grand prix. The team has given significant attention to its aerodynamic program in the past month, having beefed up its CFD capability with a new supercomputer.
"It was another good day of work," said Piquet, who ran a best lap of 1:21.913. "The track conditions were good, so there were no problems there, and we had a productive morning. Unfortunately, I lost some time in the afternoon and so I did not do as many laps as I would have liked. We tried some new things but the more interesting work will come later in the week."
Following Piquet on the time chart were David Coulthard in a Red Bull RB4 in 1:22.153, Kazuki Nakajima in a Williams FW30, in 1:22.431, Timo Glock in a Toyota TF108 in 1:22.590, and Force India's test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi in a VJM01 in 1:22.846.
Glock was the other driver who did not test slicks. The Toyota-powered Williams team split its efforts between runs on slicks and suspension work. Red flags came out for spins by Heidfeld, Glock and Piquet, and when Nakajima went off track late in the session.
"Today was a productive day and the team and mechanics did a good job," Glock said. "Everybody was focused on the new bits and pieces that we have brought and trying to find the right way forward. In the end, that's what we did. I made one small mistake in the morning and spun off, but it didn't cost us too much running time. In the afternoon we collected a lot of data to look at, and now we just have to fine-tune that. Hopefully, overnight we can find the right direction from all the information we have gathered today. The time sheets might not show it yet but I'm happy with our work so far."