Webber flies on first day of Barcelona test

After going through many weather changes the previous week in Jerez, the 2010 Formula One teams headed north and began their first of a scheduled four day pre-season test Thursday at the Circuit de Catalunya, in Barcelona, Spain.

Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The entire day was dry as many of the drivers from 11 teams took to the track. Mark Webber was the fastest in his Red Bull Renault with the best time of one minute, 21 seconds, just ahead of Williams's rookie Nico Hulkenberg. His countryman, Nico Rosberg, finished in the third best time in his Mercedes.

"We had a pretty good day of testing. We did some simulations and performance items in the morning and a race simulation in the afternoon," said Webber. "We had a precautionary stop in the middle of the race simulation because of a gearbox oil alarm, but the guys got the car turned around pretty quickly and we finished the session, so it wasn't too bad."

With the elimination of fueling this season, many drivers, including Webber, managed to set their best times using a very low fuel load. The Australian continued into the afternoon with slower times, by utilizing longer mileage with a heavy fuel balance.

Unfortunately for many, last week's run in Jerez had a number of red flags, and on this first day at the famous circuit, most drivers encountered the same problems.

Fernando Alonso was disappointing in the morning session, having to stay in the team garage all morning when his Ferrari stopped on the track, the result of a electronic glitch. But the two-time world champion managed to come back in the afternoon, finishing with the seventh fastest time.

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari stops on track.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"It wasn't a perfect day, but it was very helpful nevertheless," Fernando told Ferrari.com at the end of the day. "We had several new things in the car and we collected some data to see how they work. Now we've got to understand how to exploit them. The track wasn't great today. A little dirty and wind. It's always interesting to drive on a circuit, where you'll also have a Grand Prix, because you start seeing some aspects you'll have to deal with later on. All in all I'd say it was a good day."

The biggest red flag event happened when Brazilian Lucas Di Grassi, driving his Virgin F1 car, went hard into the barriers at turn nine, destroying the rear of his car and forcing his team to abandon the test session altogether until parts can be flown overnight.

Di Grassi was unhurt in the accident and commented: "I am fine, thanks, and I will keep pushing more and more." The team itself hopes to return back to the track by tomorrow.

With all of the teams realizing that the first Grand Prix event is only 17 days away, many practiced pit stops on their cars. This might seem like a regular occurrence, but with the fuel stops gone; the most important event during these stops is the crucial tire changes, and the teams spent many hours trying to get their technique down.

The top drivers in Formula One will get their chance on Friday, as Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Jarno Trulli will be taking over testing duties for their squads.