F1

Webber sets the pace on dry Jerez track

Webber sets the pace on dry Jerez track

Mark Webber put Red Bull Racing atop the time sheets in Jerez, Spain on the third day of Formula One testing, the first fully dry day, nearly a second faster than his nearest challenger. Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing. Photo by ...

Mark Webber put Red Bull Racing atop the time sheets in Jerez, Spain on the third day of Formula One testing, the first fully dry day, nearly a second faster than his nearest challenger.

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

"We're certainly showing some good form in terms of reliability, but we always need to work on performance," Webber said. "You never know that the other teams are doing. We're in a good position at the moment to build up to the first race -- it's close, but there's also quite a way to go, as other teams have no doubt planned developments for Bahrain."

The Australian set a time of 1:19.299 soon after lunch, easily the fastest time of the week, the other days having been run on a wet or damp track. His time also bettered Lewis Hamilton's top time from last week, making it the fastest lap this year at the Spanish circuit.

Fernando Alonso was second for Ferrari, but his best lap of 1:20.115 was more than eight tenths off the pace, even as the Scuderia took full advantage of the dry conditions: the Spaniard racked up 132 laps, the second-highest total for the day.

Alonso's former team, McLaren Mercedes, had reigning World Champion Jenson Button at the wheel. The team spent the day focusing on chassis development, and while the team will be testing some additional components tomorrow, it is continuing to spend most of the efforts on tuning the car's mechanical setup. Button's best time was 1:20.394, a quarter of a second slower than Alonso.

Nico Hulkenberg continued to demonstrate solid performance in the new Cosworth-powered Williams; the F1 rookie set a time just over a second slower than the World Champion at 1:21.432. 138 laps, the highest count for the day, provided welcome additional mileage for the new Cosworth. The engine ran perfectly for the day, though, and the team's only problem was with the hydraulic system late in the afternoon.

While Hulkenberg's lap times were two seconds off the pace of Webber's fast laps, he still edged seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher -- who was driving a Mercedes (nee Brawn), last year's title-winning car. The gap was only five thousandths of a second, but it still must have been a good feeling to the young German to edge his legendary countryman.

Nico Hulkenberg, Williams F1 Team.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"We are on schedule with our programme but at the same time, we are well aware that there is still a lot of work ahead of us," Schumacher admitted. "The final test in Barcelona next week will be an important test in this respect."

Robert Kubica set the sixth-fastest time for Renault, with a time of 1:21.916, narrowly edging Adrian Sutil's Force India, which was clocked at 1:21.939.

Kamui Kobayashi set a time of 1:22.228 for Sauber,although he was only able complete 28 laps in the face of a fuel system problem.

"It was obviously not a perfect day, but I prefer to have a technical problem now rather than in the first race," the young Japanese reflected. "Although I could only complete a limited number of laps, we learned a few things on which we can build tomorrow."

In the battle of the new teams, it was Virgin edging Lotus again today, as Lucas di Grassi set a time of 1:23.504, 0.017 seconds faster than the Malaysian team's Heikki Kovalainen. di Grassi only completed 34 laps for Virgin, while Kovalainen struggled with the new Lotus's aerodynamic package.

The test concludes tomorrow.

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