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Final F1 test Day 1: McLaren tries to flex, Red Bull still on top

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Final F1 test Day 1: McLaren tries to flex, Red Bull still on top
Mar 8, 2011, 7:05 PM

The final test session before the start of the new F1 season kicked off today in Barcelona with most, but not all of the teams running today.

The final test session before the start of the new F1 season kicked off today in Barcelona with most, but not all of the teams running today. Ferrari, Williams and Mercedes did not run and we have yet to see the new HRT car on track. Saturday will be the final day of F1 testing until after the end of the season in November.

McLaren ran with a load sensing device on the nose of the car, with robust struts out to the outer parts of the front wing. This was a device to measure front wing flex and, given the thickness of the struts, may even have been able to cause additional flex to measure the aerodynamic effect and gain. It's quite a public thing to do, McLaren were one of the teams critical of the loopholes last year which allowed Red Bull and to some extent Ferrari to get their front wings to flex. If you can do it legally, there is a significant lap time gain from it.

Button did a couple of laps in the hugh 1m 22s in a qualifying simulation, but this is still some way off the front runners' pace. The qualified tone of Jenson Button's comments after the session suggested that he's not full of the joys of spring, as he contemplates the imminent start of the season and still plenty of catching up to do.

“The last couple of tests haven’t been perfect for us, and I think that’s partly due to us lacking set-up work," he said. "But today I think we made some positive progress with MP4-26’s balance. I know there’s not much testing left – I only have one more day in the car – but, after today, I feel we can make further positive progress over the next few days. Given the limited amount of set-up work we’ve completed this winter, I feel we now have a good base upon which we can build."

McLaren will do one more day tomorrow with Lewis Hamilton and then will have a day off the track, returning on Friday and Saturday.

Red Bull's Mark Webber set the pace ahead of Button. The Australian did a 1m 22.544s lap, faster than Felipe Massa's benchmark from the last test and set on a short qualifying simulation run. But neither Massa's lap nor Webbers' were set on minimal fuel. Engineers I've spoken to believe that both cars, certainly the Red Bull, are capable of a lap in the high 1m 21s. We may see that by the end of the week, hopefully. Ideally it would be good to establish the outright performance difference over a single lap between the two cars, certainly there doesn't seem to be much between them in race trim.

Renault and Force India both split the day between two drivers; Renault had a new rear wing and a new floor to test. Nick Heidfeld had a cold and shared the driving with Vitaly Petrov while Force India gave test driver Nico Hulkenberg half a day in the 2011 car, his first run in it, with Paul Di Resta doing the afternoon shift.

Mercedes and Ferrari will be out tomorrow with significantly upgraded cars. Among the new things on the Ferrari, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, is a foot pedal operated rear wing adjuster, the team having tried buttons and levers. The car is believed now to have Red Bull style exhaust exits, which changes the sidepod profile slightly and it will have a new front wing, among the visible differences. So far Ferrari is the car which has covered the greatest distance in testing with 5,200km before this final test.

Lotus gave its Air Asia GP2 drivers Davide Valsecchi and Luis Razia a run out today, while Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi lost time in the morning with a failure on his car. Toro Rosso will again be worth keeping an eye on this week, as many feel they are one of the more competitive midfield cars.

For the very latest from Barcelona check this out - storifyaabarcelonaatesting

BARCELONA TEST 2, DAY 1

1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m22.544s 97

2. Jenson Button McLaren 1m22.910s + 0.366 74

3. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m22.937s + 0.393 27

4. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m24.117s + 1.573 90

5. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m24.735s + 2.191 20

6. Paul di Resta Force India 1m25.039s + 2.495 38

7. Davide Valsecchi Lotus 1m25.406s + 2.862 50

8. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m26.004s + 3.460 48

9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m26.030s + 3.486 31

10. Luiz Razia Lotus 1m26.723s + 4.179 29

11. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin 1m32.060s + 9.516 57

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