• Barcelona Test Day One

Webber sends out a warning to rivals

Laurence Edmondson in Barcelona March 8, 2011 « FIA delays Bahrain GP decision until May | »

Red Bull and Mark Webber sent out a warning to their rivals by going straight to the top of the timesheets on the first day of the final pre-season test at Barcelona.

The lap was faster than any of the times set at the last test at the Circuit de Catalunya two weeks ago and 0.366 quicker than closest rival Jenson Button. Webber clocked his time just before lunch, making the most of a peak in track temperatures as the sun came out.

He was on a new set of tyres over a short run and was significantly faster than anybody else at that point of the day. The Red Bull looked particularly planted at the top of turn nine where a strong crosswind was causing havoc for some drivers as they crested the apex.

Button's riposte came just after the lunch break when the sun again emerged from behind dark, heavy clouds. The McLaren driver had a slow start to the day with several visits to the pits for practice tyre changes and tweaks to the car. He also ran an unusual bulge on the MP4-26's nose cone, which, thankfully, is not a permanent appendage but part of the team's measuring apparatus for its latest front wing.

The Red Bull and McLaren were just two of eight cars taking to the track on Tuesday, with Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams and HRT all deciding to delay their running by one day. McLaren, meanwhile, has opted not to run on Thursday and will test on the two days either side.

The teams that chose to skip Tuesday would have been feeling rather smug when their rivals were greeted by dark clouds and spits of rain in the morning. Once again the temperature was much lower than the heat expected in Australia for the first round of the season and the effect on the Pirelli tyres was visible, with familiar signs of wear as the rubber struggled to reach its operating temperature.

McLaren mechanics in the pits © Sutton Images
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Renault had a bit of a stop-start day with reliability issues and Nick Heidfeld, who completed 20 laps, opted to call it quits at lunch due to a heavy cold. He was replaced by Vitaly Petrov in the afternoon, who added another 27 laps to the team's tally and set the third fastest time, just 0.027 behind Button.

Perez was classified fourth in the Sauber, but briefly got the paddock very excited with a lap time in the 1:21s. However, it soon became clear that he had skipped a corner in the final sector and officially his best attempt was recorded as a 1:24.117.

Lotus used the day to test its two AirAsia GP2 drivers, with Davide Valsecchi on track in the morning and Luiz Razia in the afternoon. Valsecchi was up to third fastest with 50 laps under his belt at lunch, but blotted his copybook when he spun into the barriers at turn 12. He walked away unharmed and with more damage to his ego than the car. Razia was about a second off his GP2 team-mate's time and only completed 29 laps before he pulled over to the side of the track with what looked like a mechanical problem.

In the paddock it was relatively quiet. HRT's garages were being prepared for the arrival of the F111, which is expected to make its debut on either Wednesday or Thursday. While Ferrari, Williams and Mercedes personnel leisurely filtered in and out of their garages before the start of their test tomorrow.

Times

Driver Car Time Laps
1. Mark Webber Red Bull RB7 1:22.544 97
2. Jenson Button McLaren MP4-26 1:22.910 74
3. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:22.937 27
4. Sergio Perez Sauber C30 1:24.117 90
5. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:24.735 20
6. Paul Di Resta Force India VJM04 1:25.039 38
7. Davide Valsecchi Lotus 1:35.406 50
8. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso STR6 1:26.004 48
9. Nico Hülkenburg Force India VJM04 1:26.030 31
10. Luiz Razia Lotus 1:26.723 29
11. Jerome d'Ambrosio Virgin MVR-02 1:32.060 57

Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1

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Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1 Laurence Edmondson grew up on a Sunday afternoon diet of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and first stepped in the paddock as a Bridgestone competition finalist in 2005. He worked for ITV-F1 after graduating from university and has been ESPNF1's deputy editor since 2010