It was down to business on the third and last day of Barcelona testing but, even with most of the newbies on the plane home, the cars from the Red Bull stable were able to retain their dominance.
Sebastian Vettel, driving for his new Red Bull team, managed to secure his place at the top of the unofficial timesheet for the second day running, proving to be more than half a second faster than his neearest rival, former team-mate Sebastian Bourdais of Toro Rosso.
Close behind him was Red Bull tester and prospective Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Buemi who, based on the performance of fellow hopeful Takuma Sato earlier in the week, will be fighting Bourdais for the team’s one remaining seat.
On a day with sunny but cool conditions, McLaren’s Gary Paffett was in his by-now-accustomed position of fourth, while Jenson Button took a major leap up the rankings for Honda, landing in fifth thanks to a car with adaptations that were suited to his driving style.
McLaren said of its test: “The conclusion of a very productive three-day test, and Gary’s second and final day in the KERS-equipped MP4-23K.
“The team had no issues today and was happy with the progress it had made understanding the slick tyres and new aero configurations. It was also encouraged by its increased understanding of the KERS device and its impact on car dynamics.
“The test team now begins to focus on next month’s Jerez test, where the programme will continue with greater focus on the evaluation of 2009-spec aerodynamics.”
Speaking after the test, Button said: “It’s nice to be back in a car that I enjoy driving. Taking a lot of the downforce off and running on slick tyres suits my driving style a lot more than grooved tyres.
“I’ve had a fun couple of days, and it’s been very useful as we have tested many things which should help us with the new car.
“It’s been a positive start to 2009 already and I’m very pleased. I’ve just got to keep pushing the team hard now to get the improvements that we are hoping to achieve for next year.”
Honda team boss Ross Brawn said: “We have been running two modified RA108 chassis with an aerodynamic package representative of the downforce levels required for next season.
“We have also conducted an intensive tyre program with the Bridgestone Potenza slick tyres. Having been sensible in the use of our tyre allocation so far this year, we are in the best possible position to gain information about the new slicks ahead of the launch of our new car.
“Whilst the temperatures have been quite cool this week, which has affected the behavior of the tyres, both the team and drivers are happy to see Formula One back on slicks.”
The BMW Sauber pairing of race driver Nick Heidfeld and tester Christian Klien occupied the sixth and seventh spots with Honda hopeful Bruno Senna just behind them.
Nelson A Piquet for Renault was in ninth while prospective Williams tester Nico Hulkenberg managed to wring a tenth spot out of the car.
Towards the bottom of the field was Ferrari’s Luca Badoer followed by the two Force Indias, today piloted by race driver Giancarlo Fisichella and borrowed McLaren pilot Pedro de la Rosa who is racking up some testing mileage for the recently-agreed technical partnership between the two teams.
The next F1 test is due to take place in Jerez, Spain, from December 9.
Day two test times:
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:19.295 (75 laps)
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:19.839 (122 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:20.154 (115 laps)
- Gary Paffett, McLaren: 1:21.140 (81 laps)
- Jenson Button, Honda: 1:21.387 (94 laps)
- Christian Klien, BMW Sauber: 1:21.534 (88 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:21.592 (106 laps)
- Bruno Senna, Honda: 1:21.676 (107 laps)
- Nelson A Piquet, Renault: 1:22.148 (94 laps)
- Nico Hulkenberg, Williams: 1:22.410 (52 laps)
- Luca Badoer, Ferrari: 1:22.866 (120 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:23.086 (93 laps)
- Pedro de la Rosa, Force India: 1:23.103 (88 laps)