Jenson Button topping the Barcelona unofficial timesheets on a day when Lewis Hamilton crashed and came last – not something that many F1 fans were expecting to see at the start of the 2009 season.
Nevertheless, that was the order of play on the third day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya after Button capitalised on strong performances earlier in the week to lay down a fastest lap of 1:19.127 – a second clear of his nearest rival.
He also proved that Brawn GP’s speed had not been bought at the cost of reliability after putting in a trouble-free 124 laps.
Button said: “It’s been another great day and a very positive test generally. It’s so good to have achieved a full day’s running, including a race distance, without any issues, and it’s fantastic that we clocked up so much mileage.
“After the challenges we have faced, to come here and get off to such an encouraging start is just what we all needed, and I can’t thank the team enough. All that effort has really paid off and everyone can feel very proud.”
Behind Button was Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in a consistently quick display that has been a feature of the team’s testing.
Despite having to sit out more than two hours while engineers fixed a hydraulics problem, the Brazilian managed a sound afternoon’s work and a fastest time of 1:20.168.
In third place was BMW’s Robert Kubica, taking a final opportunity to come to terms with the car before the season start. His fastest lap was 1:20.217 and he was followed in fourth place by Toyota’s Timo Glock on 1:20.410.
In fifth was Renault’s Fernando Alonso, partly engaged in developing his team’s KERS, and putting in a top lap time of 1:20.863. He was followed in sixth place by a subdued Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull on 1:21.165 who also managed to run the car off the track – in his case, without damage.
Close behind Vettel was Williams’ Nico Rosberg on 1:21.324 with Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella finishing up eighth on the timesheet with a fastest lap of 1:21.545.
Sebastien Buemi was able to get a full day’s experience in the new Toro Rosso with a determined 145 laps, including a race simulation, and a fastest time of 1:21.569 added to his account.
And bringing up the rear in unaccustomed fashion was Lewis Hamilton for McLaren, back in Barcelona after visiting Buckingham Palace to collect his MBE the previous day. His fastest time was 1:21.657 and he put in fewer laps than any other driver on the circuit.
During the afternoon session he slid off the track at the exit to turn two, damaging the car’s front wing and nose.
McLaren said of his day’s work: “Lewis joined the test this morning as the team began working through a series of pitstop practices.
“The morning session was spent introducing Lewis to the new aero package and setting up the car to his liking. That work continued into the afternoon, with the team focusing on longer runs and additional pitstop practices.
“Running was hampered by an off at Turn Two at mid-afternoon: Lewis lost the car at the exit of the second corner and hit a tyre-barrier, which broke off a front-wing endplate and damaged the nose struts.
“After some repairs to the front-end, he was able to complete the remainder of the session.”
Test times day three
- Jenson Button, Brawn GP: 1:19.127 (124 laps)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:20.168 (109 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:20.217 (109 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:20.410 (99 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:20.863 (107 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:21.165 (102 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:21.324 (89 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:21.545 (97 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:21.569 (140 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:21.657 (82 laps)