Lewis Hamilton will have a smile on his face in the run-in to the season-opening race in Melbourne, if the latest Barcelona test times are anything to go by.
McLaren managed a one-two on a day when the team’s minds were on the forthcoming Australian Grand Prix, and most of the race drivers put in race distances on the testing circuit.
Most encouraging for the Woking-based team will be the fact that Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari was solidly behind them, putting in a fastest lap that was nearly half a second slower than Hamilton’s.
Of course, comparisons during testing should be made with great caution, given that teams may be operating very different packages and aiming for different objectives.
Even so, Hamilton put in a fastest time of 1:21.234, compared with Kovalainen’s 1:21.434 and Raikkonen’s 1:21.722.
The surprise fourth-place contender, managing to split the Ferraris, was Williams’ Nico Rosberg, who managed to get two tenths of a second on Felipe Massa.
The McLaren team said: “With clear weather throughout the day the team concentrated on pit stop practices and qualifying simulations in the morning, moving the focus to longer runs in the afternoon: the plan being to assess different fuel loads and the various set-ups these require.
“Both drivers stopped out on track in the morning as a result of fuel coupling issues, which the team managed to quickly resolve without any impact on the days’ planned programme.”
At Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was able to give more information about the neck injury that led to David Coulthard sitting out the day’s testing.
“Unfortunately David suffered a trapped nerve in his neck yesterday, so we took the precautionary measure of giving him a day to recover ahead of the final day of testing and this near to the start of the season.
“It was logical to use Sebastian Vettel to continue testing, evaluating various important pre- Melbourne developments. We’re grateful to Toro Rosso for making him available to us today. All being well, David will be back in the car tomorrow morning.”
The team said that Mark Webber’s programme focused on evaluating some new development car parts in preparation for Melbourne: “Although some minor issues cost the team some time, valuable information was gained ahead of the first race in Australia.”
It also said that Sebastian Vettel, deputising for Coulthard, quickly acclimatised himself with the RB4 and focused on evaluating various set-ups, notching up 110 laps in the process.
Once again Super Aguri was not present, and once again Honda took the unusual step of making no public statement and issuing no testing notes.
However, Jenson Button may have been happier with his car’s performance – Honda claimed ninth spot in the standings with a 1:22.659 despite both RA108s experiencing performance issues that stopped the day’s activities short of full races distances.
Button and Barrichello used the time available to complete pit stops and qualifying efforts.
Barcelona test times 26/02/08:
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:21.234 (81 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:21.434 (68 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:21.722 (72 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:22.309 (75 laps)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:22.513 (102 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:22.516 (102 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 1:22.558 (109 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:22.625 (94 laps)
- Jenson Button, Honda: 1:22.659 (67 laps)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:22.942 (89 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:22.977 (100 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:23.023 (98 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:23.112 (77 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 1:23.169 (74 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:23.284 (77 laps)
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:23.323 (98 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:23.458 (58 laps)
- Nelson A. Piquet, Renault: 1:23.467 (45 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:23.561 (80 laps)