Mark Webber broadened the smiles on the faces of Red Bull strategists after topping the timesheets on the third day of Jerez testing – securing a Spanish lock-out for the Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso teams.
For the first two days it was Sebastian Vettel who beat the McLaren and Ferrari testers into submission putting in a time that rose high enough to break the 1 minute 19 barrier on the second day.
On day three, at a track that continued to offer all the challenges of baking-hot conditions, the cars weren’t running quite so fast – despite which, Webber managed to pull off an impressive 1:19.176.
Second was Renault’s Nelson A Piquet, achieving a fastest lap of 1:19.334 despite an incident where he caught the wall and brought out a red flag. Third was Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, running exactly a tenth of a second behind him.
A surprise fourth place was grabbed by Force India tester Vitantonio Liuzzi on 1:19.544 while the best McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa could do was fifth, with a fastest lap of 1:19.850 – some six-tenths of a second behind Webber and four-tenths of a second behind Raikkonen.
De la Rosa suffered an oil leak and an engine change during the session which limited his running to a paltry 39 laps. He is due to hand over the McLaren car to race driver Heikki Kovalainen for the final day of the test.
This is the first time during this test that Ferrari have managed to outpace McLaren. However, as always during testing, times should be treated with caution as different teams may be running entirely different programmes and therefore not easily comparable.
A less positive test for Honda saw race driver Rubens Barrichello in ninth place, one of five drivers that failed to break the 1 minute 20 barrier. The Brazilian had been working on the team’s new rear suspension.
Also uncharacteristically slow were BMW Sauber with race driver Nick Heideld at the bottom of the timesheets on 1:20.896 while evaluating slick tyres for 2009.
For Red Bull, Webber had been carrying out aero development work and suspension changes in preparation for the next two races. The team said that it had showed good progress and potential in both areas.
He said: “We’ve had a pretty good two days here. The car ran pretty reliably and we’ve clocked up some good mileage.
“Today we were mostly getting ready for Budapest, as well as looking at developments for a little later in the season. Yesterday we were focusing more on ’09, and it was quite a challenging day.
“Today was better in terms of what we learned, mechanically and aerodynamically. It’s been a hot week for the guys working here and they’ve done a good job.”
Webber’s team-mate David Coulthard is due to take over for the final day of the four-day test.
Day three timesheet:
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:19.176 (85 laps)
- Nelson Piquet, Renault: 1:19.334 (95 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:19.434 (84 laps)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India, 1:19.544 (86 laps)
- Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 1:19.850 (39 laps)
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:20.029 (77 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:20.097 (88 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota, 1:20.421 (78 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Honda, 1:20.614 (68 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:20.896 (97 laps)