One of the newest drivers on the F1 grid brought his timesheet-topping habits into the new year as he continued to make a splash in winter testing.
Sebastien Buemi, newly-promoted from Red Bull test-driver to Toro Rosso racer, had a string of fine, if unofficial and arguably unrepresentative, performances to his name at the end of 2008.
It was easy to ascribe them to competition for seats between him, last year’s driver Sebastien Bourdais and hopeful veteran Takuma Sato, all eyeing Toro Rosso race seats.
But on a day that saw new cars from McLaren, Williams, Renault and Toyota running alongside his 2008-spec Toro Rosso, he was still pulling the same trick out of the hat – with a performance margin that had somethign to do with the damp conditions, as well as pointing firmly to the new cars not having had the chance to bed in yet.
Toro Rosso and sister team Red Bull are not expected to launch their new cars until close to the start of the F1 season in March.
Buemi’s fastest lap of the new Algarve circuit was 1:41.528 – some five seconds faster than the McLaren MP4-24 of Pedro de la Rosa, out on its first public run.
His team said that persistent wet weather had hampered running for the majority of teams at Portimao and, as a result, the test team conducted a minimal on-track programme with a 2008-spec rear wing for increased downforce.
Despite the weather, de la Rosa put in 28 laps and the team carried out a number of systems checks on the MP4-24.
Behind him was Williams tester Nico Hulkenberg on 1:46.335 and Renault’s Nelson A Piquet two seconds slower on, both in newly-launched cars.
Bringing up the rear was GP2 graduate and Toyota tester Kamui Kobayashi in his team’s new car with a time of 1:50.989.
Meanwhile, Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen had their first day of testing at Mugello disrupted thanks to some decidedly un-Italian weather.
The team had taken the decision to run the new F60 there in a bid to avoid the possibility of extreme weather in Portugal, but the move backfired.
However Raikkonen managed to get enough track time to put in 54 laps, the quickest at 1.34.430. The team experienced no technical problems.
Portimao day one test times
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:41.528 (65 laps)
- Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren: 1:46.076 (28 laps)
- Nico Hulkenberg, Williams: 1:46.335 (28 laps)
- Nelson A. Piquet, Renault: 1:48.907 (33 laps)
- Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota: 1:50.989 (46 laps)