Ferrari’s Felipe Massa returned to the race track today for his first proper day at the office since a horrific accident at the Hungaroring in July looked to have put an end to his racing career – and promptly stuck his car at the top of the unofficial timesheet.
Behind him, driving for a resurrected Sauber team that many believed had run its last race, was Pedro de la Rosa, the veteran Spaniard who last competed in a grand prix in 2006, and ran a full race season in 2002.
Third on the Valencia timesheets during the first day of 2010 F1 testing was none other than Michael Schumacher, taking his first outing for the Mercedes GP team, back in a F1 car after three years of retirement and a neck injury that already stopped him returning to Ferrari in the place of the injured Massa.
And in fourth was his team-mate Nico Rosberg – reportedly sitting on a cushion (or, more likely, its carbon fibre equivalent) because he was having trouble with the cockpit dimensions of the new MGP W01.
Truly there was no shortage of stories at the Valencia circuit today. And the on-track action was equally worthy of notice, with de la Rosa little more than two-tenths of a second off Massa’s pace and Schumi another two-tenths behind him.
Rosberg was the first driver not to record a sub-1:12 time while McLaren’s Gary Paffett in fifth gave the heavily-promoted “radical” MP4-25 a fairly gentle introduction to the racetrack. He said afterwards that he was pleased with the first day’s running and that the team had experienced no problems.
Rubens Barrichello was busy accustoming himself to the Williams FW32, getting its first run-out since its semi-official outing at Silverstone a few days previously, while Sebastien Buemi was busy reacquainting himself with his Toro Rosso which he did in the course of just 18 laps thanks to a gearbox problem.
Propping up the timesheet was Robert Kubica on his first outing for Renault with a lap that was bang on 1:15.
Speaking after the test, Barrichello said: “I enjoyed today, it was like a first day at school! You can’t predict anything from the times today; and probably won’t be able to for the remainder of the tests because of the fuel loads people will run with such big tanks.
“It probably won’t be until Bahrain qualifying that we will see where everyone is. We are working on improving the balance of the car, but it’s running reliably, despite the small issue with the throttle. As everything is new, it was a good day.”
Technical director Sam Michael added: “It was a productive first day testing, with the car completing 75 laps in total. Considering everything is new, in particular the Cosworth engine installation, it was good to get through the day without any major problems.
“We did have a minor software issue with the throttle control towards the end of the session, but that is easily sorted out for tomorrow. We are well underway with set-up work now and tuning the FW32 around the new Bridgestone tyres.”
Test times day one
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:12.574 (102 laps)
- Pedro de la Rosa, BMW Sauber: 1:12.784 (74 laps)
- Michael Schumacher, Mercedes: 1:12.947 (40 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes: 1:13.543 (39 laps)
- Gary Paffett, McLaren: 1:13.846 (86 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Williams: 1:14.449 (75 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:14.762 (18 laps)
- Robert Kubica, Renault: 1:15.000 (69 laps)