Sébastien Buemi continued his mini-dominance of pre-season Formula 1 testing on day two at Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain this week, as McLaren-Mercedes, Red Bull Racing, Williams and Renault all put further mileage on their new 2009 challengers.
Buemi's margin of more than three seconds over second-placed Heikki Kovalainen bore witness to the fact that the 2008 cars are still quicker than their successors – for now at least. With a mammoth 143 laps on the board, the young Swiss rookie performed a grand prix weekend-style simulation – qualifying plus race – for Scuderia Toro Rosso, including refuelling and safety car procedures.
The 20-year-old also spent time evaluating both the rear suspension and three types of Bridgestone tyre, and admitted it had been a productive and highly beneficial exercise before he hands over to recently re-confirmed team-mate and namesake Sébastien Bourdais on Thursday.
“This has been a useful couple of days for me,” he acknowledged, “running in wet and dry conditions. Even though we are still in the '08 car, I have learned a lot in terms of how we operate over a race weekend, as we simulated a qualifying session and the race. It was good preparation – now all we need is our new car.”
Kovalainen, for his part, focussed on set-up work on the new MP4-24 and gaining more experience of the new KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology. The 110 untroubled laps completed by the Finn over the course of the day took in several longer runs as he increasingly perfected the car's balance, while using a modified 2008 rear wing in the absence of a high downforce 2009-spec one. Defending world champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton will take over at the wheel on day three.
Mark Webber returned to the track for the first time since his leg-breaking mountain-biking accident late last year for Red Bull Racing, meanwhile, leaving on-standby team-mate Sebastian Vettel twiddling his thumbs. After 83 comfortable and trouble-free laps inside the cockpit of the Milton Keynes-based squad's RB5 – looking at aerodynamics and general set-up as the team continues its good progress ahead of the season start – the experienced Aussie confessed he was glad to be back.
“There were a lot of questions going into today and I answered them,” the 32-year-old stated of his first time out on-track since November's Brazilian Grand Prix. “From my point-of-view, it all went better than expected – and to do over a race distance on my first day back in the cockpit, with several weeks to go to Melbourne, is a good thing.”
“We're well on-target for Melbourne,” he added in an interview with ABC News
, “which is the main thing that obviously we're focussing very hard on – making sure that I'm in the best shape possible for my first grand prix at the start of the year.
“Testing is very much a stepping stone, especially this week. The last few tests should be very, very good for me.”
Williams' Kazuki Nakajima ended the day fourth-quickest, barely a tenth adrift of Webber, after concentrating on set-up optimisation work, tyre testing, reliability and systems checks. The Grove-based concern's technical director Sam Michael professed himself pleased with the way things are going.