Having already claimed that the rising from the ashes of Honda of Brawn GP has given him a new lease of life, Jenson Button went and proved it on the track by comfortably topping the timesheets on day three of the final pre-season Formula 1 group test at Barcelona – as compatriot Lewis Hamilton languished right down at the bottom of the order once again after damaging his McLaren-Mercedes against the barriers.
After team-mate Rubens Barrichello had stunned the paddock by lapping a highly respectable third-quickest on day two, Button left observers practically speechless by improving two spots on the Brazilian's effort and seeing off the entire opposition by more than a second.
That has prompted cynics to suggest that – with so little testing and development time behind the new, Mercedes-powered BGP001 – the lap times are being achieved on extremely low fuel levels in a bid to catch the eye and therefore catch new sponsors.
Either way, the British star was in buoyant spirits as the day drew to a close after covering 130 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya that took in a full race distance with live pit-stops in the morning, followed by a qualifying simulation and various set-up evaluations in the afternoon.
“It's been another great day and a very positive test generally,” enthused Button, who will hand back over to Barrichello for the fourth and final day on Thursday. “It's so good to have achieved a full day's running, including a race distance, without any issues and it's fantastic that we clocked up so much mileage.
“After the challenges we have faced, to come here and get off to such an encouraging start is just what we all needed and I can't thank the team enough. All that effort has really paid off and everyone can feel very proud.”
Just over a second shy of Button on the final timesheets was the Ferrari of Felipe Massa, who found himself stranded out on-track on his first run in the morning session with hydraulic woes, and when he was finally able to take to the circuit again after midday to simulate qualifying runs, a red flag for Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Sébastien Buemi further hampered his progress.
Unlike team-mate Kimi Raikkonen the previous day, however, Massa was at least able to complete his planned programme after lunch, conducting 109 laps as he also tried out different set-up options and worked his way through a real race weekend simulation, comprising qualifying, race and pit-stops. The Brazilian will remain behind the wheel of the Scuderia's
new F60 on the final day on Thursday.
On his first of two days at the Circuit de Catalunya this week, third-placed Robert Kubica concentrated on several different race-related situations to fine-tune the working relationship with his pit crew, in addition to looking at tyre comparisons, practice starts and mechanical and aerodynamic aspects of pre-season preparations with the Munich and Hinwil-based concern's F1.09 challenger.