Valentino Rossi's latest outing with the Ferrari Formula One team has confirmed that he has the pace and ability to hold his own in the top flight, according to Maranello insiders.
The multiple MotoGP world champion was making his sixth outing in an F1 car and adapted quickly on the first of two days at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on Wednesday before upping his pace and mileage in the 2008-spec machine yesterday. A wet track prevented the Italian from hitting top speed on the opening day - and led to a handful of indiscretions as he explored the limits of the car on the tricky surface - but an improvement in the weather on Thursday allowed him to complete more than 600km and, armed with slick tyres and low fuel, record a best lap of 1min 21.900secs, impressing team observers.
"It shows he has the talent to progress," was the general consensus.
Rossi's time compares to a fastest race lap from the 2009 Spanish Grand Prix of 1min 22.762secs, set by Rubens Barrichello, while erstwhile Brawn team-mate Jenson Button took the pole at 1min 20.527secs.
The 30-year-old admitted to Ferrari's official website that he would 'have given anything for such a lap time' in just his sixth test, adding further weight to team boss Stefano Domenicali's recent claim that he would consider Rossi should the F1 rules be opened up to allow third entries in the future.
Current driver Felipe Massa is due to take over from Rossi today [Friday], running in the older Ferrari in a bid to continue his rehabilitation from the injuries sustained in qualifying for last year's Hungarian GP. The Brazilian is slated to partner new recruit Fernando Alonso in the 2010 Ferrari line-up, but is prevented from running in the latest-spec car until 1 February.